Lis Carey Review: Eversion

Doctor Silas Coade is the Assistant Surgeon, i.e., the ship’s doctor, on a sailing ship in the 1800s, on an exploratory expedition to a previously inaccessible inlet in Norway, where there is believed to be an Edifice of remarkable character. Or is he on a steamship in the late 1800s, searching for a similar inlet, much farther south. Or an airship in Antarctica… Or is it something else? He’s writing a novel, a fantastic adventure, which is starting to track far too closely with the expedition(s), and every time, the voyage ends in terrible disaster. What’s really happening? And why are some of his companions also starting to remember alternate versions of events?

Eversion, by Alastair Reynolds
Orbit, ISBN 9780316462815, August 2022

Review by Lis Carey: Doctor Silas Coade is the ship’s physician on sailing ship, Demeter, in the 1800s, on a voyage of exploration to a previously unreachable inlet. They crash on the coast of Norway, and find an earlier ship, Europa, already wrecked there, leaving a dire warning behind.

Doctor Silas Coade is the ship’s physician on a steamship, Demeter, in the later 1800s, seeking the same previously unreachable inlet, with the same Edifice the previous voyage found–in a different part of the world. And Coade is the only one who, dimly, has memories of this happening before, with the same disastrous end.

Coade is the physician on an airship, also Demeter in the 1900s, seeking a hole in the ice in Antarctica, which becomes a hole in the Earth, where a mysterious Edifice is reported to exist. Once again, they find a wrecked ship, Europa, that went before them, with the same dire warning and disastrous end. And each time, Silas has remembered more about preceding episodes, while relationships evolve among the same recurring members of the ship’s crew and the expeditionary party.

The Russian, Topolsky, is the funder and leader of the expeditionary party. He’s motivated by money and fame, and he’s not overly honest. Raymond Dupin is a young, brilliant, but strangely very stressed mathematician. He says “the voices” are whispering to him to keep working on the “eversion” problem; that it is critical and he must solve it, even when Coade is rather desperate to get the young man to rest before he burns himself out. Coronel Ramos is Topolsky’s paid security, and a Mexican. He and Coade have a friendly relationship, that gradually becomes real friendship.  Captain Van Vught is the Dutch captain of Demeter. Ada Cossile is the linguist in Topolsky’s party

Each of these people becomes a more fleshed-out character, over the course of each iteration. Ada Cossile is both an annoyance and a distraction to him, challenging the details and words of the “fantastic adventure” narrative he’s writing, and reading for the crew at the captain’s dinner table. She even offers unasked etymological histories of medical terms, when he has to do an emergency trephination on Coronal Ramos. She’s very frustrating, and very attractive to him. She clearly has an ulterior motive, but what is it?

The first hint comes on that first iteration, when just before the disaster that will kill everyone, Silas is shot in the gut, mortally wounded. As he is dying, Ada Cossile express disappointment in him, urging him to show more courage, grasp the true reality, so that there’s a chance to end this wandering through his mind and solve the real problem.

What real problem?

In the next two iterations, it becomes clear Ramos is starting to realize they’re experiencing something other than reality. It’ bewildering and alarming, how Dupin is compelled to keep working on his “eversion” mathematical problem, even as he grow more exhausted and feverish. And, what voices is he talking about, that are telling him he needs to?

Eventually, we get a glimpse of the reality Ada Cossile keeps encouraging him to reach for–but at first only briefly. And Silas grasps a lot of it, but he doesn’t, can’t, believe what she tells him about who he really is. And there’s a reference I so much want to make here, and it would either be annoyingly irrelevant, or a spoiler. So, no. But the latest simulation is where Silas starts to truly engage with the dangerous problem that will kill all of them if he can’t find the right way to tackle it–a way that doesn’t involve sailing ships, steamships, or airships, but the real Demeter and the real Europa, and untangling the lies Topolsky has told.

I can tell from other reviews that a lot of people have found this book annoying. I’m in the “but this is so much fun!” category.

We get deeper and deeper in to Silas Coade’s mind, untangling the puzzle, and trying to figure out what Ada Cossile is really doing, and is she Silas’s enemy or his ally? We get to know Coronel Ramos ever better, and learn what exactly is driving Dupin in such a seemingly self-destructive direction.

