Sunday, December 31, 2017

November & December Wrap-Up and Pick of the Months



So...things here at the Block are ending more with a whimper than a bang this year. I fell off the reading and reviewing wagon back in November (just got caught up on all the reviews from mid-November to now) and didn't even manage to put up a P.O.M. award for last month. Which means I'm going to smash November and December into one post. I'll also add my entries for Kerrie's Crime Fiction Pick of the Month over at Mysteries in Paradise.....Here we go....

Total Books Read: 15 [pretty paltry for a two-month total]
Total Pages: 3,810 [ont the other hand, this isn't too bad]

Average Rating: 3.15 stars  
Top Rating: 4 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 53%

Percentage by US Authors: 53%

Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  7% 
Percentage Mystery:  93% 
Percentage Fiction: 100%
Percentage written 2000+: 20%
Percentage of Rereads: 13%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's eas
y to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}    
Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: 29 (88%) And that means for the first time in a long time, I haven't fulfilled all of my challenges. :-(


AND, as mentioned above,
Kerrie had us all set up for another year of Crime Fiction Favorites. What she was looking for is our Top Mystery Read for each month. December found me with only five mysteries--one of those a children's book--adding up to a rather odd month for me.

Penelope Passes or Why Did She Die? Joan Coggin (3.5 stars) 

Murder at Beechlands by Maureen Sarsfield (3 stars) Maniac Rendezvous by Marc Brandel (1 star) Murder by Experts by Ellery Queen, ed (3.75 stars) The Budapest Parade Murders by Van Wyck Mason (3 star) Trial by Terror by Frances & Richard Lockridge (4 stars) Death for My Beloved [APA Enduring Old Charms] by Dorise Miles Disney (unrated)
The Christmas Murder [APA An English Murder] by Cyril Hare (4 stars) Murder in Ordinary Time by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie (3 stars) Crime for Christmas by Richard Dalby, ed (3 stars) Mistletoe & Mayhem by Richard Dalby, ed. (3.75 stars) The Corpse in the Snowman by Nicholas Blake (4 stars) The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright (4 stars) A Dollhouse to Die For by Cate Price (3 stars)


There were no five-star winners in either month. Our four star winners are Trial by Terror by Frances & Richard Lockridge and The Christmas Murder by Cyril Hare in November and The Corpse in the Snowman by Nicholas Blake and The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright in December.  


Trial by Terror follows Heimrich to Florida and is well done. Great descriptions of the area and the Lockridges use the political of the 1950s to great effect. They also play Heimrich's busman's holiday crime solving with just the right touch. Obviously, he's out of his jurisdiction, but he can't help but notice the characters and actions of his fellow resort guests. There are clues to be had, albeit slight and it's possible for them to slip on by with no notice, but the astute reader could get to Heimrich's solution. But while the Lockridges are always a delight, they have taken P.O.M. honors in the past, so they will have to sit this round out. 

That leaves us with The Christmas Murder by Cyril Hare to take home November's P.O.M. Award.


It is a lovely country house mystery with a positive view of Jewish refugees and an interesting look at British class structure woven in. Those who enjoy the Golden Age style--where the clues are displayed (whether one is astute enough to pick them all up or not) and fair play is observed--will enjoy this one.




As one might guess, there's a corpse in the snowman in Nicholas Blake's book. But we don't know who it is for most of the book. Nigel Strangeways is called in initially to get to the bottom of a strange incident in a supposedly haunted room. But murder intervenes before he can make much headway and soon he is trying to figure out who wanted to kill Elizabeth Restorick. He won't know the answer to that until the corpse is found in the snowman. Murder for Christmas is always an interesting twist for the holidays and Nicholas Blake provides another nice country house murder as a yuletide present with plenty of red herrings and clues to go round. A highly enjoyable winter read. But one Christmas mystery in this round-up is enough. So the month's POM Award goes to....





