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Science Fiction for April 2017

    Publishers, at least in Fantasy and Science Fiction tend to release their major works in the Spring because many people love to read in the lazy summer days.
Physics won’t allow humans tiny enough to live with insects. Clark Thomas Carlton invents a world where humans have domesticated various insects using odors to control them. Anand is half-untouchable caste of the Slope a giant ant hill, and half-Britasyte the people of the Roaches. His mother’s people teach him to hunt and his father’s people have him collecting night soil and other garbage. He speaks both languages. His fiancee, Daveena, is of the Roach people. When selected as part of a new colony, he and the rest of the colony are captured by the democratic Dranveria who don’t believe in killing. Selected to be a missionary to the Slopeans, he doesn’t know of a new group of Hulkrites who worship termites. These Prophets of the Ghost Ants (paper from Voyager) are intent on conquering the surrounding tribes and have captured Daveena’s tribe. When he does, he goes undercover to the Termite people intent on rescuing her and her tribe. The war at the end uses a lot of insect traits for a fun and exciting conflict. I would nominate this for awards.
Alpha Marsh and her brother Caleb are the only survivors of the Innsmouth community sent to desert camps in 1929. Because of the fear of their magic. Late in life her people metamorphize into beings of the sea  able to live millennia. After the war they were released with the captured Japanese. Two years later an FBI agent wants her, and the book store owner she works for, to investigate the potential that the Russians have somehow gotten hold body-switching magic. So they go to Miskatonic University, near Boston, to read through the papers from her people. They are helped by a Yith. The Yith borrow bodies from every era of Earth’s long history, past and future. The Yith is inhabiting Dr. Turnbull, a math professor. What they don’t know is that another group of FBI agents are trying to evoke truly dangerous magic. Ruthanna Emrys uses Lovecraftian tropes with subtlety.   Winter Tide (hard from Tor) is a fascinating tale that may make it to award lists.
Imagine a  fighting order of nuns. On a world covered with ice, there’s a fifty mile corridor on the equator is most of a settlement of humanity. Mark Lawrence tells the tale of a Red Sister (hard from ACE). Abbess Glass finds Nona on the scaffold ready to be hung for murder. Most of the families at  Convent of Sweet Mercy have their educations paid for by their families, but Nona has potential, far more than expected. The tale is at it’s best when Nona’s   friends get themselves into trouble, as growing girls are opt to.  All too often the brutality of their world comes forth. This is a pulse pounding tale. I expect sequels, that will explore more of this strange world. This is a satisfying read.
Holly Jennings shows us a near future in which virtual reality gaming has become bigger than movies and other sports events. Small teams fight in virtual setting in which full sensations are transferred to their bodies in pods, allowing them to even feel their deaths. Kali Ling did so well her first year as the first female team captain, that she raised to money to buy her own team – something usually reserved to the ultra rich. She also exposed drug abuse problems and the VGL. A Japanese company has new pods that are safer and to promote their use, they sponsor a major tournament . VGL wants Kali’s team destroyed and they invite her in, only to make her team look bad. Thus Holly and her four teammates including an ex-lover have to face a Gauntlet (paper from Ace) of their base terrors in addition to fighting their opponents. This is a very exciting future sports tale and difficult to put down.
D.J. Butler starts his quest tale in an unusual America in the third decade of the nineteenth century. Because of the first-souled who can work magic, America is an empire ruled by Thomas Penn who has tortured the old empress, his sister, to discover the whereabouts of Sarah, the girl with the Witchy Eye (hard from Baen), who is the oldest daughter of the Empress. Chased by a magic-using Priest and company of the Blues. Sarah and friends are helped by a wizard-monk and are chased from Nashville to New Orleans in quest of the one man who knows where her brother was hidden. Also chasing her are zombie Lazars, and sometimes helping is the Heron King, a magical being with beast-men followers. Along the way Sarah learns how to use her magic and find the missing magical items buried with her father. I’m eagerly waiting for the next part of this exciting tale.