I cared about these characters, including lesser ones I haven’t mentioned, and I loved the story. So allowing this book seems to be of the marmite variety, absolutely give it a try.

I received this book as a gift.

Lis Carey Review: Doing Time

Three new recruits have joined the Time Police, at what turns out to be a critical, and dangerous, moment in its own history. Jane Lockland finally had enough of being her grandmother’s unpaid servant. Matthew Farrell is the son of two leading historians at St. Mary’s, the Time Police’s nemesis organization. He wants to work on the Time Map. Luke Parrish is the son of a billionaire, who has tried his father’s patience too far, and been coerced into the Time Police. They are definitely Team Weird. They can’t even do their first “gruntwork” assignments in the approved way, and the fact that they do them anyway really ticks people off. This puts them in the line of fire of the traditionalists in the Time Police, who want to throw out not just them, but the reformers who are bringing in all this change, like being more conservative about use of shoot to kill orders against Time Police officers they disagree with…

Doing Time (The Time Police #1), by Jodi Taylor
Headline Publishing Group, ISBN 9781472266781, October 2019

Review By Lis Carey: The invention of time travel led to the Time Wars, which led to the Time Police, who solve problems by ruthless, thorough, application of force. Stop the illegal time travelers, bring home for prosecution any who are unaccountably still alive, and burn what’s left. The Time Police have a rival, or nemesis, St. Mary’s who, they will assure you don’t do time travel. That would be illegal. They study major historical events in contemporary time. The earliest (in internal chronological order) of the St. Mary’s Chronicles is The Very First Damned Thing (Chronicles of St. Mary’s 0.5)

It’s very easy to see why the rules-oriented Time Police aren’t fond of the scholarly and chaotic St. Mary’s crew.

In this first of the Time Police stories, there are three new recruits. One is Jane Lockland, a rather meek, quiet, young woman who has finally bailed on being her grandmother’s unpaid servant. One is Luke Parrish, son of a billionaire, whose casual, self-indulgent lifestyle has finally angered his father sufficiently to bribe the Time Police to take him as a recruit. Another is Matthew Farrell, son of two of the historians at St. Mary’s. In fact, his mother, Dr. Maxwell, is the one whom the Time Police find most infuriating.

The three of them have survived the classroom portion of their training, and are now ready to be assigned to field training –“gruntwork.” Most recruits have over the last weeks sorted themselves into natural teams of four — with three left over. These three. Who are not at all the ordinary sort of Time Police recruits. There’s been a drive to increase diversity, in part due to a recognition at the top that with the Time Wars definitely over, they need to adopt a new approach to the new problematic time travelers — time tourists, speculators, big business, and organized crime. Jane fits the desire to have more women. Matthew is a nerd who wants to work on the Time Map after his gruntwork training, and is well suited to it. Luke — Luke is proof that enough money can buy almost anything.

These three didn’t even naturally attract each other. They’re just the three left over, stuck together for lack of alternatives. Major Ellis takes them on as his team, and bribes an earlier St. Mary’s refugee, Officer Celia North, who didn’t like the chaotic atmosphere at St. Mary’s and fled to the greater order of the Time Police, to be the missing fourth member of his new team.

That team, Team 236 officially, Team Weird according to others, doesn’t do anything the right way. Whether going after an amateur time traveler who jumps forward a week to find out the winning lottery numbers, or a single, pregnant rabbit genetically engineered to be immune to super myxomatosis and released into Australia, or as supporting members of a large team to stop a raid on King Tut’s tomb three thousand years ago, they don’t do anything the Time Police Way,

And yet, they do it. They get their jobs done. Matthew even brings down three time traveling tomb raiders and prevents Major Ellis from dying of his gunshot wound during that operation to protect Tut’s tomb.

They are starting to gel as a team.

Which is when they stumble into the crosshairs of a faction among the “traditional” Time Police officers, the ones who don’t think people like Team Weird, or women generally, or people with any connection to St. Mary’s, or with other nontraditional characteristics, should be recruited. Who don’t think people like Commander Hay (head of the Time Police), or Major Ellis, should be running things.

