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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street, East Providence, RI 02914


Tesseracts 16 edited by Mark Leslie, Edge, 2012, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-894063-92-0 

The latest in this series of Canada centric anthologies mixes SF and fantasy and includes stories by well known names like Robert Sawyer and Kevin J. Anderson as well as a broad selection of newcomers with various styles, themes, and subjects. There are good stories by Sean Costello, whose byline I haven’t seen in far too long, as well as Carolyn Clink, Ryan Oakley, and others. There were a few that didn’t appeal to me, particularly some of the more conventional fantasies which seemed quite minor, but overall the quality was good and different readers will have reactions differing from mine. A reliable source of entertaining short fiction. 8/31/12

Fallen Gods by Michael A. Martin, Pocket, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-6062-3 

This is part of the Star Trek Titan subseries featuring the adventures of William Riker, XO under Picard in the television series. Riker and his crew are exploring an unknown region of space following the war with the Borg in search of lost alien technology. There is an awful lot of lost alien technology in the Star Trek universe and each time it is discovered it is forgotten in the next book. Their quest takes them to a planet in jeopardy because of a physical phenomenon in nearby space. Riker has to deal with the obvious problems as well as a moral quandary when his orders require him to perform an act which he finds personally dishonorable.  About average for a tie-in but the story was a bit too familiar for me. 8/28/12

Lord of Mountains by S.M. Stirling, Roc, 2012, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-451-46476-7 

The twelfth book of the Change, set after a change in the laws of nature has dramatically altered the world. In what used to be the United States, a repressive theocratic association seeks to dominate the world but the protagonist, recently raised as king of Montival. As the conflict escalates, he must consolidate the unity of his side by undertaking a dangerous journey to perform a ceremony that will establish him as dominant over the leaders of his allies and provide a united command. Although in many ways this feels more like fantasy than SF, I was swept up in the story once again and found myself surprised when I reached the end so quickly. 8/27/12

Win Some, Lose Some by Mike Resnick, ISFiC Press, 2012, $35, ISBN 978-098579890-1 

This is a collection of thirty stories, all of which were on the Hugo ballot and five of which one. Resnick had a nominee in all but two years from 1989 to 2011. That’s a remarkable achievement and obviously that means that the quality of this collection is exceptional. Some of my favorite stories are here, including “Kirinyaga”, “Bully!”, and “Robots Don’t Cry.” Over six hundred pages of some of the best short fiction the genre has produced over the course of the last two decades, several of them novelettes. Handsomely bound and with individual introductions to the stories by Robert Silverberg, David Brin, Michael Swanwick, Nancy Kress, and many others, this is probably going to be the best single author collection published in 2012. 8/21/12

The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams, Titan, 2012, $12.95, ISBN 9780857689337 

This is the second Sherlock Holmes adventure by this author and it’s good enough that I’m looking for the first, The Breath of God. A series of murders with mutilation has stirred up Mycroft Holmes, who believes that someone is using the techniques developed by Dr. Moreau to create human/animal hybrids. Watson grumpily assists Holmes and shows intelligence and initiative of his own in unraveling the mystery. There are cameo appearances by other characters from Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H.G. Wells, and Doyle's Professor Challenger has a significant part to play. Two thirds of the book are Holmes’ investigation, which is very well done indeed despite the unusual nature of the enemy. The last third is more of an action adventure and while not really in the Doyle tradition, but it’s not bad either. 8/20/12