The House on Foster Hill (2017) is a debut novel by Jaime Jo Wright that caught my eye when I last visited the library. It combines a modern mystery with a parallel story from a century ago. This was a real page-turner for me. I enjoyed both timelines, though I must admit that I would have been perfectly happy with a book that focused on Ivy. I found her to be a much more interesting and compelling character and novel that focused completely on her time line just might have been a five-star winner. I did appreciate the way Wright tied the two time-lines together and the twist at the end did surprise me. Did not see that coming! A very strong debut novel.







Stay tuned for the complete year-end review with the P.O.M. Grand Prize and other tidbits.

Winter's Respite Readathon January 2018


Michelle @ Season's of Reading is hosting her Winter's Respite Readathon and I thought maybe it would be just what I need to kickstart my reading for the New Year. I'm going to sign up and see if I can read all the books on my "Need to" list by the end of January. Hopefully, I'll get more than that done, but these are what I definitely want to knock out this month. 


The readathon runs for the entire month of January. So, we start at 12:00 am on January 1 and end at 11:59 pm on January 31. Times are set for the central time zone so adjust your times accordingly.  For full details, please check out the site (click link above).

Here's my plan for January:
The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham (1/1/18)
Act One, Scene One by A. H. Richardson
Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
Under Pressure by Frank Herbert
Transit of Earth by Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, & others
The Best From Fantasy & Science Fiction 8th Series edited by Anthony Boucher
World's Best Science Fiction: 1966 edited by Donald A. Wollheim & Terry Carr

Also read:
A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh  (1/7/18)
Search for Spock: A Star Trek Book of Exploration by Robb Pearlman (1/12/18)
Bartholomew the Beaver by Ruth Dixon (1/13/18)

A Dollhouse to Die For: Mini-Review

This is probably my last review of 2017--and I'm afraid that Cate Price's A Dollhouse to Die For is going to get short shrift...I've got monthly and yearly wrap-up posts to do and planning how to start my reading year with a bang....

So...the synopsis from the book:  Daisy Buchanan thinks of her shop, Sometimes a Great Notion, as more than just a business. For her, it’s a haven of vintage sewing notions and other treasures, excellent coffee, and camaraderie. But when an antique dollhouse provokes some bizarre behavior on the part of a customer, Daisy makes it her business to find out what secrets are hidden behind its tiny doors…

At an estate auction, Daisy is delighted to find the perfect present for a young girl she knows—a charming dollhouse in need of restoration. But when local collector Harriet Kunes tries to strong-arm Daisy into selling it, she’s in for a shocking—and deadly—surprise.

After an intruder breaks in and tries to steal the dollhouse, Daisy wonders why everyone has developed such an obsession over it. As she builds her collection of clues, she suspects that the miniature Victorian holds the key to a second unsolved murder, and soon she stumbles across much more than she bid on…


Me again:
And Daisy isn't the only one in danger.  Harriet is found dead...electrocuted by faulty wiring in her own vintage dollhouse. But when Daisy's husband Joe and the detective on the case investigate, they discover that the circuit breaker which should have saved her life was also tampered with. A clear case of murder. Who would have thought that dollhouse collecting could be such a deadly hobby?

Cate Price writes a fun, cozy series and Daisy, her husband, and their friends are all likeable characters. And I enjoy how Price drops information related to the book's theme (dollhouses, here) into the story without it feeling like a lecture or an info-dump. She has found an interesting way to use hobbies and collecting as a focus for a mystery series that provides light entertainment with fairly good clueing. ★★

Challenge Complete: 52 Books in 52 Weeks





Hosted by Robin at My Two Blessings
The rules are always simple. Just read one book per week for a total of 52 books in the year. This was my fifth year joining in.  Since I generally have no problem reading at least one book a week, this is one of my slam dunk challenges.  [I wish my Mount TBR Challenge had been that easy this year....]. I'll be back for another 52 in 2018!