That’s when things go all to heck, and Jane finds herself the only suspect in a murder, and Luke and Matthew dig her and themselves even deeper by pulling off a rescue, and the future of the Time Police, and possibly the future of history and the future, hang in the balance.

It’s a lot of fun, with good characters, action, people having to actually work with people they fundamentally disagree with. Oh, and a perfectly pulled off silly line delivered to the readers absolutely perfectly.


I bought this book.

Lis Carey Review: Foxglove Summer

Peter was just taking a quick trip to Herefordshire to interview a retired wizard who’s a fellow veteran of Nightingale’s unit in WWII, in regards to a case he most likely has no involvement with anyway—two missing 11-year-old girls. He’s quickly satisfied the elderly, frail man has no connection to the case, but he can’t walk away from two missing children. He asks to be assigned to the case in any capacity in which he can be useful. Which is how he winds up confronting carnivorous unicorns, ghost trees, bees, and faeries who aren’t at all nice or friendly. Oh, and inseminating a river with Beverly Brook. Yes, their relationship has progressed a bit!

Foxglove Summer (Rivers of London #5), by Ben Aaronovitch
DAW, January 2015 (original publication November 2014)

Review by Lis Carey: Two children have gone missing in Herefordshire, and Peter Grant is sent out to check on a retired old wizard in the area, just in case he might be involved, or aware of something the regular police won’t ask him about. He finds Hugh Oswald, but he’s old, frail, and falls asleep very easily. He’s not aware of anything, and is a seriously poor candidate to have done anything. His granddaughter, Mellissa, is a beekeeper in a fairly big way, and there’s definitely something odd about her, but she doesn’t seem at all a likely suspect, either.

So, back home to London? No, with two children missing, Peter doesn’t want to walk away. He calls Nightingale to report, and also to ask permission to go offer his services to the local police.

The local police are not inclined to refuse an extra officer on the case, but they do have concerns. Does PC Grant have any reason to think there is any of That Weird Stuff involved? No, he just doesn’t two children being missing, and he doesn’t have any pressing cases waiting for him in London. They go around the question a few different ways, but Peter assures them that he expects this to be as routine as a missing-children case can be, and he’s happy to do any job that will make him useful. He gets tagged as the assistant Family Liaison Officer for one of the families, freeing up an experienced local officer for the search for the missing girls.

But of course Peter’s venture out of London can’t be smooth and uneventful — or unmagical. He starts to notice signs of odd things going on with this case. The girls were in the habit of taking “night walks” when conditions suited. One of the girls had an “invisible friend,” a unicorn called Princess Luna. One of their cellphones is found, but it’s dead. Battery dead, is what the local authorities conclude. Peter asks to examine the phone, and it’s dead from the effects of magic performed nearby. The other girl, not the one with the unicorn friend, has an older half-sister who ran away years earlier, taking her baby sister with her — and something strange happened, that she can’t quite recall, but she went home taking her baby sister with her.

Beverly Brook, who should be in London, comes to Herefordshire–and gets kidnapped by a couple of local river goddesses, because she thought it would be simpler to swim, and trespassed in the process. Peter has to come and make nice to the river goddesses to get her out. Their relationship seems to have taken another step forward, and Peter is happy about that.

He’s not so happy that Lesley May has started calling him. They’re quick calls, from a burner. He has to log and report every contact, and his superiors have some hope of getting her to turn herself in. Peter doesn’t share that optimism, He’s soon using a burner phone for the unavoidable contact with her.

Meanwhile, the missing girls case keeps getting weirder and weirder. There are carnivorous unicorns, a changeling, ghost trees, a forest with a convoluted history where strange things happen, and a faerie queen who is, well, think all your images of wicked elves rather than nice ones. There’s Harold Oswald, who though elderly, frail, and inclined to sleep a good deal, is more on the ball that Peter initially thought.

Peter learns some interesting things about Nightingale’s past.

And there is a major, and dangerous clash in the forest.

Peter’s life is not going to be the same again.

