A stand-alone SF novella.

Format: ebook

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Page count from GoodReads: 118

Publishing year: 2011

In this world, Apollo 8 never returned to Earth. Astronauts Borman, Lovell, and Anders veered into an orbit around the Sun. But the doomed astronauts pleaded through radio that their sacrifice shouldn’t be in vain. So, the space mission continued and twenty years later, the US has a base on the Moon and sent probes to Mars and Venus.

Richard Johansenn was eight years old when the Apollo 8 tragedy happened. He dedicated his life to recovering the capsule and the bodies of the astronauts. Now, forty years later, he has built a billion-dollar company and spaceships capable of returning the capsule home.

This novella has great world-building. Richard insists on being on the ship when they attempt to capture Apollo 8, so it has great details about working in space. It’s a quiet tale about obsession but also of hope.

A stand-alone spacestation murder mystery novella.


Format: ebook

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Page count from GoodReads: 120

Publishing year: 2012

Kris DeLake is Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s romance pen name. However, this novella has no romance.

Grissam Hunsaker runs a run-down, very remote space station that pretends to be a resort for the rich. However, very few people find the place. So, when Hunsaker gets the message that a passenger ship is coming in just sixteen minutes, he’s annoyed. The Vaadum Resort and Casino has minimum staff and it takes a lot longer to prepare for over twenty guests. But the Presidio was in trouble and needed a place to dock, fast. The passengers are shocked, not just by the fact that their ship had a fire, but also because someone has murdered two of them.

Susan Carmichael is on the run and doesn’t want anyone to know. She just wants to leave the station and continue her journey. But when one more of the passengers is killed, she realizes nobody is safe.

Richard Illykova is the ship’s newest employee and the lowest on the pecking order. He works on the ship to pay for his passage. But when people start to die, he must rely on his skills from his former work: as an assassin.

This was a fun, short murder mystery. The characters are interesting and very different from each other. The mystery kept me guessing.

This is apparently a prequel to her Assassins in Love series but can be read as a stand-alone.

The third novella in the Dispatcher urban fantasy series.


Publication year: 2022

Format: Audio

Running time: 3 hours, 43 minutes
Narrator: Zachary Quinto

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher: he kills people as humanely as possible. In this world, the vast majority of people who are intentionally killed, come back. The killed person disappears and so does any blood spatter. Clothes and all other items are left behind, though. The person reappears where ever they feel safest, usually at home. Also, any injuries suffered in the last couple of hours disappear.

The pandemic changed the dispatchers’ jobs a little because hospitals must have them on call now. The compassion act gives the right to families to dispatch a loved one. Unfortunately, most don’t know how it works; it’s not an instant cure. Tony works in a local hospital, usually with families.

Now, his fellow dispatcher and friend Mason is brought to the ER close to death. He jumped out of a moving car and right in front of another car. He’s asking to speak with Tony. The surgeon in charge thinks it’s best to dispatch him but Mason refuses. He tells Tony that he’s involved in something really dangerous and no place is safe for him. Tony assures him that Tony’s apartment is safe, and Mason slips something into Tony’s hand. Then Mason is dispatched.

When Tony returns home, Mason is waiting for him. But Mason refuses to tell Tony anything, saying it’s too dangerous. Soon, the police come asking for Tony, and people break into his apartment.

This was a very good addition to the series and I enjoyed it a lot. The story feels more modern because of the pandemic and some other things which I won’t spoil here. However, the plot is more complicated than in the previous novellas.

Detective Nora Langdon returns from the previous stories. She doesn’t fully trust Tony which makes her smart. I enjoyed Tony and Langdon working together. They’re friends but they know they have their differences. I’m hoping Scalzi will write more of these short crime stories.

A collection of SF short stories, novellettes, and two novellas. The second book in an SF anthology series.