Here are my books read:
 
1. Death at Swaythling Court by J. J. Connington (1/4/17)
2. The Snake on 99 by Stewart Farrar (1/11/17)
3. The Black Count by Tom Reiss (1/21/17)
4. When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (1/24/17)
5. Death Takes a Bow by Frances & Richard Lockridge (2/5/17)
6. All for the Love of a Lady by Leslie Ford (2/9/17)
7. Deception Island by M. K. Lorens (2/13/17)
8. Episode of the Wandering Knife by Mary Roberts Rinehart (2/17/17)
9. Search for a Scientist by Charles Leonard (2/24/17) 10. Death in the Wrong Room by Anthony Gilbert (2/27/17)
11. The Body Missed the Boat by Jack Iams (3/6/17)
12. Murder at Government House by Elspeth Huxley (3/13/17)
13. The Green Turtle Mystery by Ellery Queen, Jr. (3/19/17)
14. Silence Observed by Michael Innes (3/28/17)
15. I Could Murder Her by E. C. R. Lorac (4/7/17)
16. Murder Comes First by Frances & Richard Lockridge (4/11/17)
17. They Tell No Tales by Manning Coles (4/19/17)
18. Who Is the Next? by Henry Kitchell Webster (4/24/17)
19. Storm Center by Douglas Clark (5/1/17)
20. Murder at Teatime by Stefanie Matteson (5/9/17)
21. Death Cracks a Bottle by Kenneth Giles (5/13/17)
22. The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton (5/23/17)
23. Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes (5/28/17)
24. Where There's Smoke by Stewart Sterling (6/4/17)
25. Death Finds a Foothold by Glyn Carr (6/14/17)
26. Publish & Perish by Sally Wright (6/22/17)
27. Frame Work by Anne G. Faigen (6/26/17)
28. Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly (7/7/17)
29. Murder in Little Shendon by A. H. Richardson (7/13/17)
30. Juliet Dies Twice by Lange Lewis (7/17/17)
31. Your Turn, Mr. Moto by John P. Marquand (7/25/17)
32. Murderer's Choice by Anna Mary Wells (7/29/17)
33. Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard (8/2/17)
34. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (8/8/17)
35. Best Max Carrados Detective Stories by Ernest Bramah (8/17/17)
36. Dead as a Dummy by Geoffrey Homes (8/26/17)
37. Natural Suspect by William Bernhardt (8/31/17)
38. The Title Is Murder by Hugh Lawrence Nelson (9/5/17)
39. The Menehune Murders by Margo Arnold (9/16/17)
40. My House Gathers Desires by Adam McOmber (9/19/17)
41. Stag Dinner Death by John Penn (9/26/17)
42. Night Walk by Elizabeth Daly (10/3/17)
43. Death in the Doll's House by Hannah Lees & Lawrence Bachmann (10/9/17)
44. Case With Three Husbands by Margaret Erskine (10/15/17)
45. Ghost of a Chance by Kelley Roos (10/28/17)
46. Blue Ice by Hammond Innes (10/31/17)
47. Murder at Beechlands by Maureen Sarsfield (11/7/17)
48. Trial by Terror by Frances & Richard Lockridge (11/21/17)
49. Murder in Ordinary Time by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie (11/29/17)
50. Crime for Christmas by Richard Dalby, ed (12/3/17)
51. The Corpse in the Snowman by Nicholas Blake (12/20/17)
52. The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright (12/27/17)

Challenge Complete: Monthly Keyword 2017


Last year began with Claudia over at My Soul Called Life hosting the 2017 Monthly Keyword Challenge. Somewhere along the way, her blog disappeared, but I went ahead and kept on going with the challenge and I've just managed to bring it in under the wire. Here are the keywords available to us:

2017 Keywords 
JAN- Court, Fall, Of, Way, Deep, Thousand
FEB- And, Rose, Promise, Every, Deception, Blazing
MAR- Shall, Go, By, Silence, Her, Saga
APR- From, Trigger, Tale, His, CrownMist
MAY- Four, Wind, All, Fury, Days, Shade
JUN- Without, Know, Good, Watch, One, Have
JUL- Before, Final, All, Freedom, Life, Dream
AUG- Sun, Infinite, Big, My, Wherever, Most
SEP- Sand, From, Between, Ever, Reasons, Clash
OCT- Darker, You, Ashes, Out, House, Sea
NOV- Place, War, Heart, Why, Give, Meet
DEC- Forget, Twilight, Only, Crystal, On, Will