Science Fiction Trails #8 edited by David B. Riley, 2012, $8

The Speculative Edge #1 edited by Shane R. Collins, 2012, $9.99

Interzone #241, 2012, £3.95

Black Static #29, 2012, £3.95 

Although the genre magazine era has pretty much passed, there are still a handful of interesting titles appearing for those who are willing to look for them. The first of these is thematically consistent, science fiction stories with settings in the Old West. It’s attractively packaged and very readable. Several of the stories this time involve alternate histories. Lou Antonelli and James Wymore have the most interesting contributions. The second title is new, a digest sized magazine with four stories and a number of poems and reviews, as well as interviews and articles. The story by D.L. Chance is the high point of the issue. Although I found much of the nonfiction interesting, I thought it diluted the magazine substantially. An interesting and potentially worthwhile addition to the genre but I think it needs a sharper focus. Interzone is a more predictable and established title, obviously, and has fine stories by Aliette de Bodard and Sean McMullen, along with quite readable stories by other writers and associated materials. A slightly better than average issue.  Black Static has less lineage but is well established now and this issue has several nice stories, although I found it slightly below average. The articles, on the other hand, were quite good this time around. The magazine world is not healthy and I don’t expect it ever will be again, but as long as titles like these keep appearing, it will continue to be worth investigating. 8/17/12

Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey, Orbit, 2012, $15.99, ISBN 978-0-316-12906-0 

I’d been looking forward to this second novel in the Expanse series more than any other recent novel, and it was worth the wait. In Leviathan’s Wake, the solar civilization was more or less saved by Jim Holden, who discovered that an alien protomolecule was being used in a series of experiments that could kill millions of people. Well, the bad guys try again in a slightly different form, mixing human and protomolecule DNA to create virtually invulnerable superwarriors. So Holden finds himself thrust into the cross eyes once again, even though he’s beginning to have doubts about his own judgment. And then there’s the feisty United Nations official who suspects her colleagues are up to no good, the traumatized Martian marine, the man obsessed with finding his missing daughter, and a host of other characters. Space battles, mysteries, creepiness, super science, an alien menace, political shenanigans, and a host of other plots all pulled neatly, and tensely, into a single story. So far this is the best SF novel I’ve read this year and I’ll be very surprised if anything better comes along – although there are a few others I’m anticipating avidly. Books like this are the reason I started reading SF in the first place. 8/7/12

The Unincorporated Future by Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin, Tor, 2012, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2881-6 

Fourth and final volume in this series, which I had started to find less inventive with the previous one. Now we come to the final war for control of the solar system, a war between two sides apparently evenly balanced. Solar civilizations (as opposed to interstellar ones) have always been my preference for space opera, so parts of this played very well to my predilections. Other parts seemed too talky and I found the ending – which I won’t spoil here – less than satisfying. I think the main reason why I was less than enthralled is that the story is too businesslike; there's no sense of wonder about the universe. For me at least, it’s probably a good idea that the authors are moving on to something else because I think they overworked this material and they showed both talent and promise in their first two books. 7/26/12

The God Antenna by Niko Zinovii, Zinovii Art Studio,  2012, $13.95, ISBN 978-0-9852230-0-7 

This is a self published novel and it suffers from some of the faults of an inexperienced author – the dialogue is clumsy at times and the pacing doesn’t feel consistent – but it does have an interesting premise, though one clearly with an agenda. A drug is discovered which can raise your IQ dramatically, but by doing so it affects the part of the human brain that allows one to believe in God. I had a hard time accepting that this is a plausible scenario, but given that premise, the author explores the consequences. The biggest problem I’ve seen in self published novels is reflected here – the kitchen sink syndrome. There’s contact with aliens, the truth about an historical mystery, artificial intelligence, a projected future society, and various pop philosophical questions. The speculations are sometimes interesting to follow but the narrative often suffers as a consequence. 7/26/12

Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez, Viking, 2012, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-670-02578-7 

I actively watch for thrillers with SF overtones. Sometimes they’re quite good – Preston & Child, early James Rollins, Charles Wilson – but sometimes they quickly descend into testosterone laced weapons porn with long winded gun battles and terse, sometimes unreadable prose. This was tends toward the former end of the spectrum, a novel previously published in French that I thought initially was going to be supernatural horror. A mysterious film contains subliminal images that cause a young woman to have hysterical blindness. This sets in motion an investigation and a series of adventures targeting a discovery that can visually alter the human brain and cause atypical and frequently homicidal tendencies. There isn’t a lot of mystery involved in that aspect, but our protagonist is soon to great danger and the pacing is hectic thereafter. Originally published in France. 7/24/12