There’s fun and humorous moments, too, but this is a book with emotional depth and major challenges for Peter.


I received this book as a gift.

Lis Carey Review: Ten Little Fen

Spade, a Microsoft millionaire who didn’t lose his millions, is an sf fan, a SMoF (Secret Master of Fandom), who helps fan-run conventions function smoothly. Usually that means helping out in his main area of expertise—how to run a non-profit, fan-run convention operation without getting into either financial or tax difficulties. This time he’s agreed to step in as program director of SierraCon, held at a fairly isolated hotel in the Sierra Nevada mountains, on the California/Nevada border. Soon he finds himself and the whole convention snowed in, while one by one, prominent attendees are having terrible “accidents.” Fortunately, Paladin, and their joint ward, Casper, are also there. They’ve dealt with dangerous crises at cons before. But can they solve this one before one of them falls victim?

Ten Little Fen: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing, November 2021

By Lis Carey: Spade, SMoF (Secret Master of Fandom), forensic accountant, and amateur detective for sf conventions when necessary, is program director of SierraCon, an sf convention held at a relatively isolated hotel in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, just barely on the California side of the California/Nevada state line. Oh, and this convention is in November. He’s filling in for the original program director, who is recovering from chemotherapy for cancer, and not able to do the job. He’s not fond of either mountains, or snow, but once the convention starts, no one really has to go out, and the locals say the snowstorms are overblown and don’t generally create real problems. Getting ready of the official start of the convention, Spade ignores the weather.

That’s a mistake. As the official start of the convention approaches, a major blizzard closes in, flights are canceled, both attendees and guests cancel, and Spade has to remind the hotel’s general manager of the unusual terms of their contract regarding cancellations. At least their Writer Guest of Honor arrived early, and the “Usual Set,” a group of New York-based writers and editors who travel a lot, show up unexpectedly, just before that becomes impossible, and can be used to fill program holes created by the cancellations. Except, of course, Spade’s troubles haven’t even started. That happens during dinner that night, when one well-known fan nearly chokes to death, is saved by fandom’s other traveling detective, Paladin, performing the Heimlich maneuver, and subsequently proves to have been poisoned. 

The tiny, plastic number 1 in his food, which caused him to choke, may actually have saved his life, but he’s still really sick from the poison. Spade, Paladin, and their young ward, Casper, do not yet suspect that the tiny, plastic number 1 is the first real sign of what they’re up against. The basic outline of what they’re up against can be found in an Agatha Christie book whose third and so far final title, after the first two titles offended even the less sensitive racial sensitivities of an earlier age, is …And Then There Were None.

Even with the cancellations, they’ve got a few hundred people on site.

It’s soon very clear that the would-be killer isn’t stupid, and is intimately familiar with fandom. This isn’t an outsider. Spade, Paladin, Casper because they can’t leave her unattended while they investigate, the writer Guest of Honor, Horatio Dunnett (who may strike some as remarkably similar to George RR Martin), and a few other convention members and the occasional member of the hotel staff, are rushing to find a wannabe killer before anyone is actually killed. And they can’t call in the police, because the storm has snowed in the hotel and anything that might be considered nearby. The police can’t get them. They’re lucky they have doctors and nurses attending the convention, or they’d have no knowledgeable care for the injured as the murder attempts mount.

Finding the perpetrator is going to take Spade’s deep knowledge of fandom and ability to dig out long-buried information as long as it’s buried in digital form, and Paladin’s quick thinking and fast reflexes.

It’s a clever mystery, a lot of fun, and satisfies at least a bit of that urge to attend a convention that’s been frustrated since early 2020.


I received this book as a gift.

Lis Carey Review: The Early Conundrums: A Spade/Paladin Collection

Spade is a SMoF, a “Secret Master of Fandom.” He travels the country helping fan-run conventions run successfully. Mostly that’s in his area of expertise, staying out of financial and tax trouble. Sometimes, something more obviously dangerous comes up. For instance, an unexpected dead body. In the first of these five adventures, Spade is on his own in solving the case while preventing a PR disaster for the convention. In the second, he meets Paladin. She’s somewhat of a rogue detective, also very much a part of fandom.  They do not mesh easily at first. Or ever, really, but they do tackle cases together, pooling their skills.

