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The Lampworks Lamplighter SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
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Spring is Here
It’s finally showing signs of spring here in Upstate New York, even though friends from warmer climates have been posting pictures of blossoms for many weeks now. The Ume trees are the first to burst forth (their cousins in Japan have been out for a couple of months now and are already producing fruit.)
Ume are often called a Japanese plum, though they’re really in the apricot family. One reason that we planted them was for their fruit. Hard and green, you can’t eat them as-is, but packed in salt and red shiso leaves for a few weeks they become the soft, deep-red, tart pickles known as umeboshi. Every year we hope our trees have become mature enough to bear fruit but there’s been nothing yet. Maybe this year. Or maybe we’ll just have to wait until we go to Japan again to get a new supply.
We’re almost fully vaccinated and ready to start traveling again, though cautious enough not to make any full-scale plans yet. We’ll just have to see what the summer brings. We were talking the other day about people who claim that they have the freedom to not get vaccinated, and I said,
Free will is a problem that often resolves itself.
I think I have a new aphorism. I’m going to have to find a place in a story to use it.
Sellenria: The Starship and the Citadel
Chuck Boeheim, Daniel Elswit
… this story bolstered my faith that someone can still write decent sci-fi.
Sellenria brings you back to a timeless quest on an alien world. Archaeologist Stenn Gremm was following the trail of an ancestor who had vanished hundreds of years ago. It lead to a world where legends came to life and ancient evils threatened everyone who lived there.
This book delighted on so many levels. It‘s smart, insightful, and wise. The many passages I highlighted are to remind myself how to be a better person.
Stenn came to realize that he had more strength than he knew, and that he still needed his friends to succeed.
This story contains all you expect from SciFi: alien creatures, epic battles, and strange worlds; but even more it‘s a story about the best in people, whether human or otherwise.
Join Stenn‘s trek to the Citadel in the desert and find out for yourself what it takes.
What We‘re Reading
Visit our archive of reviews and recommendations on the Books We Like page of our website. You‘ll find over one hundred recommendations in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Non Fiction.
When is it appropriate to re-imagine a classic and much-loved science fiction novel? Scalzi has updated H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy from 1962 for a new generation of readers. After reading and enjoying Scalzi’s book, I reread Piper’s to see how they compared.
Piper’s tale had a very fifties feel to it, with a large cast of characters (almost all male, of course). The story was about the big ideas of what constituted sentience and our duty to protect it. The characters weren’t very well developed, nor was the conflict very sharp. In that era, SF was about ideas.
Scalzi shrank the cast from around 30 to a half-dozen, and gave them backstories and more distinct voices so it was easier to keep track of their roles. Jack Holloway went from gruff old prospector to disbarred lawyer who had become a surveyor for reasons of his own. While the story evolved along similar lines, there was a much heightened sense of personal peril for the protagonists and a considerably more dramatic ending.
While both are good stories, and Piper’s is fondly remembered by many who read it earlier, Scalzi’s take is a worthy re-telling for the modern age.
Jim Ottaviani, Leland Myrick
A graphic novel about Nobel-prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman? For real?
Yes, and it’s a wonderful story. This may be the only graphic novel you’ll ever read that will teach you about quantum chromodynamics. (It’s more approachable than it sounds.)
Feynman was a larger-than-life character, well suited for a treatment like this. More than physics, Feynman was involved in many projects from the Manhattan project to the Challenger disaster commission. And he loved playing the bongo drums. (There is math here; don’t sweat if you’re not into it. It’s in the background so you can skip it if you want.)
This is a review of the paperback edition. It may be more difficult to view on a kindle because of the details in the drawings.
Roger Zelazny, Jane Lindskold
The demon Kai Wren lives in a Klein bottle. He designs them as works of art, and they are much coveted by other demons. All has been peaceful among the demons for thousands of years, until one day Kai Wren’s human servant is murdered.
This story was left as an unfinished manuscript when Roger Zelazny died, and it was subsequently completed and published by Jane Lindskold. It is out of print now and there’s no Kindle version, but it’s well worth finding a used paperback copy if you enjoyed the Amber series, or Lord of Light.
This is a story in the vein of Zelazny’s best works, including the tension between creative chaos and stifling perfection, a powerful protagonist who may have trusted the wrong people, an intricate plot, and a leavening of Zelazny’s signature puns.
Buy on amazon
Toad Words and Other Stories
I enjoyed the last book from Ursula Vernon, aka T Kingfisher, so much that I had to squeeze another one in my schedule this month. This one is a collection of retold fairy tales that are by turns creepy, a bit morbid, whimsical, or just plain strange. But all funny. There’s the alternative Red Riding Hood (and what sort of person who lives in a cottage could afford red dye, anyway?). There’s the other side of the little mermaid from the perspective of an unbiased (hah!) observer. Then there’s Snow and her cruel stepmother, and seven … well, they weren’t dwarves. No, not at all.
Buy on amazon
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The Dark Citadel
This is Nathaniel’s and Persephone’s first official assignment from Bob, the Lord of Creation for this universe. They can’t afford to screw it up. The job sounds simple enough. Travel to the Rekar’ree star system, find the source of evil and stop it from spreading to the other neighboring star systems. The only problem is that Rekar’ree is on the other side of the galaxy.
Buy via StoryOrigin
Brandon Q. Morris
When you discover a deadly threat to the solar system from your backyard
Peter Kraemer, a physics teacher with a passion for astronomy, makes a discovery that he himself can hardly believe: Stars disappear from one day to the next, with nothing left of them. The researchers he contacts provide reassuring and logical explanations for every single case. But when Peter determines that the mysterious process is approaching our home system, he becomes more and more anxious. He alone perceives the looming catastrophe. When he believes he has found a way to avert the impending disaster, he chooses to pull out all the stops, even if it costs his job, his marriage, his friends, and his life.
Buy via StoryOrigin
Absence of Blade
Caitlin Demaris McKenna
The end of the war was just the beginning… Professional assassin Gau Shesharrim wants to retire. But as his desperate colony’s best operative against the superior Terran forces, retirement is easier said than done.
Free via StoryOrigin
A worker in an isolated dome city learns its deepest secret
It’s 2164. Dome Six has been cut off from the outside world for decades. Daisuke Yamamura, a technician, fears its crumbling infrastructure won’t protect them from the Burn for much longer. An unusual work order takes him deep into the bowels of the Dome, where he learns a shocking truth. But when a synthetic organism erases his memory of the job, he becomes determined to learn where he went and why.
Free via StoryOrigin
Dark Nebula: Isolation
Good intentions paved our path to the stars. Only one family knew the potential cost was extinction.
As the President of the Confederation of Planetary Explorers, Abigail Olivaw imagined she’d be just another footnote in history, until she’s thrust into defending mankind in a galactic tribunal. An alien collective arrives in Sol and insists humanity has knowingly broken its most sacred law. If true, the outcome could mean the end of our species. With the help of her A.I. companion, Abigail must learn to navigate the alien cultures to turn the tide in our favor.
Buy via StoryOrigin
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