Railsea by China Mieville, Del Rey, 2012, $18, ISBN 978-0-345-52452-2

I almost put this in fantasy and would have no problem if someone described it as such, but it's kind of outside normal genre delineations and it felt more like SF to me. It's also theoretically a young adult novel, which means there's a relatively nice price for a hardcover. The setting is a world of rocky islands scattered in a sea of sand, which is inhabited by dangerous creatures that tunnel beneath the surface. The sand is covered with an elaborate system of train tracks and trains travel it much as sailing ships do on our oceans. The parallels are emphasized by the fact that this is in part a retelling of Moby Dick. The captain of the train in question lost a limb to a giant white mole and has been pursuing it ever since. When an encounter with a wrecked train turns up an apparently insignificant artifact, it is in fact the catalyst for a young boy's journey of discovery and self discovery. I confess that I had some difficulty getting into this one, but once I was ensconced, it would have been hard to derail me.  7/20/12

Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop, Fairwood, 2012 (originally 1994), $18.99, ISBN 978-1-933846-31-6

I first read this novel when it appeared almost twenty years ago. Although I'm not a fan of sports novels, this one blew me away even before I realized that it was SF - and when I did figure out the identity of the mysterious player it caught me completely by surprise. The story is about a minor league team during World War II, forced to rely on unusual team members because the war took away so many of the more conventional ones. The viewpoint character is a talented teenager who joins the team and who struggles with a speech impediment. Most of the book is about his developing relationship with an unusually tall player on the team, who has a mysterious secret. I hadn't intended to re-read this but I started the prologue out of curiosity and before I knew it I was immersed again. An exceptional novel that is unlike any other SF you're likely to read. 7/11/12

Terminal Point by K.M. Ruiz, Thomas Dunne, 2012, $25.99, ISBN 9780-312-68155-5

Sequel to Mind Storm, which I haven't seen. Apparently that set up the situation of a post apocalyptic Earth with a new breed of mutants who are more like Marvel's X-Men than traditional SF. The poor science alienated me pretty early on. The story is about the struggle by the mutants to overthrew a repressive dictatorship, while at the same time there's an ambitious plan to colonize Mars. There is a lot of very violent imagery and some military SF overtones, but this is really just a comic book turned to prose.  I might have been able to enjoy this anyway if the prose hadn't been so relentlessly awkward. Here's a sample: "The bullet slammed into Jason's chest at close range with telekinetic help. The sudden agony was shared between them." Or: "Telekinesis stabilized the heavy weight of the piece, the final product something he couldn't imagine." Are there no editors left? 7/6/12

Orion and King Arthur by Ben Bova, Tor, 2012, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3-17-8

As much as I enjoy Ben Bova's novels, I find that I have really lost interest in this particular series, which follows the adventures of an immortal who is manipulated in time and space by some mysterious unknown intelligence. This time he is sent to early Britain - if you couldn't guess that from the title - where he meets the young Arthur. The futuristic intelligences want to eliminate Arthur from history but Orion rather likes him and his plans and decides to foil his master's plans. It's well written and at times quite engaging, but I found it impossible to identify with the characters or sympathize much with their plight. I'm also very overdosed on Arthurian novels and while this one is considerably different from most of the overly romanticized ones, it wasn't far enough away to suit me. 7/1/12

Cuttlefish by Dave Freer, Pyr, 2012, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-61614-625-2