The Early Conundrums: A Spade/Paladin Collection (A Spade/Paladin Conundrum), by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

WMG Publishing, Inc., June 2012

Review by Lis Carey: Spade is a SMoF, a Secret Master of Fandom, i.e., one of the people who travel the country helping fan-run science fiction conventions operate successfully. He’s mainly the guy who understands the finance side of running a non-profit, fan-run convention, but every so often, a puzzle or problem comes up, that Spade is able to solve quickly and quietly, avoiding trouble for the con. That’s where he got the nickname, Spade, although in build, personality, and wealth, he’s more of a Nero Wolfe than a Sam Spade.

Paladin is short, smart, pixie-ish in build, with elf-like, slightly pointed ears–and by her own description a bulldozer in her approach to problems, rather than someone with any finesse. Like Spade, she solves mysteries and problems in science fiction fandom. Unlike Spade, though she’s very much a real fan like he is, she’s also earning her living doing this. Both she and Spade want to keep sf cons as safe as possible; Paladin does this by targeting those who would prey on the children and young teens in fandom.

This book includes five adventures, the first one Spade’s alone, and the other four the two of them teaming up for tasks that require both their skillsets.

Rusch captures the experience of working on an sf convention, even while including far more exiting and alarming events than I’ve ever actually encountered. (Of course, I’m a very local conrunner, and have mostly pulled back from major con jobs in the last several years. So there may be a lot I don’t know about…)

These stories are interesting, fun, and very satisfying. Recommended.

I bought this book.

Lis Carey Review: The Crown Jewel Mystery

An American actress has come to London, seeking her unknown father who funded her education. She knows the money is sent from a particular bank, but she only has the account number, not the name of the account holder. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Inspector Gregson are on the trail of a major bank robbery that will happen today. It’s the same bank, and what goes down will be dangerous, even deadly. If the actress and her friend survive, it will be due to her intense, careful, attention to detail, and ability to reason out what the details mean.

The Crown Jewel Mystery (Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery #0.5), by Anna Elliott (author), Charles Veley (author)
Wilton Press, June 2017

Review By Lis Carey: Lucy James, an American actress, arrives in London, officially for a position in the D’Oyly Carte Opera which she has been offered. In reality, her main motivation is to try to find the identity of her father. The stipend that supported her and paid for her education came from the Capital and Counties Bank on Oxford Street in London. She has the account number, but no name. She wants that name.

Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Inspector Gregson, have been called to the scene of the seemingly sudden death of a bank clerk at the Capital and Counties Bank. They’re on the trail of a master criminal, and the death of this bank clerk, along with additional information from his brother, tells them this is the day a major attack on the bank will occur. In alternating chapters, we get the story from the different perspectives of Lucy and Watson.

Lucy is accompanied by her friend, Johnny Rockefeller–yes, John D. Rockefeller Jr., which is enormously helpful in getting to talk to the bank manager, and then getting him to take Johnny on a tour of the vault, while leaving the “claustrophobic” Lucy in his office. She has just enough time to find that there’s no name attached to the account, just a safety deposit box number. It’s after she’s gotten the manager to take them to the safety deposit boxes and leave them there briefly, that the bank robbers arrive and begin their attack. 

From there on, Holmes outside and Lucy inside are each working to defeat the gang, each with that peculiarly high attention to detail that we expect of Holmes, but which surprises everyone who meets the young actress. It’s high stakes and dangerous, and exciting right down to the end. I find it a very good Holmes pastiche, true to the tone and the established characters, along with late 19th century London.


I received this book as a gift.

Lis Carey Review: Project Hail Mary

It’s hard sf, a scientific mystery. It’s one man alone, on a one-way mission he never really agreed to. And it’s a first contact story. It’s the hard sf adventure I loved in the Sixties and Seventies, without the latent and sometimes blatant sexism. Ryland Grace is a scientist who found happiness as a middle school science teacher, and finds himself hijacked back into research to save our species from extinction, and into a one-way journey to Tau Ceti.

Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (author), Ray Porter (narrator)
Audible Studios, May 2021

Review By Lis Carey: Ryland Grace was a microbiologist, and then he wrote a paper that pissed everyone off. He quit and became a schoolteacher. He was very happy as a schoolteacher.

And then another scientist, in a very different field, saw something strange happening to the sun, and a strange, infrared radiation line connecting the sun and Venus. When amoeba-like forms were identified as the likely cause, someone decided it was right up Ryland’s alley.

Which is why, one day, he wakes up in what at first seems to be a very strange hospital room. His two fellow patients have died — years ago, from the states of their bodies. He doesn’t know why he’s here; he doesn’t even know his own name. Which is especially awkward, because the automated computer system won’t answer some critical questions until he can correctly give his name.

Slowly, little accidents trigger some memories. His name comes back. He remembers being a teacher, and then having been a scientist before that. Together with his cautious exploration of where he is, he realizes he’s on a spaceship, headed — somewhere.

Gradually, he remembers why he’s here. The amoeba-like things are eating the sun’s energy, fast enough to become an extinction-level event if they’re not stopped. And nothing on Earth can stop them. Worse, all the stars in Sol’s neighborhood are infected and suffering the same fate. 

Except Tau Ceti. Tau Ceti has the amoeba things, but it is somehow controlling them. Tau Ceti has a resistance that other stars, including Sol, don’t have.

Ryland Grace is the sole surviving member of a three-person crew dispatched to find the answer, and send the information back to Earth. It was a suicide mission anyway; not enough fuel to return the crew. Just four, much smaller, “beatles” to provide redundancy in the return of the information. Now the chances of success are even longer.

Then he makes another worldview-shattering discovery. Humanity isn’t alone after all. There isn’t just other life, the sun-killing amoeba, but other intelligent life. Not from Tau Ceti, but from 40 Eridani.

Ryland isn’t alone anymore, and all his expectations have been turned upside down and inside out.

It’s a hard sf story, just as we would expect from Andy Weir. It’s a scientific mystery. And it’s a first contact novel, with two very good main characters, and a variety of interesting and complicated characters whom we meet as Ryland recovers his memories, in fits and starts and not necessarily in order. The narration is excellent, making the characters clear and distinct.

Highly recommended.

I received this book as a gift.

Review: The Mountain in the Sea

The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler

By PhilRM: As a long-time admirer of Ray Nayler’s short fiction (much of which has appeared in Asimov’s), I was very much looking forward to this, his first novel.

In the not too distant future of an Earth ravaged by climate change, marine biologist Ha Nguyen, who has spent her life studying cephalopods, is hired by the massive transnational DIANIMA corporation to undertake a research project in the isolated Con Dao archipelago, whose inhabitants have been forcibly evacuated by DIANIMA in the wake of rumours of a new and dangerous species of intelligent octopus. There she finds herself partnered with the android Evrim, the world’s first and only allegedly conscious artificial intelligence, the creation of the reclusive Arnkatla Minervudottir-Chan, founder and driving force behind DIANIMA.

In the Republic of Astrakhan, Rustem, a Russian hacker with a matchless gift for finding his way into systems of artificial intelligence, is hired by a mysterious and ruthless organization to break into the most complex system he has ever seen. And a young Japanese college graduate named Eiko, kidnapped from the Ho Chi Minh Autonomous Trade Zone, toils away on the automated fishing vessel Sea Wolf as it scours the depleted waters of the Pacific Ocean.

This multi-stranded novel may wear the guise of a thriller, but it is a classic SF novel of ideas, though written with a very 21st century sensibility. Characters engage in passionate arguments about language, about communication, about consciousness, about responsibility. (It is a measure of Nayler’s accomplishment that I would very much like to read the fictional book by Ha Nguyen, How Oceans Think, excerpts from which preface many of the chapters.)

Nayler’s years of residence outside of the United States show in the novel’s lightly sketched but convincing locales. The substantially altered political backdrop – such as the Tibetan Buddhist Republic, represented by Altantsetseg, a former soldier who serves as Ha and Evrim’s bodyguard, equal parts menacing and hilarious – is only glimpsed as needed. In the end, all of the characters, burdened by their flaws and histories, will have to make choices that may mean the difference between life and death. And it is not the humans alone who must choose.

