Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Birding: A Fairy Tale, by Natalia Theodoridou

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(Apocalypse) A plague has turned almost everyone in the world into birds, but Maria is determined to make her way home and find her husband. (8,640 words; Time: 28m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Mother Tongues, by S. Qiouyi Lu

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(Near-Future SF) A Chinese woman living in the Bay Area needs to raise money to get her daughter into Stanford. She tries to sell her English-language proficiency, but even after fifteen years, it’s not good enough. But her native fluency in Mandarin is worth a lot, if she’s willing to part with her native language. (3,658 words; Time: 12m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Well-Crafted and Very Moving

The Equalizers, by Ian Creasey

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(Near-Future SF) To reduce discrimination , Pamela’s office is trying out “Equalizers,” special glasses that make everyone look and sound the same. She wonders if they could improve her love life too. (4,972 words; Time: 16m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The Final Commandment: Trey's Story, by James Gunn

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(SF Background) In which we learn the backstory of Trey, the intelligent machine whose quest on behalf of the frozen remains of the last survivors of its creators takes it to planet Terminal. (3,646 words; Time: 12m)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement

This is a background document, not a story, and it will most likely be of more interest to readers of the author’s “Transcendence” trilogy

Consciousness: 4107's Story, by James Gunn

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(SF Background) In which we learn the history of the intelligent plants of planet Flora and how 4107 came to travel to planet Terminal. (4,258 words; Time: 14m)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement

This is a background document, not a story, and it will most likely be of more interest to readers of the author’s “Transcendence” trilogy

Barren Isle, by Allen M. Steele

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(Colony SF) A couple of children are lost on the dangerous Barren Isle, which still has the original flora and fauna of Coyote. The search and rescue team will have their hands full. (10,806 words; Time: 36m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Assassin in the Clouds, by Robert R. Chase

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(Near-Future SF Adventure) The narrator boards an aerostat for a leisurely aerial cruise, but his job is to protect the life of a scientist, and he has no idea why anyone wants to kill him. (9,931 words; Time: 33m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ A Fun Action-Adventure Story

Solicited Discordance, by Matthew Hughes

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(SF Adventure) A rich aristocrat hires Kaslo to track down her young heir, who has gone off to a wild, dangerous continent with an off-world woman he barely knows. (8,566 words; Time: 28m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Sea of Dreams, by Cixin Liu

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(Epic SF) The Low-Temperature Artist arrives from outer space, with plans for a fantastic work of art made of ice. He won’t talk to any Earth people but ice sculptor Yan Dong, who struggles to get the alien not to use up all the water for his sculpture. (11,413 words; Time: 38m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Uneven

The Rescue of the Renegat, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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(SF Adventure; Diving Universe) A badly-damaged Fleet ship of long-obsolete design appears out of foldspace. There seem to be 200 people on board, but they’re not trying to communicate. Captain Dauber has to try to rescue them, even though it may be a trap. (22,034 words; Time: 1h:13m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

I’ve read the rest of the Diving Universe stories, but I’m pretty sure this one works just fine if you read it by itself

In the Lost City of Leng, by Rudy Rucker and Paul Di Filippo

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(Lovecraft Pastiche) In 1933, Doug quits his job to go on an expedition to Antarctica to kill the Great Shoggoth and retrieve the priceless treasures of the lost city of Leng. (21,373 words; Time: 1h:11m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ A Very Different Twist on Lovecraft’s Story

Although this story revisits the site of Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” the tone is much closer to humor than to horror

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Margin of Error, by Paul Carlson

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(SF) James and Dick would do anything to get their candidate elected. Well, almost anything. (805 words; Time: 02m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

The Dissonant Note, by Jeremiah Tolbert

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(SF Adventure) On a starship crewed by electronic minds, Cee seeks help to fight her sister Dee, even though it might put the whole mission at risk. (5,323 words; Time: 17m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Air Gap, by Eric Cline

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(Near-Future SF) You travel to visit an AI so powerful that it has to be isolated from all possible contact with modern technology. (3,793 words; Time: 12m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Nice exploration of the super-intelligent AI problem

Two Point Three Children, by Marissa Lingen

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(Legal SF) Judge Diane Bui hears a custody case involving a couple’s adopted child, but in this case, the “child” is an AI they were training together. (1,707 words; Time: 05m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