I hadn't read a really good alternate history novel for a while, but this one broke the streak. Although set during the 1970s, the British Empire has never fallen and has become a repressive superstate. The protagonist is on the run from the authorities, among others, when she meets a rebellious young man who supports himself by smuggling while dreaming of freedom. What follows is a chase across the world - via a coal powered submarine! - because the protagonist's mother has secret knowledge which could threaten the imperial hold on the world. Wild adventures and breathtaking escapes ensue. This is easily Freer's most successful novel and while I see nothing suggesting this is part of a series, I would not be at all surprised to see a sequel. 6/30/12

Paradox Resolution by K.A. Bedford, Edge, 2012, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-894063-88-3

The second adventure of Spider Webb, who makes a living of sort repairing time machines. This time he gets involved with a radically new, very illegal, time machine that has the potential to destroy all of time and space. And someone has stolen it. Since Spider was at one time a police officer, he is unofficially drafted into recovering it before the disaster takes place. Doing so will take him through time and space himself. Although this is essentially a mystery story, it is played partly for laughs, but with less success than in the first book in the series. It was good enough to hold my interest to the end, but I wasn't heartbroken when I turned the final page. Okay light adventure but the author has done better in the past. 6/29/12

Raise the Dawn by David R. George III, Pocket, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-4956-7

The latest in the Typhon Pact subset of the Star Trek universe. The Typhon Pact is another star traveling power which has less than friendly terms with humans and their allies. War has seemed imminent for the last couple of volumes and edges closer in this one. Benjamin Sisko and Jean-Luc Picard figure prominently in this one as a new crisis near the planet Bajor threaten to ignite old and new passions and precipitate disaster. Sisko in particular has personal problems distracting him from the issues. This is old fashioned space opera layered on the Trek universe, of course, and it's a reasonably good story though perhaps a bit too long. I was also put off by the unpronounceable names of some of the characters, which I find irritating unless there's a good reason for it, which in this case there is not. 6/20/12

Wildcatter by Dave Duncan, Edge, 2012, $9.95, ISBN 978-1-894063-90-6

Dave Duncan opened his writing career with SF but quickly changed to fantasy where he was much more successful, which was a loss to SF. This is the second recent novel in that category published by Edge recently, suggesting he's  writing some of the stories he would have written back then. This is an old fashioned space opera about a group of independent explorers/miners who travel to a distant planet to harvest valuable chemicals before the big corporations can beat them to it. There are riches there, but also something deadly and insidious. A nice space adventure well told although a bit low key. The excitement that made Duncan's fantasies so noteworthy isn't as prevalent here. 6/14/12

No Going Back by Mark L. Van Name, Baen, 2012, $22, ISBN 978-1-4516-3810-3

It is indeed possible to write military style SF that doesn't lumber from one tired cliché to the next. The fifth Jon & Lobo novel is a good example. Jon is a space traveler with a mission and Lobo is a sentient warship. Although they've done a great deal of good in the previous four books, they don't always measure up to Jon's standards in their rescue efforts. As a consequence, he is depressed and perhaps suffering from faulty judgment when he gets involved with a relentlessly hostile planet, falling in love in the process. There are more than just natural dangers as two separate groups of people pose problems for our dynamic duo. The action is rapidly paced, the characters pull you into their problems, and the plot has lots of little hooks to grab your attention. Among the better space opera series being written today. 6/13/12

Redshirts by John Scalzi, Tor, 2012, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-1699-8

Scalzi's latest has a clever premise. The protagonist has recently joined the crew of a spaceship which travels about having encounters with aliens and such, these missions consisting of senior officers and a few new crewmembers like himself, often with the subordinates suffering one or more losses during the encounter. Shades of Star Trek! But there's a pattern that soon emerges suggesting that something more than chance is involved. I'm unable to tell you much more about the plot without giving away the secret, although I suspect most readers will be well ahead of our protagonist. This isn't quite as meaty as Scalzi's other novels, but it's quite amusing and certainly not your ordinary SF novel. 6/12/12

Ashes of Candesce by Karl Schroeder, Tor, 2012, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2492-4

