Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                               HOME
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Science Fiction for May 2020
by Henry L Lazarus

    No matter how horrible the current situation is, Fantasy and Science writers can come up with horrible potential problems that can make our current one seem mild.
John Scalzi tells of a future Interdependency of multiple worlds connected by a flow that allows faster-than-light travel between the hub world and the end world (the only livable world). It’s The Collapsing Empire (paper) because the flow, according to flow physicist Marce Claremont’s father, is ceasing. Systems die when their connection to the Interdependency is cut.  Cardenia Wu-Patrick was totally unready to handle The Consuming Fire (paper) because her half-brother was supposed to become The Last Emperox (hard from Macmillan). As Emperox Grayland II she has the help of memory versions of her predecessors to help. If the situation wasn’t dire enough Nadashe Nohamapetan, who was originally supposed to marry Cardenia’s half-brother, will kill anyone who opposes her to get control for her selfish reasons.  Plots within plots, deaths that are merely kidnaping and a very corrupt nobility lead proves that even disaster for billions can be fun if you’re watching the mess.  
Nancy Kress’s future settled eight worlds are linked by ten naturally occurring gates. Three of the eight worlds are controlled by the autocratic Peregoy family; three by the libertarian Landry family. The discovery of The Eleventh Gate (Hard from Baen) sets up a war in which one family is willing to use biologic weapons. Phillip Anderson has been on a quest, and even undergoes surgery, to deepen his meditation, not realizing that his really deep meditations shut down the gates. There’s too many interesting ideas here to  coalesce into one theme. I can only hope that sequels are coming. Interesting.
Nick Martell tells of The Kingdom of Liars (hard from Gallery Books) whose capital city Hollows is under siege by lesser nobles and has a small rebellion going on inside.  Michael Kingman is introduced on trial for murdering the king. His father, despite the history of the family of protecting the kingdom since its founding, was executed for killing one of the king’s sobs. Michael has been convinced his father was framed for a decade, and desperate to prove it. This is a world in which magical talents remove memories, and Michael has lost memories, despite not knowing what his magical talent is. The tale mostly tells us how, Michael, a knave and con man searches for hints in what had happened when his father was found with the gun that shot the prince. This is a very exciting and impossible-to-put-down. I hope it gets nominated for awards.
Matt a former drone pilot with nightmares about killing people, has replaced his arms and legs with artificial limbs that are also weapons with Automatic Reload (paper from TOR). In an age where computers have taken most jobs, Mat is hired to rescue kidnap victims and other jobs. He obsessively maintains his limbs and plans his jobs to avoid civilian death. He takes a high pay job with other cyborgs guarding a package delivery for IAC, the most evil corporation on Earth. Unfortunately in an attack on the package, it opens revealing Silvia, a woman modified biologically to be a high powered assassin. To avoid her being brainwashed by IAC, Mat and Silvia go on the run and eventually have to rescue Silvia’s mother and sister who have been kidnaped by IAC to force Silvia to surrender. Ferrett Steinmetz keeps the action fast and furious. This tale of two mismatched people is pulse-pounding and impossible to put down.  
There is nothing sillier than Shakespeare for Squirrels (hard from William Morrow) in which Pocket, the jester from King Lear, is shipwrecked on an island where Midsummers Night Dream is happening.  This is     Christopher Moore’s third tale about Pocket (I didn’t read the others) and it is a hoot. Apparently fairies are squirrels by day, Puck has been murdered, and Oberon and Titania are still separated. There’s a royal wedding between Duke Thesius and the Queen of the Amazons. This is a giggling hoot.  
Martha Wells’s fifth adventure of murderbot,  a self-aware SecUnit that  hacked its own governor module has it protecting the daughter of his client and no longer pretending to be human. There’s a Network Effect (hard from Tor) need to defend against humans who may be aliens and who have captured it and its client. They defiantly have captured a self-intelligent ship who murderbot calls ART. Trapped in the solar system of a forgotten colony, It has to restore ART’s memories, rescue ART’s crew, which involves splitting its mind into two parts. Lots of fun as usual.