Highly recommended.

Lis Carey Review: The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Tesla Crane and her new husband, Shalmaneser Steward, are on their honeymoon, on a luxury cruise ship to Mars. They’re barely a full day into their cruise when they come across a badly wounded fellow passenger near their own cabin, and Shal becomes the prime, or in the view of the head of security, only, suspect. They’ll have to investigate for themselves, but spoofers, being cut off from the network and unable to reach their lawyer, on the grounds that Shal is the suspect in a murder, and Tesla’s service dog Gimlet attempting to keep Tesla from exceeding her physical and emotional limits from her injuries and PTSD due to an accident six years earlier, don’t make it easier. (Nevertheless, Gimlet is right. Every time.) Oh, and someone other than the security chief is trying to frame Shal.

The Spare Man, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor Books, ISBN 9781250829160, October 2022

Review by Lis Carey: In this book, the very rich wife, the Nora character, is Tesla Crane, a child of great wealth, but also a highly regarded and highly successful roboticist, whose career ended when a disastrous accident killed six people and left her with PTSD and chronic pain from her multiple serious injuries. The little dog is Tesla’s service dog, Gimlet, a Westie, a.k.a. West Highland White Terrier. The Nick character is Tesla’s retired detective husband, Shalmaneser Steward, called Shal. He was a working detective, and host of a reality TV series called Cold Cases. He retired when being famous made it impossible for him to blend into the background

They are recently married, and are on their honeymoon, a cruise from Earth to Mars on the ISS Lindgren. It’s a luxury cruise liner with passenger rings that offer, inward to outward, Lunar, Martian, and Earth gravity. Tesla and Shal have a luxury suite in the “Yacht Club” section of the Earth ring. On their first night aboard, they have dinner in the R-Bar, where they watch the karaoke and witness an argument involving three passengers.

When they return to the Yacht Club section, Tesla pauses to talk to the concierge, while Shal goes ahead — and starts running when they hear a scream. When Tesla and Gimlet catch up with him, he’s beside one of the passengers they saw arguing in the bar. She’s alive, but bleeding badly. Tesla takes over giving what first aid she can while Shal pursues the person he saw beside her body.

It doesn’t take long before the semi-competent and bull-headed head of security, Security Chief Wisor, decides that Shal is the attacker, and has him locked up in a cell. He has no real legal basis for doing so, but Tesla has to reach her lawyer to get anything done, and they’re already at the three-minute delay in comms point. Once Shal is sprung, they’re still not allowed back to their own cabin, but to a much smaller and inferior one. It’s the first of many minor and major harassments, that get harder and harder to correct, as time delays increase, and then their access to the network is blocked altogether. Tesla is a bystander to a conversation in which the captain learns someone put a body in the recycler, and it’s so processed at this point that they can only tell by the excess weight. Oh, and they don’t have any missing passengers.  There’s another roboticist on board, with her former actor/contortionist wife. There’s also a boy who competed in a robotics competition Tesla judged, on board with his father who doesn’t know that’s where he was that weekend. There’s the magician giving shows on the ship, who seems to have improbably broad access rights to restricted areas.

There’s all the people who want to love on service dog Gimlet, which is sometimes a useful distraction, and sometimes — not.

There’s another death, and another near-fatal attack. There’s an attempt to poison Shal. 

And someone is using a bot very like one of Tesla’s medical bots, in other dangerous acts.

Meanwhile, ship service staff who should be witnesses to critical events become unavailable, with changing shifts and duty assignments.

Tesla’s lawyer, Fantine, is a terror and a delight. Indeed, this is a book in which you will like the lawyers.

Gimlet is a very good depiction of a real service dog, smart, responsible, dedicated–but a real dog, not a robot.

Tesla is a woman with both physical handicaps due to her injuries, and PTSD and panic attacks from the incident that caused those injuries–and a real woman working with her real dog. She knows all the rules, and like her dog, she is not a robot, and sometimes does what seems good in the moment.

