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

LAST UPDATE 10/15/17

Science Fiction Trails 12 edited by David B. Riley, 2017, $6.50

The first books I ever read were westerns because they were my mother's favorite, and even after I discovered science fiction, I occasionally took time for a Max Brand or an Ernest Haycox. This is the twelfth in a series that blends those two categories. Most of the names of the authors were new to me and you're not going to find any Hugo contenders lurking here, but they are generally well written and sometimes clever stories that mix the tropes of both genres with varying degrees of skill. 10/14/17

The Thing from Outside by George Allan England, Black Dog, 2016 

These stories from the early 20th Century are even less memorable than the author's novels, which were frequently socialist diatribes and are riddled with some really ugly racism, also present at times in his short fiction. England did not seem to have figured out how to conclude his stories, several of which merely come to an end, and when there is a climax, it is occasionally offstage.  The best stories are "The Night Horror," a mystery about vivisection, and "The Crime Detector," which has a fairly good puzzle although the story itself is quite bloated. None of these are lost classics. 10/13/17

Beyond the Pole and Other Weird Fantasies by Philip M. Fisher, Black Dog, 2013

This is a collection of stories originally published between 1919 and 1930, including the memorable "Fungus Isle," in which shipwrecked men find themselves infected with fungi. Although Fisher frequently used fantastic elements in his stories, almost none of it appeared in SF magazines and he has become largely unknown. "The Ship of Silent Men" is another creepy sea story, very effective though the explanation is impossible. A couple of the stories are very long winded and the sea stories are by far the best.  10/6/17

Vanishing Ships by Philip M. Fisher, Novel Books, 1943 

This is an updated version of a serial from the 1920s that was moved for this edition from the first world war to the second. A number of cargo ships with sensitive items aboard have disappeared in the same part of the Pacific Ocean and all in the middle of SOS calls. A destroyer is detailed to shadow another and find out what is going on. The SF element is mild a new invention that erases radio messages from the air and the battle against the conspirators who have a secret island base is routine and predictable. 10/6/17

Desperate Hours by David Mack, Gallery, 2017, $16, ISBN 978-1-5011-6457-6

I believe this is the first novel tie-in to the new series, Star Trek Discovery. I have not seen any episodes so I have nothing to compare this to. The chief protagonist appears to be a human woman who was raised by Klingons and who has just become first officer of a starship. It would have been a nice change to have a series that did not involve a military organization, but Star Trek rarely takes chances like that. A colony world calls for help when an alien ship that has been hidden under the ocean becomes active and aggressive. The Federation wants to abandon the colony as indefensible, but our hero decides to sneak aboard the alien ship, despite the fact that she is disobeying orders. Spock and Sarek come to her assistance, in a manner of speaking. Above average suspense for a Trek novel. 10/5/17

Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb, St Martins, 2017, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-250-12315-2

SF by courtesy only, and even less so than usual. Eve Dallas is almost a witness to a murder when a scandalmonger is murdered in a restaurant while she is eating there. The woman turns out to be a blackmailer as well as involved in legal tell-alls and has amassed a large fortune, most of it concealed. She also appears to have had a complete facial makeover to change her appearance. There is an ex-boyfriend as well as any number of blackmail victims and their friends and family and there will be a second murder before the puzzle is finally - and rather perfunctorily - solved. Average for the series or maybe a hair below, but entertaining as always. 10/2/17

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