Format: ebook

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Pagecount from GoodReads: 590

Publishing year: 2021

The theme of the collection is aliens and in almost every story there are, indeed, aliens. But they’re not always in the center of the story. In fact, many of these stories feature aliens in an unconventional way. I was a bit disappointed that none of Rusch’s creepy and wonderful aliens from her Retrieval Artist series made it. But I ended up enjoying the stories. There were just different than what I expected.

Dean Wesley Smith

My Socks Rolled Down (2011): The main character has just one pair of Magic Socks. He has had them almost since he was born. Now, he’s watching the lottery on TV and his Magic Socks are going wild.

The Great Alien Vibration (2015): Jimmy has finally asked out his work colleague, Stephanie. They’re going to a mystery movie where Jimmy is the only man in the audience but that’s fine by him.

Sighed the Snake [Poker Boy • 7] (2010): Aliens last visited Earth in the late 1950s. Now they’re back and Poker Boy and his trusty sidekick and girlfriend Front Desk Girl must deal with them. The aliens love to gamble, that’s why they’ve returned to Las Vegas. It’s Poker Boy versus a sneaky alien at the poker table.

A Deal at the End of Time [The Seeders Universe] (2017) : When the Event killed off most of the people on Earth, Parker had been happily married and teaching law. Now, he lives alone and runs the End of Time Bar, Saloon, and Eatery. He’s mostly accepted the new normal. But then a beautiful woman appears right in his kitchen.

Me and Beans and Great Big Melons (2008): Innis is just looking for a hamburger and beer to watch a game. He never expected to run into an alien in the local supermarket.

Who’s Holding Donna Now? (2014): When three aliens start to gamble at Sandy’s bar, the owner gets really bad feeling about it.

Love with the Proper Napkin (1994): Two people write things on napkins in a bar. A hilarious story.

Dried Up [Poker Boy • 15] (2011): Poker Boy and his girlfriend Front Desk Girl wake up to electric static in their bed. Two gray-skinned beings with huge eyes stand next to them. The Silicon Suckers look like the Grays but they’ve lived on Earth longer than humans. They’re also quite powerful so Poker Boy is worried at first. But it turns out that they need his help.

The Last Man [Buckey the Space Pirate] (2017): Buckey goes into a simple costume pasty, expecting it to be boring. After all, it’s not an SF convention. Instead, he comes face to face with Maiden Molly, the Sex Queen of the planet Frost. She’s looking for the last man on Earth. Buckey jumps right to the chance.

Dinner on a Flying Saucer (2008) (a variant of Dinner on a Flyin’ Saucer): The nameless main character stumbles back home at 3 am, smelling of whisky and little red marks on his shirt collar. When he explains to his wife that little grey men had abducted him and served him dinner on their flying saucer, she doesn’t believe him.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Skin Deep (1988): Cullaene lives among the human colonists but hides his true self. When a group of people comes to question him about a body they found, Cullaene realizes he needs to leave, once again. But his human friend’s daughter is showing symptoms and without treatment, she will be disfigured or maybe she’ll even die. Cullaene could help her, but it could cost him his life.

Alien Influences [Alien Influences] (1992) / novelette: A continuation of the novellette Dancers Like Children in the first volume. John grew up in the colony Bountiful and the alien Dancers influenced him so much that he, and the other children, did crimes without realizing it. Now, John is an adult and a bounty hunter. A very rich client wants to hire him to find a stolen art object. The money is too good to pass up. But in order to solve the theft, John must face his past.

Glass Walls (1994): Beth is another one of the children of Bountiful, influenced by the alien Dancers. Now, she works at an interstellar hotel, sometimes with aliens. She and the staff makes sure that the guests get everything they want, including sex. She makes herself live in the now, like a Dancer, so the aliens wouldn’t influence her. But then a baby Minaran is brought to the hotel. Minaras are endangered, protected spiecies, so the Minaran shouldn’t be there, must less in full view of everyone.