And Here Are the Books Read For the Challenge  
January - Death at Swaythling Court by J. J. Connington (1/4/17)
February - Deception Island by M. K. Lorens (2/13/17)
March - Silence Observed by Michael Innes (3/28/17)
April -  They Tell No Tales by Manning Coles (4/19/17)
May - Deadly Nightshade by Elizabeth Daly (5/19/17)
June - Deed Without a Name by Dorothy Bowers (6/18/17)
July - Death Before Bedtime by Edgar Box (7/9/17)
August - The Big Grouse by Douglas Clark (8/4/17)
September - A Coffin From the Past 
 by Gwendoline Butler (9/11/17)
October -   Death in the Doll's House by Hannah Lees & Lawrence Bachmann (10/9/17)
November - Penelope Passes or Why Did She Die? by Joan Coggin (11/4/17)
December -  The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright (12/27/17)

 

Challenge Complete: Deal Me In



Jay at Bibliophilopolis tempted me with he 7th annual Deal Me In Challenge for 2017. I had watched it go by a couple of years and though it would be a chance to tackle some of the short story collections that I'd let languish on the TBR stacks. I did finish all the stories--but I found myself struggling to keep up with the card/story-a-week format. I think I'm going to go back to just working collections into my other challenges. 


Thanks for hosting, Jay! 

Here are the stories I read this past year:

Clubs

A – "Common Stock" by Octavus Roy Cohen

2 – "Pink Bait" by Octavus Roy Cohen (5/9/17)

3 – "Farrar Fits in" by Edmund Snell (9/20/17)

4 – "The Pathologist to the Rescue" by R. Austin Freeman (catch-up post 9/12/17)

5 – "The Blue Sequin" by R. Austin Freeman (2/16/17)

6 – "The Divided House" by Thomas W. Hanshew (2/25/17)

7 – "The Riddle of the Rainbow Pearl" by Thomas W. Hanshew (1/4/17)

8 – "The Mystery of the Steel Room" by Thomas W. Hanshew (4/9/17)

9 –  "Vidocq & the Locksmith's Daughter" by George Barton (2/11/17)

10 – "Suspicion" by William B. Maxwell (5/5/17)

J –  "The Wedding Album" by David Marusek (catch-up post 9/12/17)
Q - "10 to the 16th power to 1" James Patrick Kelly (catch-up post 7/18/17)

K -  "Winemaster" by Robert Reed (finished in December, logged 12/30/17)
[A - 10 from The World's Best One Hundred Detective Stories Vol. 7 by Eugene Thwing, ed.; J-K from The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois, ed.] 
 
Spades

A – "Galactic North" by Alastair Reynolds (catch-up post)

2 – "Dapple: A Hwarhath Historical Romance" by Eleanor Arnason (4/8/17)

3 – "People Came from Earth" by Stephen Baxter (finished in December, logged 12/30/17)

4 – "Green Tea" by Richard Wadholm (finished in December, logged 12/30/17)

5 – "The Dragon of Prpyat" by Karl Schroeder (5/22/17)

6 – "Written in Blood" by Chris Lawson (catch-up post 7/18/17)
7 - "Hatching the Phoenix" by Frederik Pohl (catch-up post 9/12/17)
8 – "Suicide Coast" by M. John Harrison (catch-up post 9/12/17)

9 – "Hunting Mother" by Sage Walker (catch-up post 9/12/17)

10 – "Mount Olympus" by Ben Bova (catch-up post 11/14/17)

J – "Border Guards" by Greg Egan (2/3/17)

Q – "Scherzo with Tyrannosaur" by Michael Swanwick (6/17/17)

K – "A Hero of the Empire" by Robert Silverberg (catch-up post 11/14/17)

[from The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois, ed.] 