When the Aliens Stop to Bottle, by Ian Watson

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(Alien Invasion) After defeating all the world’s militaries, the aliens roam around grabbing random individuals for unknown purposes. Jen and Toby hope that being in a commuter train will keep them safe. (2,897 words; Time: 09m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Home on the Free Range, by Holly Schofield

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(Colony SF) On planet Skale, the seasons are three years long, and as winter ends, Jadey finds that spring brings real challenges to the ranch she works on. (7,331 words; Time: 24m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Thoughtful, Exciting, and Fun

One to Watch, by Andrew Barton

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(SF Exploration) The narrator wonders if they should hide evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence found on Saturn’s moon, Mimas. (1,326 words; Time: 04m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Ten and Ten, by Alan Dean Foster

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(Hard SF) Claire is sure she can teach sign language to cuttlefish, but progress has been slow and her grant is running out. (2,847 words; Time: 09m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

Hobson's Choices, by Mary A. Turzillo

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(Dystopia) Jerry and Charlize consider moving their family into “Goodenough Village,” where people try to be “satisficers, not maximizers.” (4,966 words; Time: 16m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Endless City, by David Gerrold

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(SF Mystery) The hard-boiled narrator runs investigations in cyberspace and reality. This time they’ve got a murder to solve, and it’s proving a challenge—even though they saw it happen. (9,742 words; Time: 32m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The Journeyman: Through Madness Gap, by Michael F. Flynn

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(SF Adventure; The Journeyman) Teo has command of some forces for the invasion of Yavalprawns, but they’re only half-trained, so he and Sammi look for a way to sneak through a forgotten pass and take the enemy by surprise. (14,764 words; Time: 49m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

This is part of a long series that started with “On the Short Grass Prairie” and is set in the larger universe of “The January Dancer.” It doesn’t stand alone in any sense

Blurred Lives, by Adam-Troy Castro

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(SF Adventure; Andrea Cort) Draiken and Thorne seek out a torturer they once knew in hopes he can lead them to surviving leaders of the organizations they once worked for but are now sworn to destroy. (22,290 words; Time: 1h:14m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

This is third in a series, but reading the first two isn’t critical to enjoying this one

Friday, December 15, 2017

December 2017 Ratings

5★ & 4★ Stories: 9; Time & Words: ◷4h:03m 💬73.1K
Recommended By Stories: 20; Time & Words: ◷8h:23m 💬151K
Total Stories: 38; Time & Words: ◷15h 💬273.6K
Read How to Use RSR on the sidebar or this link to use this post.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Forever Night, by Dana Beehr

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(Dark Fantasy) Her grandmother stopped the darkness at great price, so when Elseir comes to Tomas’s village, he’s eager to help her in her new quest. Whatever it is. (7,007 words; Time: 23m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Trette's Bones, by Grace Seybold

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(Dark Fantasy) In a town where becoming an adult means surrendering a body part and getting a ghostly replacement, the narrator opts to sacrifice a finger, but their twin sister has something extreme in mind. (8,167 words; Time: 27m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Sasabonsam, by Tara Campbell

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(African Folklore Horror) In the darkness, a Sasabonsam hangs from a tree waiting for suitable victims to walk underneath. You shouldn’t go out alone. (1,794 words; Time: 05m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Chilling but Satisfying

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities, edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich

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(SF Exploration) Stories on the theme of planetary exploration in the near future. (52,377 words; Time: 2h:54m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Shikasta, by Vandana Singh

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(SF Exploration) Four college friends collaborated on a probe to an extrasolar planet. Now they’re struggling to make sense of what the probe is telling them and wondering if they need new definitions for life and even for science itself. (14,251 words; Time: 47m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Night Shift, by Eileen Gunn

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(SF Exploration) Sina works with AI nanobots in space, processing small asteroids into raw materials. She likes the AI and considers him her friend—which means she’s not watching as closely as she’s supposed to be. (5,959 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The Use of Things, by Ramez Naam

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(Hard SF) Ryan’s the only person on a prospecting mission to an asteroid, so when he gets knocked loose, there’s no one he can call for help. (4,569 words; Time: 15m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Death on Mars, by Madeline Ashby