The Injustice Collector (2005) / novelette: Humans have landed on an alien planet. The local people aren’t curious about them but indulge in the humans’ strange customs. However, something goes seriously wrong, children die, and the locals send for a Justice/Injustice hearing. The hearing is quite different from what humans are expecting. The story is the Injustice Collector’s record of the proceedings to a review board.

Broken Windchimes (2009) / novella: The main character is a human singer who lives among the alien Pané. The Pané have very sensitive hearing. They find human male sopranos very pleasant, but they demand perfection. The main character is a star: he has been singing for them for 22 years, ever since he was a small child. Now, his voice breaks.

Bonding (1999) / novelette: Marisa is an undercover agent and enjoys her life without any close ties. She’s one of the best, choosing her assignments. This time she’s after people who illegally capture and sell alien animals, the Ce’nark. The animals thrive in cold. The job goes sour when a young Ce’nark accidentally bonds with Marisa. It will die if the bondmate leaves it alone. Now, she must care for a vulnerable young animal. Luckily, it’s possible that the Ce’nark’s tribe could be nearby and they could accept the youngster back. If Marisa can find them on a frozen planet.

What Fluffy Knew (1998): A fun story told from the POV of a cat. Fluffy is a princess, a big white cat. Everything is right in her world: she has food, people to pet her, and comfortable places to sleep in. Then they came and everything changed.

Blind (1999) / novella: When Scott was ten years old, he and his older brother Richard snuck into the woods. In a fairy circle, they thought they saw a face in a fog, and Scott took pictures of it. Supernatural aficionados around the world took an interest and Richard was happy to be interviewed, but Scott wasn’t. Richard was convinced that a UFO was in the woods but Scott didn’t believe that. Later, Scott went to MIT and got so rich he could retire while Richard stayed in their home village and raised a family. Now, Richard is dead of exposure in the woods. Everyone believes he was cheating on his wife but Scott is convinced that something else happened. He investigates.

Fit to Print (1997) / novelette: Frank Butler is a veteran New York Times journalist. His grandmother came from a secluded little town of Bonner Bay. Frank loves it and still goes there every summer during his vacation. But this time something has changed. Small, strange pictures have been taped to many windows: a tiny person in a circle floating on the crest of a wave. Frank asks the mayor what is going on. She’s reluctant to tell him because he’s a reporter. But finally, she admits: aliens have arrived to Bonner Bay.

The End of the World (2007) / novella: A little girl is separated from her Momma in a frightened crowd. The girl is terrified but tries to do as she has been instructed: to change herself to resemble the sidewalk where she’s laying. But she’s so scared she’s not sure if it will work.

A hundred years later, a small-town detective Becca Keller gets a strange call from her ex and goes to meet him. His company is renovating an old building. And they’ve found a mass grave. It must be a hundred years old but a smell still lingers.

The two plotlines seem separate at first, but pretty soon I guessed how they would connect. Hope is a town with a proud history of accepting the black and the Chinese at a time when most of the US wouldn’t accept them. So, when a mass grave is found, that threatens to shake the whole town. Becca’s ex has also invested a lot of money in the renovation site and could go bankrupt.

Meanwhile, a hundred years ago, the little girl’s family is very different from the local people and they must always be alert for trouble. But at the beginning of the story, the girl is separated from them in a crowd that has grown violent.

At least in these stories, the writers have quite different styles. Rusch writes longer stories and they’re often more somber, melancholy, even pessimistic in tone. Since the stories are longer, she also focuses more on worldbuilding. Smith writes shorter and in a more humorous way. Some of them are quite whimsical and have less conventional aliens. I enjoyed both styles.

The second novella in the Dispatcher urban fantasy series.


Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Narrator: Zachary Quinto

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher: he kills people as humanely as possible. In this world, the vast majority of people who are intentionally killed, come back. The killed person disappears and so does any blood spatter. Clothes and all other items are left behind, though. The person reappears where ever they feel safest, usually at home.

Austerity politics has hit Tony personally and he has to take on private jobs. This one seems simple enough: a businessman needs to be on the other side of the world before a business opportunity goes sour. So, his lawyer contracts Tony to kill him. Tony hesitated but takes the job.