Apparently this windup novel will be out last visit to the Virga universe. Virga is a kind of artificial universe with no planets as we generally think of them. There have been hints in the past that some external force is threatening to destroy the civilizations within Virga and now that threat becomes imminent. In order to meet that threat, the author draws upon several of the previous story lines and characters and weaves them together for an exciting and not entirely expected finish. I sometimes have difficulty with settings that are so out of the ordinary that it is difficult to find reference points but that's not a problem in this case, and the  cast of nicely drawn characters helped bridge the credibility gap. In a way I'm sorry to see the last of this series, but on the other hand, I'm curious to know what Schroeder will set his hand to next. 6/12/12

The Devil Delivered and Other Tales by Steven Erikson, Tor, 2012, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3002-4

The author of the popular Malazan fantasy series turns to science fiction for this collection of three novelettes. The first flirts with fantasy as an ecological disaster reveals knowledge beyond what science anticipated. The second and best of the three is set on an alternate world where life evolved slightly differently and civilization features a rather baroque system of patronage and  the arts. The third, and least interesting, is a young boy's revelations about the fantastic experiences of his grandmother. Oddly, given my preference for SF over fantasy, I didn't think this was generally as well written as his fantasy novels, perhaps because the shorter form didn't provide the opportunity to develop things as fully. The middle story could have been the basis for a far more interesting novel. 6/7/12

Judgment at Proteus by Timothy Zahn, Tor, 2012, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2213-5

I've been looking forward to this, the fifth and final novel in the Quadrail series. Our two protagonists have discovered that a group of genetically altered aliens is behind the spread of a mass mind inducing organism across the galaxy. The organism can take control of its countless hosts when it needs them to do something, like kill our heroes, and the hosts never really understand why they felt such a compulsion. Now the battle has shifted to Proteus Station, where the aliens are experimenting on human babies and preparing to bring their plans to fruition. They also seek to separate the two investigators, who are secretly allied with a splinter of the mass mind which resents being enslaved by its theoretical masters. There are plots and counterplots aplenty and even a few surprises along the way. Zahn is one of the few remaining writers who can produce rousing space adventures that start off at a full run and never falter along the way. 6/5/12

Nebula Awards Showcase 2012 edited by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel, Pyr, 2012, $176.95, ISBN 978-1-61614-619-1

The latest in this long running series of annual recaps of the award winners and near contenders. This one's an unusual mix of new and reprinted stories, excerpts from longer works, and a few essays. All of the stories are quite good, particularly those by Adam-Troy Castro, Harlan Ellison, Geoff Landis, and Kij Johnson, as well as the Tiptree reprint. The excerpts are by Connie Willis and Terry Pratchett. This volume covers stories published in 2011, obviously. There is a list of award winners back to the founding of the award. A substantial number of the stories this year are by newcomers and they all show considerable promise. A few are fantasy, the rest SF. About half were previously published in traditional major markets while the others are from online publications, small press, and other odd sources. A good buy even if you've read half already. 5/28/12

Containment by Christian Cantrell, 47North, 2012, $14.95, ISBN 9781612183626

The new SF line from Amazon has been largely dominated to date by unfamiliar writers, and the blurbs continue to be written by someone who knows nothing about what he or she is talking about. First of all, this story of a colony on Venus is not "in the tradition of Orson Scott Card". The plot was around before Card was born. Second, it is not a "near-future alternate history". It's not an alternate history at all. The prose isn't all that great either. The first paragraph of chapter 14, for example, is inconsistent about whether "vibrations" is singular or plural. There are dozens of other little glitches that an editor should have caught, but no one did. Too much passive voice as well. More seriously, the story ignores what we actually know about Venus. In fact, I never got any sense of the planet at all. The plot involves efforts to develop an artificial form of photosynthesis that is much more efficient than the one found in nature so that the planet's atmosphere can be replaced, otherwise the small colony will eventually have to be abandoned. There's some melodrama wrapped around that, but not much, and the book does not, as the blurb claims, deal with "sociology and philosophy", although it is very talky and showy at times. A good editor might have helped the author produce an interesting book, but as it stands, it's not. Originally self published in 2010. 5/27/12