Diamonds

A – "How We Lost the Moon: A True Story" by Frank W. Allen" by Paul J. McAuley (1/14/17)

2 – "Phallicide" by Charles Sheffield (4/18/17)


3 – "Daddy's World" by Walter Jon Williams

4 – "A Martian Romance" by Kim Stanley Robinson (catch-up post 9/12/17)

5 – "The Sky-Green Blues" by Tanith Lee (catch-up post 7/18/17)

6 – "Exchange Rate" by Hal Clement (3/31/17)

7 - "Everywhere" by Geoff Ryman (6/10/17)

8 – "Hothouse Flowers" by Mike Resnick (5/31/17)

9 – "Evermore" by Sean Williams (3/23/17)

10 - "Of Scorned Women & Causal Loops" by Robert Grossbach finished 12/30/17)

J – "Son Observe the Time" by Kage Baker (catch-up post 11/14/17)

Q – "The Locked Room" by John Dickson Carr (catch-up post 11/14/17)

K – "Human Interest Stuff" by Brett Halliday (3/4/17)

[A-J from The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois, ed.; Q-K from Murder by Experts by Ellery Queen, ed.]
 
Hearts

A – "The Blast of the Book" by G. K. Chesterton (4/25/17)

2 – "P. Moran, Diamond-Hunter" by Percival Wilde (3/517)

3 – "The Age of Miracles" by Melvilled Davisson Post (catch-up post 11/14/17)

4 – "The Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie (catch-up post 11/14/17)

5 – "The Hound" by William Faulkner (catch-up post 11/14/17)

6 – "The Dancing Detective" by Cornell Woolrich (catch-up post 7/18/17)

7 – "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" by Thomas Burke (1/25/17)

8 – "The Little Dry Sticks" by Cora Jarrett (catch-up post 11/14/17)

9 – "The Last Exploit of Harry the Actor" by Ernest Bramah (3/16/17)

10 – "Puzzle for Poppy" by Patrick Quentin (catch-up post 9/12/17)

J – "Death Draws a Triangle" by Edward Hale Bierstadt (1/16/17)

Q – "Persons or Things Unknown" by Carter Dickson (5/23/17)

K – "Almost Perfect" William MacHarg (6/18/17)
[from Murder by Experts by Ellery Queen, ed.]
 
 
 

Challenge Complete: European Reading Challenge



The European Reading Challenge January 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018
TO SIGN UP, GO TO THIS PAGE

TO POST A REVIEW, GO TO THIS PAGE.
TO ADD YOUR WRAP UP POST, GO TO THIS PAGE.


Once again for the European Reading Challenge in 2017 I signed up for the FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE) and even did a little more. Since I try very hard to read primarily from my own stacks, it's becoming harder and harder to find books in more than just the UK, France and Germany. But I didn't do too badly this year...I managed 11 countries. I'll be trying again next year too. Thaks to Gilion for sponsoring!

THE LIST: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

NOTE: Even after Brexit, the United Kingdom is still one country, in Europe, that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So one book from any one of these four counts as your one book for the United Kingdom.



My Reads:
1. Death at Swaythling Court by J. J. Connington [England--UK] (1/4/17) 2. Murder at the Masque by Amy Myers [France--Cannes] (1/16/17) 3. The Golden Bird: Folk Tales From Slovenia by Vladimir Kavčič [Slovenia] (5/16/17) 4. Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes [Greece] (5/28/17) 5. Frame Work by Anne G. Faigen [Czech Republic] (6/26/17) 6. The Arctic Patrol Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon [Iceland] (6/26/17) 7. The Far Traveller by Manning Coles [Germany] (9/2/17) 8. The Contest adapted by Nonny Hogrogian [Armenia] (9/10/17) 9. McGarr at the Dublin Horse Show by Bartholomew Gill [Ireland] (9/13/17) 10. Blue Ice by Hammond Innes [Norway] (10/31/17) 11. The Budapest Parade Murders [Hungary] (11/18/17)

The House on Foster Hill

The House on Foster Hill (2017) is a debut novel by Jaime Jo Wright that caught my eye when I last visited the library. It combines a modern mystery with a parallel story from a century ago. In the current story line, we have Kaine Prescott. Kaine has never believed that her husband's "accident" two years ago really was accidental. But her requests for further investigation are ignored and she feels like the police...and even her family think she's unhinged when she reports that her house has been broken into and she's sure her husband's killer is responsible. But nothing is missing and there's no evidence of forced entry--things are just rearranged. She doesn't even bother to tell them when the daffodils (her favorite flower) start appearing.

