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3 stars

Space Opera Sunday: Look to Windward

800 years after the Idiran War, the dying light of two suns destroyed in it will finally reach Masaq’ Orbital. For Ziller, the occasion is overshadowed by the arrival of a Chelgrian emissary on a mission to bring the composer in exile home. But Quilan has other motives for his visit, and the Idiran War is not the only one whose consequences will be felt on Masaq’.

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Crucible of Gold (or silver. Or bronze. Or even brass)

Book cover: Crucible of Gold - Naomi Novik (a black dragon emblem above a shipwreck in a mountainous bay)Will and Temeraire are roused from their Australian retirement with an offer they can’t refuse: full reinstatement in return for a voyage to Brazil to try and forge a peace between the Portuguese colonies and Napoleon’s imported Tswana shock troops. Can they redeem themselves in the eyes of England?

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Space Opera Sunday: Excession

No matter how advanced a civilisation may be, there’s always a chance it will encounter an Out of Context Problem: something so far beyond it that it may accidentally – or intentionally – destroy everything. When an impenetrable black-body sphere appears in Culture space, factions scramble to take advantage – if they can work out how to do so.

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The Book was Better (or was it): I Am Legend

I nearly chose I Am Legend for a Confession, but I’ve read it before – however little I remembered beyond the ending. Instead, I’m going to take another look at it side by side with the Will Smith adaptation (as a Bad SF Fan, I haven’t seen the Vincent Price and Charlton Heston versions). Which will be better?

Priest vs Nolan

Confessions of a bad SF fan: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

Book cover: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Philip K Dick (a digital pointilliste image of a sheeps face)Double whammy confession time: I hadn’t previously read Philip K Dick’s classic, and I don’t much like Blade Runner. Spot the obvious problem though: I have seen Blade Runner, and it’s really hard to read the book without being influenced by it.

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Caraval: blood runs thicker than theatre

Book cover: Caraval - Stephanie Garber (swirls and typography - cover unconfirmed)When Donatella Dragma has her sister kidnapped to save her from an arranged marriage, Scarlett is taken to Caraval for the yearly interactive theatrical. But Caraval’s reputation is stained by death and madness, and Tella goes missing on the very first night. Can Scarlett avoid the traps and win the game to rescue her sister?

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Bite-size Books: Winter Tales

Book cover: Winter Tales - ed. Margret Helgadottir - a drawing of a cottage nestled in firs with the moon rising above on a field of purple)Christmas Eve is when Icelanders given books to one another and winter is when we Brits historically told ghost stories by the fire. I’m celebrating the season with a collection of speculative horror stories chosen by Margrét Helgadóttir.

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Confessions of a bad SF fan: Slaughterhouse-Five

Book cover: Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut (a yellow digit 5 on a dark background)Okay, having ‘fessed up about how few classics I’ve read, I shall endeavour to read at least half a dozen seminal SF works next year in my ongoing Confessions. But first, some catch-up – I read Slaughterhouse Five a while back. I knew it was hailed as a great SF AND great anti-war novel, but I didn’t really know what to expect. It certainly wasn’t what I got.

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Fluency: in space, we all speak the same language

Book cover: Fluency - Jennifer Foehner Wells - a spaceship in violet cloud)NASA has known about the alien ship in the asteroid belt since Roswell. But now they’re ready to send a small team to investigate it, including linguist Jane Holloway. When they find an empty ship, the military assume command: but someone – or something – still lives in the empty corridors. And it wants to talk.

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Rawblood: bleaker than Dartmoor

Book cover: Rawblood - Catriona ward (tree branches against a grey sky)Iris Villarca is an only child, kept isolated from friends and servants. Her father wishes only to protect her, but she dreams of stories where headstrong daughters seize their freedom. There is no freedom for a Villarca. Villarcas sicken if they leave Rawblood. Villarcas die young. And so do those they love.

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Change or die: Children of the Different

Book cover: Children of the Different - S C FlynnTwenty years after the Madness, the Settlement has turned its back on the disastrous ways of the City People, embracing self-sufficiency and fending off attacks by Ferals. But the children of this new age are different, manifesting new powers as they hit puberty. What will the Change bring for tight-knit twins Arika and Narrah?

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All Is Fair (in the battle for hearts and minds)

Book cover: All Is Fair - Emma Newman (text treatment)As the new Duchess of Londinium recovers from the Rosa attack, she is faced with a fresh threat from the Agency. Working with Max the Arbiter, she realises just how dangerous an enemy she has made. But Max has bigger fish to fry – the Sorcerers of Albion are going to war…

Be careful what you wish for

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