When he goes to deposit his payment to the bank, four robbers burst in. One of them knows Tony, calling him by name. Apparently, their exit plan is simple: one robber kills the others. Except that one robber stays dead. The remaining robber shoots the body several times and when he runs, the police are already outside and shoot him, too. Now, the police have a corpse as a lead. Also, Detective Nora Langdon thinks it’s a stupid strategy since the robbers couldn’t have taken their loot.

Turns out that Tony knew the dead robber, so he’s now a suspect. Also, people he knows start to die permanently and everything points to Tony.

This was a great continuation to the Dispatcher. It’s a neat little mystery and many of the characters from the first story return. It builds on the premise of the previous story.

A stand-alone SF novella.


Format: print

Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency

Page count: 156

Publishing year: 2017, originally published in Asimov’s 2015

The novella is set in de Bodard’s Xuya universe.

Suu Nuoc is a general in the Viet Dai Empire and also the Empress’s former lover. Now, he’s an investigator. The Grand Master of Design Harmony Bach Cuc has disappeared from her lab, leaving behind only her memory implants. Bach Cuc is a scientist and she’s working on reaching the Citadel of the Weeping Pearls. The Citadel vanished thirty years ago along with its builder, the Empress’s eldest and most headstrong child, Bright Princess Ngoc Minh, and her staff. It’s rumored that the Citadel, a space station, had very advanced tech and weapons. Tech that could turn the tide of the upcoming war. But the return of the Bright Princess Ngoc Minh would upset the court and many are against that. Suu Nuoc works with a mindship, The Turtle’s Gold Claw. The mindship is the Empress’s granddaughter.

When the Empress hears about Bach Cuc’s disappearance, she orders Suu Nuoc to investigate. She knows that the general isn’t in favor of the court because of his low birth and straightforward manner. She’s trying to ward off a war with the Nam Federation. They have stolen some of the Empress’s mindships and warped them against her.

Diem Huong was six when the Citadel vanished, taking her mother with it. Since then, her father has become a drunkard and she has become a brilliant engineer. Together with another engineer, she’s building a machine that will, hopefully, take her back to the Citadel and her mother.

Ngoc Ha is a younger princess. She adored and resented her oldest sister Ngoc Minh. She’s not sure if she wants her back. Her only child is the mind of the mindship, the Turtle’s Golden Claw. She felt that she was in the shadow of the Bright Princess.

This is a story about mothers and daughters and about sisters. Court intrigue and interpersonal relationships take the center stage. It’s also a mystery and there’s a war brewing in the background. For such a short novella, it has a lot going on and four POV characters. Still, it works.

It’s beautifully written, as is usual for de Bodard. The setting is very well developed, for example, the mem-implants that allow the high-born to consult their ancestors. Suu Nuoc doesn’t have them because he’s a commoner.

The ending was a bit abrupt and some things are left hanging.

The first novella in the Dispatcher series.


Publication year: 2016

Format: Audio

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Narrator: Zachary Quinto

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher: he kills people legally and as humanely as possible. Because now 999 out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. Nobody knows how or why, but that’s the new reality. Everyone Tony has dispatched has come back. Tony is in a hospital, covering for another dispatcher when Detective Nora Langdon comes to see him. Turns out that one of the other Dispatchers had disappeared. In fact, the Dispatcher Tony is covering for.

Tony wants to find out what happened to his acquaintance. We find out about the less-than-legal jobs that some dispatchers take, for money of course. Most of the jobs aren’t too bad but then there are gigs for the mob, for example. I wondered why the mob or the other violent types would need dispatchers. Anyone could shoot someone and that someone would most likely come back. Maybe it’s that most likely. There’s still a small chance they won’t come back and the shooter would become a murderer. Dispatchers are trained for that possibility.

Tony used to do private gigs but he assures the detective that he doesn’t do them anymore. In fact, he tells the detective a lot about the less legal jobs.