Desperate for a fresh start she decides to move to her grandmother's Wisconsin hometown and buys an old house on Foster Hill through a "trusted" realtor. As soon as she sees the creepy house--which is in need of far more than the "cosmetic" repairs she was promised--she's not so sure that the police weren't right about her mental state. It doesn't help that upon her second visit to the house she's greeted by a bunch of daffodils at the doorway. It looks like her past is catching up to her....and when she and her newfound friends in the small town begin tearing out dangerous woodwork to start the renovation process, the house begins to offer up a few dark secrets of its own.

Nearly 100 years ago, Kain's grandmother Ivy Thorpe has a few extraordinary experiences at the house on Foster Hill herself. Her father is a doctor and works with the police on turn-of-the-century forensics. He's also pretty liberal about letting his daughter assist him in his work. So, when an unidentified woman is found dead, stuffed in a hollow tree on the Foster property, Ivy--who has suffered devastating losses of her own--feels compelled to help the police discover the woman's identity. Even if that means she will have to work with a man she believes betrayed her brother and who broke her heart several years ago. When her father determines that "Gabriella" (as Ivy dubs her for lack of a confirmed name) had given birth in the week or so prior to her death, Ivy's mission is expanded to locating the child. But neither search is safe and Ivy's own life will be threatened before she discovers the truth about the house on Foster Hill.

This was a real page-turner for me. I enjoyed both timelines, though I must admit that I would have been perfectly happy with a book that focused on Ivy. I found her to be a much more interesting and compelling character and novel that focused completely on her time line just might have been a five-star winner. I did appreciate the way Wright tied the two time-lines together and the twist at the end did surprise me. Did not see that coming! A very strong debut novel. ★★★★

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection

I have been working on The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois all year.  When I signed up for Jay's Deal Me In Challenge, it required that we submit a list of short stories that we we would like to read over the course of the year--one per week, dealt to us at random with the luck of the draw. I decided that this would be the chance to finally read this huge collection of science fiction stories that I got for Christmas one year. Dipping into it now and then would be less difficult than reading 640  pages all in one go.

Dozois does an excellent job selecting stories representative of each year in science fiction--the stories range from hard science fiction to fantasy and everything in between. There are cautionary tales and what ifs; there are peaks at the future and the past. Overall, a fine collection. ★★★★

Here are the stories and my summaries:

"The Wedding Album" by David Marusck: A story about virtual reality. In this one instead of creating photo albums--people have created Sims of their favorite moments in life. But what happens if your simulations become just as real as you are? What if they demand rights as individuals. And what if all that is left of you is one of your simulations?

"10 [to the 16th Power] to 1" by James Patrick Kelly: This interesting time traveler story gives a different take on someone going back in time to the 1960s to try and change history. Most people focus on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But Mr. Cross has a different objective in mind when he lands in the backyard of a young boy who loves science fiction stories...and is more likely to believe in a man from the future than most. Excellent story!

"Winemaster" by Robert Reed: This story predates this year's movie Downsizing by nearly 20 years but it contains a similar premise--humans making themselves small in one way or another for reasons of wealth, expediency, or safety. In Reed's story a large percentage of the educated population downloads their personalities into tiny - and extremely fast - bodies. They live an hour like a person lives a year, and their brains are so compact that heavy atoms can erase memories. So-called normal humans have grown fearful of these "transmutated" people and if they find them outside designated areas will kill them. We follow a group as they race to safety in Canada where there's more acceptance.