Cherie Priest imagines that the spiritualist movement of the 20's were real and the small community in  Cassadaga, Florida was haunted by a spirit filled with Brimstone (paper from Ace) that threatens to burn out their community. Tomas Cordero fought with flamethrower in the great war and somehow the spirit found its way to him. Thinking it was his dead wife, he ignores the fires around him until they burn down his house and tailor shop. Alice Dartle is a newly come seer to the community, but she is the one who will see the truth and find how to destroy the evil ghost from the middle ages. Exciting
Drew Hayes has a look at the villains side of the meta-human divide. After villains and capes had to work together to save the world, the villains came up with a code to protect civilians. The capes lock up truly evil villains, but the villains guild just kills them. Tori Rivas had an accident while trying to build a mata-suit and can turn into living fire. The Guild sets a trap for her, forces her to join the guild or die. Apprenticed to a retired member of the Guild she has to lead a normal life while testing with three others to become a member. Alas there’s an evil plot afoot with both Capes and Villains to destroy the code and bring back the true villains. Forging Hephaestus (ebook from Thunder Pear Publishing) is an exciting beginning to a fun series.     
Darius Brasher’s second book about Theodore Conley, a reluctant super hero who went to the academy after his father was murdered by a super villain. He has to face the Trials (ebook for DABA publishing) to get his super hero license. Unfortunately the trials are rigged this time. I literally couldn’t put this book down staying up way too late.
Mishell Baker’s nebula nominated tale is about the Fey in Hollywood. They act as muses for writers and directors. Millie Roper has Borderline (hard from Saga Press)  personality disorder that led her to jumping off a five story building. She has an artificial leg and plenty of metal, a strange detective in a strange Hollywood mystery. She is hired by the Arcadia Project to find a missing Actor/Fey Riverholt who is major director Berenbaun’s muse. But there’s a dark secret in a Studio being built and missing commoners from Fairy. I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel.
Kylara Vatta, now Admiral of a space fleet, comes home on Vatta business to a Cold Welcome (hard from Del Rey). Her shuttle is sabotaged as is the suit she was supposed to be wearing. The pilots manage to drop the passenger compartment on a cold, wintry sea where is enough time for the survivors to get to rafts. With communicators blocked , and the only land labeled inhabitable, it seems that surviving the poison was only a slight mercy. But there are secrets on that land, traitors in her crew. Luckily her family and friends don’t believe her death. Kylara’s adventure feels almost like a video game with dangers to overcome. Once the villains are unmasked there is a solid battle to survive.
Sylvain Neuvel likes to write about giant robots using discovered text like letters and interviews.  Sleeping Giants (paper) told of the discovery of one such robot they call Themis whose parts were buried thousands of years ago and of the difficulty of learning to pilot it.  Waking Gods (hard from Del Rey) tells of other large robots suddenly appearing first in London, and then when that one is destroyed. They are quite deadly, killing thousands with poison gas. They intend to flood the world with that gas killing 99.5% of mankind. Only the people running Themis can stop the attack. Very exciting.
Randy Henderson third tale of necromancer Finn Gramayare has him trying to stop his grandfather, who has taken over his second cousin’s body, from causing a war between the Fey Realms and Earth. The best part is when he and his girl friend go in the Fey Realms where he Smells like Finn Spirit. (Hard from Tor) The dark Fey want him to fight for his life with his brother, and silver Fey just want him to prove his innocense. Tnhere’s a sort of silliness to the mythology, especially because the fay love to become fictional characters, but the plot is straight pulp with Finn and his girlfriend Dawn being constantly chased by all sorts of monsters all over the crazy parts of Seattle. Fun.
Emma Newman has gone from dark SF to magic in Victorian England. Mages are dangerous and hiding talent is against the law, even though acknowledged talent is well paid. Charlotte Gunn is the daughter of an illustrator and is starting to sell her work under a male pseudonym, hiding her work from her parents and fiancee. She also has magical talent. Then her father encores debt. There’s a hint that her constantly sick brother, Archie might be a mage, and her desperate father reports his talent for the reward. Charlotte discovers that other people who owed money are dying and her father may be next. So she has to use the abilities she has been keeping secret to protect her father. To prevent her Brother's Ruin (ebook from Tor), she has to  fake her brother’s results so he will do well. This is the start of a series, and much of the magical secrets are not revealed.   
    Baen has a silly collection of new tales about Little Green Men – Attack in trade and edited by Robin Wayne Bailey and Bryan Thomas Schmidt.
    The Nebula nominees for best novel are: All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan);  Borderline, Mishell Baker (Saga); The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK); Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK); and Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor). I’ve only read two.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on April 7th 2017 The meeting starts  at  8 p.m.  at the Rotunda on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. David Mack author of Star Trek novels, television scripts, and comics will speak. As usual guests are welcome.    
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords).Check out his unified field theory at henrylazarus.com/utf.html that suggests a simpler way to achieve fusion generation.