The setting is very well developed. The one change reaches everywhere from wars to surgery.

This was an interesting, short mystery and I enjoyed it. Quinto is a surprisingly good reader.

Yesterday SciFiMonth’s daily prompt was one small step: Short form SF.

I read a lot of short story collections. Especially now that I don’t have so much time to read, I appreciate novellas, novellettes, and short stories even more. So it was hard to narrow the list down.

1, Martha Wells: All Systems Red

The first novella in the Murderbot Diaries. The main character is a Security Unit, SecUnit, who is an android with both mechanical parts and cloned biological parts. It’s designed for security on various sites. Despite the fact that it’s (it doesn’t have gender nor sexual parts) clearly a thinking and feeling being, legally it’s the property of the company and not a person. The Murderbot has hacked its control unit and just wants to be left alone and watch the shows it loves. (Don’t we all??)

The series is written in first person and a lot depends on if you like the voice. I love it and the series.

2, Lois McMaster Bujold: Mountains of Mourning

This is one of the few novellas in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. You don’t have to read the books to get the story.

A distressed young woman, Harra, comes to beg justice from her Count, Miles’ father. Her child was born with a hare-lip and a hole on the roof of her mouth. According to old customs, the baby would have been killed at birth by the mother but the new generation is struggling to put such customs behind them. However, Harra’s baby was killed and Harra is convinced that her husband has done it. The Count sends young Miles to the small village to find out the truth.

This is a wonderful story but quite downbeat.

3, Becky Chambers: To Be Taught if Fortunate

Four highly trained and competent people explore alien planets. They’re in cryosleep when they travel, so they know that if they ever return to Earth, everything will be different. They are cuff off from Earth and can only rely on each other.

4, Suzanne Palmer: Bots of the Lost Ark

Maintenance bots need to take over a ship where the crew is asleep. A hilarious short story published on Apex.

5, JY Yang: Bridge of Crows

A hauntingly beautiful tale told in a format of a story inside a story. The unnamed narrator tells the tale of a young woman who is walking through a barren land on a desperate quest. Published in Mythic Dreams anthology.

6, Adrian Tchaikovsky: Elder Race

This novella had two POV characters. Lyn (third person POV) is young and eager to be a hero, somebody her mother will acknowledge. Her worldview has magic and demons. Nyr (first person POV) is a scientist with a scientific worldview. He also struggles with guilt from his previous transgression and he’s very lonely and depressed.

7, Tobias S. Buckell: A Jar of Godwill

The gedda are an alien race whose economics are based on patent rights on the technology. Since they’ve previously developed tech that humans use, they own the patents. Alex is a professional friend. A genetically engineered human (a hermaphrodite) whose job is to, essentially, keep humans sane in the vastness of space with empathy and touch (not necessarily sex). However, Alex’s account is overdrawn and his only chance is to take a job in an approaching spaceship full of scientists. Alex’s job is to befriend a drone, another engineered human who is part of a hive mind but who is now far away from the hive. Published in the “Final Frontier” anthology.

8, John Scalzi: The Dispatcher

In this world, people can’t be murdered because anyone who is killed intentionally comes back. The main character is a dispatcher: his job is to humanely put down people who need it.

9, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Becalmed

A Diving universe novella but you don’t need to read any of the other stories.

Mae is one of three people who are still alive from her group of twenty-seven linguists. They went down to a planet to meet with and learn from people who are reputed to be extremely violent. Mae returned caked in blood and with no memory of what happened to her and the rest of her team.

It’s about a culture clash and it’s also a psychological story where Mae struggles with the past she doesn’t want to know.

10, Connie Wills: Fire Watch

Time traveling to the past is hard. But it’s even harder when you’ve been preparing to walk with Saint Paul himself – and are sent instead to St. Paul’s in the middle of air raids. The main character tries to prepare as well as possible, but it might not be enough.

A stand-alone SF novella.