  "Galactic North" by Alastair Reynolds: Previous to this short story, my only experience with Alastair Reynolds was his collection of short stories, Zima Blue & Other Stories. (2006) I mention in that review that Reynolds is a hard science science fiction writer with a tendency towards dark stories--but an excellent story-teller. This is evident again in "Galactic North," an earlier story published in 1999. Here we have a story of betrayal, obsession, and revenge that spans 40,000 years of future history. It all stems from an ambush of a cargo ship transporting cryogenically-frozen sleepers. The captain of the ship has been conditioned to do whatever it takes to bring her cargo through safely...even if it means chasing the one she believes has betrayed her through all of space and time.

"Dapple: A Hwarhath Historical Romance" by Eleanor Arnason: In which we find that females across the universe face similar restrictions--even when they are supposedly the wise ones and in charge. A young girl decides she wants to balk tradition and go into a profession traditionally held by males--but she will have make a perilous journey before she can claim her right to be what she wants to be.

"People Came from Earth" by Stephen Baxter: This a bittersweet story about the last people of Earth....in a dying colony on the moon and their efforts to save what's left of humanity.

"Green Tea" by Richard Wadholm: A crewman comes to tell a businessman the results of his latest shipment. A cargo that has cost the lives of many and while the crewman may not exact physical revenge he does force the businessman to listen to his tale.

"The Dragon of Pripyat" by Karl Schroeder: takes place long after the Chernobyl disaster. The site is still "hot" radioactively and there is always a danger that another disaster could be triggered. Gennady Malianov is a freelance nuclear inspector who is hired by the Chernobyl Trust to investigate the site. Someone is extorting money from the Trust by threatening to trigger just such a disaster unless they are paid. Malianov finds more than he bargained for when a old man living in the danger zone tells him of a dragon living near the reactor's remains.

"Written in Blood" by Chris Lawson: Written before 9/11, the story focuses on Muslims and the fear and resistance people of their faith face. A man discovers a way to write the Qur'an in the blood (DNA) of the faithful, but a believing man of science fears what use the secrets of that DNA might be put and makes his daughter (a budding young scientist herself) promise to find the key to the DNA...and a way to protect Muslims from their very faith being used to kill them.

"Hatching the Phoenix" by Frederik Pohl: This story takes place in Pohl's universe of Gateway--where the Heechee, an enigmatic race of aliens have left discarded technology which helps humans explore the universe. In this one, an ultra-rich woman has financed a mission to observe a planet whose sun is about to go nova.

"Suicide Coast" by M. John Harrison: This story shows us what people will do to make their lives seem more real once everything is virtual and humanity is "cored" (directly plugged in to virtual reality). But is even the real thing real anymore?

"Hunting Mother" by Sage Walker: tells the story of genetically engineered "humans" colonizing new worlds. The colonists are mixtures of humans and human/animal combinations. Our protagonist, Cougar, has some of the genetics of his namesake. And he faces a choice as his mother, a human, becomes sick and is coming to the end of her life.

"Mount Olympus" by Ben Bova: This is a story about two men who are the first to land on top of the tallest mountain on Mars. What begins as a quest to get their names in the record books becomes a struggle for survival--nobody told them that the carbon dioxide that makes up so much of the atmosphere will freeze on the cold, bare rock, covering it with a dangerous invisible layer of dry ice. They learn much about Mars, but even more about themselves as they have to work together to get back to their ship.

"Border Guards" by Greg Egan: This story gives readers a different twist on the subject of eternal life. Jamil, our narrator, lives in a world where death has been banished. Those who tire of their current situation in immortality find ways to leave their current life and slip off to another town and another "lifetime" full of new friends and different experiences. Jamil is easilty depressed and has just come out of period where he was "dead" to his friends. When he starts playing virtual soccer with them again, he meets a brand-new player, Margit. Margit is exceptional--make goals that no one has ever made before. But she is exceptional in more ways than one. She is one of the oldest ones...and she knows what it means to lose someone to real death...not just the death of a current "life." The story touches on how we handle death, but more importantly it examines how we handle life.

