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Science Fiction for December 2022
by Henry L Lazarus
    Fantasy and Science Fiction promise unusual worlds and exciting adventures.
I have soft spot for superhero tales. JL Meredith tells  of an energy being who decided to revive the body of a woman who died in childbirth eight centuries ago. She’s been hiding her abilities and working as a doctor in refuge camp and also serving as a Guardian (hard) protecting Earth from the neighboring civilizations who sometimes invade. Then an large asteroid suddenly appearing forces her to reveal herself. Not only that, but some of the fragments from the Asteroid give people super powers. Trying to deal with the problems of these new superpowered individuals , and their legal implications force her to deal with an old flame, now Senator, as well as an even larger threat. There’s also a new man in her life. Lots of fun.
Edward Willett has a romp of a tale set a century after the MASTTs, human built wormholes connecting us to other stars, exploded. Moon born conman Cooper Douglas is hunting a remnant of the MASTT station on his old spaceship with his illegal AI-uplifted, genetically modified cat Thibauld when the wormhole reappears. The only ship on Earth that can transverse the wormhole is part of a museum in Chicago.  To steal it, he needs his old flame, who went from doing cons with him to joining the police. Unfortunately the local crime boss, Galioto , has also seen the opening and wants to steal the starship afteer Coop has gotten it. Unfortunately the AI running the starship has its own ideas. Thibauld steals the show. The Tangled Stars (ebook from DAW) is a great laugh and sets up many sequels.
Dilani Kahawala captures J. K. Rowling perfectly in a tale of sixteen year-old Tilly Nyx who might be the object of the Blood Moon Prophecy (paper from Cedar Street Press) on the water world she was taken from for her safety after her mother was murdered. She was five and has few memories. Then the Crom Fahll murders the Time Keeper and attacks her. She is helped to her home world where her mother’s map is enough to launch a flotilla of ships. She becomes a cadet, makes good friends, and learns the heart of magic, casting sprites. People have been visiting Earth enough for cultural contamination, Soon she starts seeing a woman called Lux, who may be her aunt,  on the ship. There’s zombified on some islands and hidden rooms on her ancient ship. Thankfully there’s enough of a conclusion to satisfy, but sequels would be great.
Charlie N. Holmberg has a romantic, Victorian melodrama set near Boston twenty years before the civil war. Merritt Fernsby, a writer disinherited by his family discovers he has inherited an abandoned mansion. When he goes to investigate, the house, on its own island, locks him in. Rescuing him is Hulda Larkin from the  Boston Institute for the Keeping of Enchanted Rooms or ‘Biker’. As a Keeper of Enchanted Rooms (paper from 47North ), her job is to tame these buildings. Magic has been going out of the world, and saving these building may help save magic. Silas, the evil sorcerer, is really nasty stays out of the warm romance until the end. I always enjoy Charlie N. Holmberg’s books and this is no exception.
Stephen R. Donaldson finishes his exciting trilogy about The Great God's War against  the Last Repository, a library filled with long lost books. At the start, two kingdoms,  Belleger and Amika , have been fighting for centuries. Then sorcery disappears from the lands.  Prince Bifalt has to journey across the desert to the library to find the  Seventh Decimate (paper). The library wants to two kingdoms united to face the coming enemy. Twenty years later King Bifalt and Queen Estie of the two kingdoms are working had to shore up defenses with cannons and rifles. They have to deal with The War Within (paper which I had to buy) and treachery as th ships of the enemy approach. Finally The Killing God (hard from  Berkley)’s army arrives and they are far more powerful than expected. Only with  luck and solid strategy can the Army survive, and the library really isn’t prepared. This is a very exiting and satisfying conclusion. I enjoyed it a lot.
Marion Zimmer Bradley started writing about Darkover about the time I started reading Science Fiction until heer death until 1999. Darkover is a planet settled by a lost starship whose inhabitants developed powerful psychio c power. Eventually they get discovered by Terran Federation and use their ablilities to chase the Federation away. Darkover tales can take place during the long history. , Deborah J. Ross, who has continued the series, sets the latest tale, The Laran Gambit ( hard from  Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust) takes place after the Federation was replaced by the interplanetary Star Alliance. Bryn Haslund, a child therapist, I sers the daughter of a powerful Senator who is brainwashed by another Senator trying for absolutely. Bryne resccues him, but the cure for his mind might be found on Darkover. It was extremely nice to return to a background I had known for years, and found I had misssed. Some of the Darkover novels were nominated for the Hugo award and the series was very popular with fans. This tale is a worthy addition to the series and can be read separately.
Marshall Ryan Maresca has a new tale of The Holver Alley Crew (paper) who found  themselves arrested for being different people while they were celebrating saving the city of Maradaine. The Quarrygate Gambit (hard from DAW) turns out to much more complicated than false arrest. It starts with their women with a caper to steal special art from a fancy museum. It was the price that the only person, they knew could help. But nothing is simple, and it takes the whole tale to reveal the new danger facing Maradaine. Second half to come.
Mercedes Lackey continues her tale of the the founding of Valdemar with Baron Valdemar and his people heading deep Into the West (hard from DAW). Their barges can bypass rapids using magical gates, but the land they’re passing is filled with monsters left over from the wizard wars. Even the place they were told was safe to winter in, turns out to be a  magnet for killer trees. Fun. I’m waiting for the talking horse companions to appear, hopefully in the next tale.
Dave Bara concludes his dualogy about an experimental ftl ship sent from the Five Suns, system settled by generation ship and whose worlds are dying. This time Jared Clement is admiral of a fleet carrying 30,000 colonists, including his parents, to the largely uninhabited Trinity (paper) system. The three lush worlds have evidence of a powerful alien civilization. He knows that the present humans living there, Trinity's Children (paper from Baen) need protection. Unfortunately his former boss turned traitor, Elara DeVore, has given the ftl drive to Solar League from Earth and the Five Suns ships are outnumbered. I liked the conclusion and the battle scenes were fun and exciting.
     Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric tales have been coming out in novella form every year or so. Eventually Baen packages them into one book. Penric's Labors (hard) contains Masquerade in Lodi, The Orphans of Raspay, and The Physicians of Vilnoc. Penric and his demon Desdemona have to solve their problems. Lots of fun.
    David Boop has collection of new tales Gunfight on Europa Station (trade from Baen).
    Henry Lazarus is a retired 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 fusion generation requires less energy.