In the board Game, T.I.M.E Stories, four players go back in time into local bodies to complete a mission to fix the time line, that can be repeated as often as necessary to finish.  Christophe Lambert’s The Heiden File (paper from Angry Robot) fills out the details with the story of Tess Haiden recruited from 2014 to 2468 to work with three others for various missions. She turns out to be important to protecting the base from its destruction. The end result is a fun tale that is very accessibly despite its tie-in to the game. Oh yes the game sounds like fun too.
Jeffrey Ford has an odd tale of a librarian conked on the head by crook robbing the coffee shop he was buying at. In sleep he starts having Out of Body (ebook for Tor) experiences. Luckily he is mentored by a woman whose been exploring the night as a sort of ghost for years. Unfortunately they find a vampire hiding in their small town and also some vampire hunters trying to kill the century-old being. The tale is eerie.
In an alternate 1922, Manhattan has been divided into eastside where technology still works, and westside which is falling into ruin. There’s a fence between them. Gilda Carr, when she isn’t getting drunk, spends her time in small mysteries. This time the religious family of Westside Saints (hard from Harper Voyager) has lost a relic, the preserved little finger of a saint. Then that family’s old father, and preacher,  who had been dead for thirty years, and Gilda’s mother, who had died when she was nine, appear. The family has a ceremony to bring back more dead, but the preacher and Gilda’s mother have not been brought back from the dead. The truth is even more fantastic. This is the second of a neat series that I only read this one. Lots of fun.
Rysa Walker returns to her Chronus background with a tale set when CHRONOS was sending historians to the past. Tyson Reyes (2304)  has been integrating himself into the Klu Klux Klan in the early sixties when other time travelers kill Martin Luther King, Jr. two years early disrupting time. Madison Grace (2136) discovers a CHRONOS medallion in her Grandfather’s house and learns that because her grandmother had been a time traveler from her future, she has inherited the genes necessary to travel through time. Not only that but she and some friends were responsible for discovering time travel. Eventually Madi and Tyson have to work together to restore the time line. Now, Then, and Everywhen (paper from 47 North) is the first of a trilogy. Lots of fun.
R. Z. Held tells the tale of Genevieve who had been infected by that nanites that turn Pax Romana soldiers super. Most people die, but somehow she had a Clean Install (ebook from Rhiannon Held). That provided an excuse to send to a  Pax Romana planet with a disabling virus to install. The Amsterdam Institute is there to find a cure to the nanites for retired soldiers as well as for civilians like her infected by the virus. Instead of sabotage, she finds herself working to help the Institute, especially civilians infected accidently. More is coming and I’m interested.
Marko Kloos continues his The Palladium Wars series which starts five years after the planet  Gretia,  tried to conquer the system, lost and is under a slowly loosening occupation. Things are starting to go Ballistic (hard from 47North) as rebels steal nuclear missiles. Most the tale is about interesting people going on with their interesting lives. I really enjoy the story so far, and am very eager to find out what’s next.
According to Christopher G. Nuttall no one is willing to pay the Debt of Honor (paper from 47North) except for Admiral Kat Falcone who helped win the war against the Theocracy. At the Commonwealth capital, politicians are unwilling to keep the high war taxes to help the worlds devastated by the war.  Impeaching the King is being considered. And someone is supplying the last Theocracy battle fleet and encouraging disruptive attacks on unprotected planets.  This is a sequel trilogy that will put Kat and her friends in the middle of a civil war. Fun.
    Baen has reprinted in trade the second three Penric tales by Louis McMaster Bujold, Penric’s travels.  There is only one more so far.
    The 2020 Hugo nominations for Best Novel include: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders; Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir; The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley; A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine; Middlegame  by Seanan McGuire; and The Ten Thousand Doors of January  by Alix E. Harrow.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on May 8th, if the closure is over.  The meeting starts  at  8 p.m. at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church at 39th  and Locust Walk on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. As usual guests are welcome.
    Dr. 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 because only one frequency is needed rather than a full spectrum.  It also explains dark matter, the proliferation of subatomic particles, and the limit of light speed for matter.