Publication year: 2021

Publisher: Tor

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 201

Lynnesse Fourth Daughter is the youngest of the daughters of the Queen of Lannesite and the last one to believe in fairy tales of demons and wizards. When frightened people flee to Lannesite from the forest kingdoms with tales of a demon ravaging the forests and the people, the Queen and Lyn’s sisters dismiss the stories and are convinced that the smaller countries are fighting amongst themselves. Nothing for the Queen to be concerned about. But Lyn is convinced that a real demon is at work. She and her best friend Esha Free Mark make the long journey to the Tower of Nyrgoth Elder, the last of the great wizards of the Elder Race. Nyrgoth helped Lyn’s great-grandmother and promised to return if he was needed again. Lyn begs the strange-looking wizard for help.

Nyr Illim Tevitch is an anthropologist second class, lightyears away from home. He and his two friends were sent to observe this alien planet where Earth sent a colony thousands of years ago. But when messages from Earth didn’t arrive, his friends chose to return to find out what happened. Nyr chose to stay, waiting for contact. He has been in suspended animation and is now rudely awakened. He expects that a new message woke him but that’s not the case. He didn’t expect two native women in his home, begging him to leave with them.

Nyr’s instructions forbid all influence with the natives. But he has broken the orders before, with Lyn’s great-grandmother. And Lyn looks so much like her great-grandmother that against his better judgment Nyr agrees. But customs have changed and so has the language.

This novella had two POV characters. Lyn (third person POV) is young and eager to be a hero, somebody her mother will acknowledge. Her worldview has magic and demons. Nyr (first person POV) is a scientist with a scientific worldview. He also struggles with guilt from his previous transgression and he’s very lonely and depressed. He has a Dissociative Cognition System that will suppress his emotions so that he can think clearly and make logical decisions. However, the system can’t work all the time.

The two POV characters complement each other. The local culture is very customs bound and hierarchical. Nyr’s society clearly isn’t and he struggles to make himself understood. The themes of the story are culture clashes and depression. They worked surprisingly well.

The sixth novella in the Wayward Children series but can be read as a stand-alone.


Publication year: 2021

Publisher: TOR

Format: ebook

Page count from Goodreads: 174

When Regan Lewis was a little girl, she already knew that girls can be vicious to each other in a way that adults either didn’t see or chose to forget. Regan had two best friends but that changed when she was seven. One of her friends brought a snake to school and the other, Laurel, reacted terribly, saying that the other wasn’t a real girl because she liked snakes. Regan supported Laurel. Laurel ostracised her former friend and so did Regan.

Ever since she was little, Regan loved horses and her parents are wealthy enough that she can ride. But when Regan is 11, she realizes that she’s not developing like other girls who make fun of her. Then, Regan’s parents reveal that Regan is intersex and it’s possible that she won’t develop periods or breasts. Even though her parents insist that there’s nothing wrong with her, she thinks differently. The next day in school, she confides in one person who immediately accuses her of being a boy. Miserable and frightened Regan runs away from school.

In a forest, she sees some trees that form a doorway that says ”Be Sure”. She steps through to another land. In the Hooflands, there are no humans, just beings with hoofs, such as unicorns, fauns, and centaurs.

This is almost a cozy fantasy, except for some later scenes and the bullying at the start. It’s also a coming-of-age story.

Regan’s parents are very supportive and insist that she’s perfect. Yet, her friends Laurel is very strict about what a girl can do, look like, and be. Regan seems to believe Laurel more than her parents. She’s always thought of herself as a girl so learning that she’s intersex is a shock.

In the Hooflands, that doesn’t matter because she’s the only human. It’s common knowledge that when the Hooflands are in trouble, a human savior appears. But Regan doesn’t think she can be a savior so she does her best to reject that destiny.

This was a lovely, slow-paced story of Regan growing up and learning to accept herself.

I’ve only read the first book in the series and this one doesn’t have any connections to it, so you can read it without reading the others

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