Plagues of Night by David R. George III, Pocket, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-4955-0

This is the sixth book in the Typhon Pact subset of the Star Trek universe, none of which I've ever seen. The premise is that after the Borg invasion, the galaxy is devastated and a new web of alliances has been formed. One one side are, improbably, the Federation and the Klingons. The other side consists of six empires including the Romulans. The good guys, us, have superior technology and the bad guys are concerned that the military imbalance will become insuperable if they don't do something to stop the Federation from rebuilding its fleets. There's lots of politicking as well as more overt action and while Deep Space Nine is mentioned, the major characters in this series are apparently all original and not part of any of the television shows or movies. It was somewhat interesting following the speculation about the future of the Trek universe, but the story soon turns into a more familiar Trek sequence, not badly done, but nothing out of the ordinary. It also ends with a cliffhanger. 5/23/12

Broken Universe by Paul Melko, Tor, 2012, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2914-1

Parallel universe stories seem to be enjoying a mild resurgence of popularity, as witness this sequel to The Walls of the Universe. John Rayburn possesses the secret of traveling among the different realities. Using this technology he recruits his friends, and sometimes their counterparts, to build a company that can trade from one to the next. Unfortunately not everyone wants to play nice, or even by the rules, and rivals resort to violence to eliminate the competition and steal Rayburn's secrets. And unfortunately the people he chooses to depend upon aren't always dependable, and may have ideas of their own about how to proceed. This reminded me at times of Poul Anderson for some reason, a blending of classic elements with more contemporary ones. Melko's three novels to date have been progressively better. He's emerging as one of the best new writers of the past decade. 5/22/12

Armored edited by John Joseph Adams, Baen, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-3817-2

It's probably pretty obvious that I don't care for a lot of current military SF. This is not because I dislike the form as such - I thoroughly enjoyed the Falkenberg stories by Jerry Pournelle, Andre Norton's Star Guard, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, John Hemry, some of the early work of David Drake, and many others that fall into that category. Much of what appears currently, however, is mind numbingly derivative and some of it perpetuates a transparently jingoistic political agenda that results in paper tiger characters and situations. But it is possible, as demonstrated by this book, to assemble a collection of stories that avoid those traps and deliver good, innovative entertainment. Part of the secret in this case, I suspect, is that many of the contributors like Alastair Reynolds, Jack McDevitt, and Carrie Vaughn are not generally associated with that subgenre and those that are, like Jack Campbell and David Sherman, are among the better writers in that pool. The stories I liked best were those by Reynolds and Campbell, as well as others by Tanya Huff and Sean Williams. Adams, as he always does, provides a good balance of themes and variation in plots and styles sufficient to keep things fresh despite the overriding theme.  5/14/12

Further: Beyond the Threshold by Chris Roberson, 47North, 2012, $14.95, ISBN 9781612182438

This is Amazon's new imprint so I don't know if there's any other venue through which this book will be available. It also appears they need better blurb writers. If it's the 34th Century, the space captain revived from suspended animation could not have been there for "twelve thousand years." They presumably meant twelve hundred. After some disorienting orientation, he is put in charge of an expedition intended to investigate the possibility of alien life outside the large sphere of space inhabited by humans. Instead, he and his crew fall into the hands of a dissident group secretly living on a distant planet. But they also do find evidence of alien intelligences, though most of the story is more straightforward capture and escape. Roberson has written several previous entertaining space operas and this is another. 5/12/12