"Scherzo with Tyrannosaur" by Michael Swanwick: Swanwick's story reminds me a bit of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams. But--instead of treating time-travelers to a view of the end of everything--this place allows folks to go back in time to the era of dinosaurs and see a T-rex up close and personal (through a window that's rated at twenty tons per square inch). Our narrator is the palenontological director and host of Hilltop center, a research center in the late Cretaceous period. The Time Safety Officers are always on guard to make sure no one uses their knowledge of the past for profit--or changes anything that will affect the timeline. But what if the director discovers something personal that he just has to fix? Will the Officers let him get away with it? Will his future self?

"A Hero of the Empire" by Robert Silverberg is an Alternate History story set in a world where the Roman Empire never fell. Here, a  Roman nobleman is sent as punishment to a remote corner of the Empire--to a city we might recognize in our timeline as Mecca. And we learn how history can sometimes be made or unmade through a chance meeting.

"How We Lost the Moon: A True Story" by Paul J. McAuley. Beware--spoilers ahead. [It's difficult to talk about the story at all without letting a cat or two out of the bag--besides, the title gives the punch line away....] Our narrator and his collegue Mike Doherty were sent to check on some odd readings from a power source on the far side of the moon. As soon as Mike sees the hole in the floor of the crawl space below the power chamber, he knows what's happened--but he won't tell his buddy. After all, he's got the same info as Mike--he ought to know too. But how many people are going to think that a black hole is opening up in the middle of the Moon?   

"Phallicide" by Charles Sheffield: a story of the not-so-distant future tells of a brilliant young woman whose scientific mind gets her away from a domineering, patriarchal religious group. The group wants her to use her scientific talents to produce a drug that will keep their Blessed Leader "up" to the job of fathering future generations, but Doctor Rachel may have other plans.  

"Daddy's World" by Walter Jon Williams: Little Jamie lives with his family in the perfect little world--with funny, helpful teachers who allow him to learn at his own pace. With lots of time to play after the lessons are over. Mom and Dad are always there when he needs them and they always have family time. It's all perfect--too eerily perfect. But cracks begin to appear in Jamie’s world that reveal rifts within his family, and he begins to see the terrifying reality behind the walls of his life, and to understand that perfection has its price.

"A Martian Romance" by Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson has been on my SF radar for a long time. But, as far as I can remember, this is the first story I've read by him. This story tells about a terraforming effort on Mars that has gone wrong. The "old ones" who were involved in completing the project are heartbroken that all of their work has been for nothing--but the younger Mars colonists see hope for the future...even on a cold and barren world. 

"The Sky-Green Blues" by Tanith Lee: A strange story about Frances, a journalist on an alien world, who wants to complete an interview with an elderly writer before invaders destroy everything. She and the writer's servant escape the enemy invasion...only to learn that that the story Frances has been recording may be a different kind of story all together. 

"Exchange Rate" by Hal Clement: Clement is a legend in the science fiction field. This story finds human explorers under pressure in more ways than one who must figure out and interpret the motivations of an alien species on an incredibly strange planet before their time runs out. [I just have to say that I did not get this one at all. It may be because Clement's hard science was over my head and there was so much of it that it was a bit mind-numbing.]  

"Everywhere" by Geoff Ryman: This one portrays a purportedly utopian society and asks the question: Do those who live in utopia really recognize it as such? And do we, the readers, recognize the world described in here as a perfect society? I'm not sure I do.... 

"Hot House Flowers" by Mike Resnick gives readers a different look at what the immortal life might look like. What if science found a way to keep the human body alive for just about forever, but there was no guarantee what shape it would be in? What if men and women became little more than "hot house flowers" with every need but one--a meaningful life--tended to by human gardeners? And what if the weed of discontent invaded the garden? 

"Of Scorned Women & Causal Loops" by Robert Grossbach: A cautionary tale for all the egotistical men who think they know everything...sometimes it just might be a good thing to listen when a woman tries to tell you something. Especially if you plan to travel through time.

"Son Observe the Time" by Kage Baker:  A time travel story set in the world of The Company--a group, one of whose functions is to travel to periods of destruction in the history of mankind and salvage works of art and other irreplaceable objects from the wreckage. This particular episode takes us to the days and hours leading up to the great San Francisco Earthquake.