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(SF Adventure) Four women staffing an advance base on Phobos get a male visitor who brings them some bad news. (8,206 words; Time: 27m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Moving and thought-provoking

The Baker of Mars, by Karl Schroeder

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(Near-Future SF) Lots of Earth people are earning money operating drones on Mars to construct habitats for colonists—assuming someone can get around the fact that it’s illegal to own land up there. (7,705 words; Time: 25m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Mozart on the Kalahari, by Steven Barnes

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(SF Adventure) Meek dreams of visiting a luxury space station, but a black teen living in poverty hasn’t got much chance of that—until a science contest offers him the chance of a free trip to it. (5,780 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Uneven

Vanguard 2.0, by Carter Scholz

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(Hard SF) In the early 2030s, Sergei works for Uber collecting trash in low-Earth orbit. He’s surprised when Uber’s boss comes up and has a special mission for him. (5,907 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Museum Piece, by J.D. Popham

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(SF Adventure) The last robot in the solar system uses his creator’s death as an excuse to escape from the museum he’s been imprisoned in for forty years. (5,999 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Edge of Things, by Katharine E.K. Duckett

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(Alternate Reality) The narrator wakes up every day to an endless party in an infinite house that seems to have replaced the whole world. She’d like to get out, but she can’t even remember her own name. (6,585 words; Time: 21m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Behind Her, Trailing Like Butterfly Wings, by Daniela Tomova

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(Apocalypse) Space-time anomalies are destroying the world. Some survivors live in “oases,” which are mostly protected but other walk the road following a mysterious woman. Mallow interviews a roadie to find out why. (6,300 words; Time: 21m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Signal, by John Lanchester

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(Horror) David takes his family for a weekend visit to the manor house of an old friend. He worries about a “tall man” who seems to be taking too much of an interest in his children. (6,497 words; Time: 21m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The Sacrifice of the Hanged Monkey, by Minsoo Kang

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(Epic Fantasy) In which we learn how the priests of the Hanged Monkey whose name was Bob resisted the Sublime Empire’s conquest of their realm. (4,216 words; Time: 14m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The Evaluators, by N.K. Jemisin

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(SF Horror) A crew on planet Manka has disappeared, possibly eaten by the natives. We read the transcripts to try to decide what happened. (3,132 words; Time: 10m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ It Gets You Gradually

Monday, December 4, 2017

Landmark, by Cassandra Khaw

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(Surreal SF) In which we learn that even in the very far future, long-distance relationships are hard to maintain. (1,627 words; Time: 05m)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Needs Improvement

Darkness, Our Mother, by Eleanna Castroianni

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(Surreal SF) A priesthood of mathematicians has kept the planet Cemar safe, but things have been safe for so long that some people think the priestesses themselves are the bigger danger. (5,219 words; Time: 17m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Falling in Love with Martians and Machines, by Josh Pearce

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(Near-Future SF) Chromium Jim and Babe work their way north to Alaska by winning rocket-powered drag races along the way. (8,363 words; Time: 27m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

Crossing LaSalle, by Lettie Prell

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(Near-Future SF) Mara desperately wants to join the Newbodies, but they put her on the waiting list. There’s got to be another way in . . . (5,595 words; Time: 18m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The Rains on Mars, by Natalia Theodoridou

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(SF Adventure) Mac’s team drills tunnels that will connect the big Martian bases together. He came to Mars to run away from his problems on Earth, but some problems come with you. (4,814 words; Time: 16m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

Sunday, December 3, 2017

You Will Never Know What Opens, by Mari Ness

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(Portal Fantasy) Your house is full of doors to other worlds, and you can’t keep yourself from exploring them—even though they’re dangerous. (2,064 words; Time: 06m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The House at the End of the Lane Is Dreaming, by A. Merc Rustad

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(SFF) Alex’s town is being attacked by aliens, and she needs to save it somehow. (6,794 words; Time: 22m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

A Third of the Stars of Heaven, by Cadwell Turnbull

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(SF) Henrietta has inoperable cancer, but she rejects the medical treatments the aliens are offering. (4,966 words; Time: 16m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant, by Rachael K. Jones

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(SF Horror) A group of runaway cyborgs has to prepare meals for unknowing human ships or else blow their cover. But they’re short on one critical ingredient. (4,287 words; Time: 14m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Both Rare and Well-Done