Time and Robbery by Rebecca Ore, Aqueduct, 2012, $16, ISBN 978-1-933500-87-4

Rebecca Ore is the author of several interesting SF novels, but her work is just slightly skewed from ordinary SF and I suspect that she has trouble finding a commercial audience. This fairly short novel - by today's standards - involves an immortal who is also capable of moving back and forth through time. He has to protect himself in the past in order to protect the course of history. In the process, he reveals his secret to the government, who are obviously taken aback, and also reveals that there is another time jumper who tried to kill him. The protagonist is gay and there are some brief explicit references, so be warned if that's a hangup for you. Otherwise it's a pretty good story, though at times I found the prose a bit skeletal. 5/12/12

The Devil's Nebula by Eric Brown, Abaddon, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-78108-023-8

As far as I know, this is the first mass market paperback from this publisher of game related books. This one is labeled a Weird Space novel, but I don't know if that's actually a game or just a series by Brown. In any case, it's an engaging space opera in which a crew of misfits are dragooned into serving as modified spies on the edge of that part of space dominated by the Vetch, an alien race who engaged in a devastating war with humanity. They are also supposed to locate lost colonies in the area. In due course we discover that there is a third - and very insidious -  menace that poses a threat to both humans and Vetch, a force which may cause the former foes to become allies to ensure their own salvation. The best Abaddon book I've read to date. 5/11/12

Forgotten History by Christopher L. Bennett, Pocket, 2012, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-5725-8

A Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations novel, which means it is really only peripherally related to the Trek universe in terms of plot, although the setting is pretty much the familiar one. An apparent derelict ship is emitting something that affects time so the DTI is detailed to investigate. Their initial survey provides disturbing information, links to Captain James Kirk as well as suggestions that it may be one of their own projects gone awry, in another version of reality. In order to solve the problem, we have a retroactive look at Kirk's famous interactions with time travel. It's a clever way to appeal to some classic scenes in the service of a new plot. This was actually one of the more entertaining Trek novels I've read, though a bit episodic in structure. 5/11/12

Simon Vector by Jak Holding, JAK Books, 2012, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-984-84740-2

I don't usually read self published books but this one looked mildly interesting. It's a pseudonymous collaboration and it's an old time adventure story set initially on a prison planet. It's also home to a secret project and a young woman is sent there as a spy, even though that means she is effectively a prisoner on a world from which no one has ever escaped. There are some very nasty aliens and lots of superscience, but not a lot of character development. The prose is transparent and rarely stumbles. The plot, though a bit wild at times, moves quickly and efficiently to its conclusion. Not a literary classic by any means, but nicely constructed and fun. 5/9/12

The Year's Best Science Fiction 29th Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois, St Martins, 2012, $21.99, ISBN 978-1-250-00355-3

This is the annual volume I use to see if I've missed any significant short fiction during the previous year. It is very rare that a story I really like isn't here, and it's equally rare for a story in here to be one I don't like. This year took less time than usual because it seems like a larger proportion were from major sources - the prozines and anthologies from major publishers - and only a handful from odd places and online sources. There's a lengthy summation of the year - although it wasn't in the advance galley so I haven't read it, but all the previous ones have been excellent reading, and there is also the usual extensive list of honorable mentions. It's hard to believe that next year will make three decades of this series, and it's hard to think of completing my year's reading without it. 52/12

Champion of Mars by Guy Haley, Solaris, 2012, $8.99, ISBN 978-1-907992-85-8

A new name to me although I believe this is the author's second SF novel. I have a soft spot for Mars novels and always have. This one is a mix of old style SF and newer elements, and sometimes feels as much like fantasy as SF, so it has something to appeal to everyone, but probably something to disappoint almost everyone as well. One story line is set in the far future in which Mars, colonized by humans, is in the process of dying for a second time. The other is set in the near future when a research project on Mars discovers an artifact and precipitates a series of events which will extend through time to affect the future. This is a somewhat risky way to write a story because one part seems quite realistic while the other is considerably less so, but Haley manages to chart a reasonable course between the two extremes. Good enough that I'll look for his other novels. 5/1/12