And like Tesla, and me, you will panic when Gimlet disappears, and can’t be found.

There’s murder, attempted murder, personal intrigue, corporate intrigue, with all the clues fairly available to the reader, along with misdirection and red herrings. The characters are well-developed and interesting.

It’s a lot of fun. Recommended.

I received this book as a review copy provided by Tor.

Review: Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard

Xich Si is a tech scavenger, working out of a not very prosperous port of the An O empire. She just wants to support herself and her daughter in relative safety and comfort. On one ofher scavenging expeditions, she is captured by pirates and expects that the best she can expect is to be sold as a bondsperson. When the avatar of the mindshp that captured her comes to her cell, she expects worse, but gets a surprise she couldn’t anticipate. Rice Fish, whose wife, Huan, the Red Scholar, was killed in the fighting, wants Xich Si’s tech skills, to help find evidence of who really killed Huan. And to protect Xich Si while she’s doing that, they need to marry. Just a business arrangement, Rice Fish assures her. Xich Si agrees because the only alternatives are worse. Soon she finds that Rice Fish is an idealist trying to salvage what she and Huan were building, and that she needs to navigate her way through pirate culture, pirate politics, an increasingly complicated relationship with Rice Fish, and negotiating with officials of the An O and Ðai Viêt empires.

Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard. JABberwocky Literary Agency, ISBN 9781625676108, November 2022

Review by Lis Carey: Xich Si is a tech scavenger, living in Triệu Hoà Port, and scavenging tech to sell and support herself and her daughter, when she’s captured by pirates. Specifically, she finds herself a prisoner on the mindship Rice Fish.

Rice Fish is the Red Consort, wife of the Red Scholar, head of the Red Banner faction of pirates. Or rather, she’s the widow of Huan, the Red Scholar, who has been killed in the recent fighting. The Red Widow. 

When Rice Fish comes to Xich Si’s cell, while the drunken wake is still going on, Xixh Si fears the worst. What the mindship wants, though, is a huge shock–once the mindship verifies that Xich Si is the maker of the bots that attracted her interest, she wants to marry her. But it will be strictly a business arrangement.

Rice Fish wants Xich Si’s technical skills. She needs help finding the evidence of who really killed the Red Scholar, so she can strike back at the enemy, and protect what they’ve been building. What they’ve been building is not a marriage and a family, though they have a grown son, Hổ, the Purple Scholar–head of the Purple Banner pirate faction. Rice Fish knows who she suspects, but she doesn’t have evidence, and outside the Red Banner, she doesn’t really have allies, at least not solid allies. Not even Hổ, who resents the relationship his two mothers had, and disagrees with and resents their ideas-what they were trying to build.

What were they trying to build? A safe haven for the pirates, the Citadel, which as a structure is pretty well built. Laws guaranteeing fairness and some level of justice to everyone within the pirate community–including indentured bondspeople, which would have been Xich Si’s fate if Rice Fish hadn’t decided she could be more useful. A transition from full-on piracy to acting as escorts and protectors for merchants moving through their area. A lot of the pirates don’t like this idea; it means giving up what they enjoy most about piracy.

Xich Si finds herself in a new, confusing culture, married to someone whom she increasingly respects and finds attractive and who thinks a business arrangement is the only way a marriage can be without guaranteeing the destruction of her plans, and with Xich Si’s own daughter in Triệu Hoà Port, protected only by someone who may decide, when she realizes Xich Si isn’t coming back, may decide she’s too much trouble and should better be sold into indenture. She’s five years old, and her life would become hell.

Xich Si doesn’t know the culture or the politics of the pirates, or the politics involved in their interaction with the An O empire which is her own home, or the Ðai Viêt, and most importantly, the enemies Rice Fish doesn’t know she has. Or allies already shaken enough that they’ll fade into neutrality at best. Yet Xich Si has to navigate this treacherous territory. Both the relationship between Rice Fish and Xich Si, and the mix of politics, tech problems, and clashes between the factions Xich Si is only beginning to figure out, make fascinating stories. I love these characters, their world, and their struggles to make it better.

Highly recommended.

I bought this book.