Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                        HOME
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Science Fiction for July 2020
by Henry L Lazarus
    Adventures are at the heart of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Strange worlds need to be explored.
Kate Elliott tells a pulse pounding tale of Unconquerable Sun (hard from Tor). Princess Sun, the heir to Queen-marshal Eirene of the Republic of Chaonia has a number of problems. Firstly she’s been side-lined to keep her mother’s remarriage from her, and the Lee house hopes for a different heir from the marriage. Then there’s the assassination attempts on her and her companions. Finally there’s the secret attack on Chaonia’s naval bases by the Phene Empire. Both star empires are long separated from the rest of humanity. The Phene elite are four-armed and run by Riders who are connected telepathically to eachother. Persephone Lee had run from her family to join the military academy for commoners. By the death of her twin brother, Companion to Sun, forced the family to use her has his replacement and putting her in the heart of the action. The background is very rich with complex detail that begs for more information. The tale has a  nice ending point for this first of a trilogy, but I can’t wait for the rest. Excellent.
Django Wexler introduces a strange world ruined by a magical technology war between the Chosen and the Ghouls, both of which are thought lost in the four centuries since the war.  This is a world built on the Ashes of the Sun (paper from Orbit) where scavengers illegally sell half working devices, where cities are built on the ruins of the war, and where plaguespawn that absorb living things into their bodies are a constant threat. Gyre, who lost his eye trying to save his sister from the Twilight order is a thief stealing relics from the duq of Deepfire, a city of tunnels heated by a fire set by the weapon that destroyed the Ghouls who had been living there. His sister Maya has become one of the magical warriors of the order. The two come together because of a secret at the heart of the city and an ancient weapon that could reshape their world. This tale of Burningblade & Silvereye is an exciting introduction to the world and characters. While complete in itself, it calls for sequels.
KayLynn Flanders has a fun princess-in-trouble tale that has charming characters to balance a generic plot. Princess Jennesara has hidden her magic that only the King and her brother the Prince should have. The kingdom of Hálendi is being attacked and Jenna is betrothed to the Prince of Turia, and she is bundled off with maid and protective soldiers through the magically wild lands. That’s where the expedition is attacked by an ancient Gray mage, her maid is murdered pretending to be the princess and Jenna barely escapes. Hopefully she can learn to  be  Shielded (hard from  Delacorte Press) and  use her magic and the magical sword and ring her father gave her, while finding information in the library in the kings court in Turia  about a hoard of magic buried somewhere. Pretending to be sole surviving  guard from the Princess’s expedition, She ends up protecting the princesses of Turia while fighting magical creatures. There’s also a touch of romance. Lots of charming fun with sequels promised.
Ryan Van Loan’s tale of The Sin in the Steel (hard from TOR) reads as an old movie serial where Buc (sambuciña), a brilliant girl who grew up parentless in the slums and remembers every book she ever read; and Eld (Eldrich Nelson Rawlings), ex-army officer who has found someone to follow, start by being almost hanged for murder. Every few chapters after that they are on the verge of being murdered, whether by sin-eater priest turned into a bull, a pirate queen making them walk the plank, or eaten by a necromancer pirate whose crew are all zombies. They have been hired by Kanados Company to discover why the sugar ships haven’t gotten through, leaving the company on the verge of bankruptcy. The trail leads to an ancient artifact belonging to one of the dead gods. This is a fun world with magic coming from the bodies of dead gods who fell to earth after killing other worlds. I hope that Buc and Eld will be back for another adventure,.
Veronica Roth tells of two alternated Earths recently awoken to magic. A decade ago in the first, The dark one’s drains destroyed cities until five teenage Chosen Ones (hard from John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) managed to defeat him. Now they’re all celebrities and hate, particularly Sloan who dumped the magical needle that gave her powers in the Chicago river. When Sloan throws the ashes, of one of them who died, she and two others are pulled to the second world to fight the resurectionist whose followers are all dead. The second world’s champion was defeated, and they need new champions. This is a world where magic is more common. Sloan keeps finding reasons to distrust the leaders of this world, but they are far worse than she expected. This is a fun alternate Earth tale.
On the world of Heaven, last refuge of humanity after the last fall, one of the gods may be plotting in the Quantum Shadows (hard from Tor). Corvyn has been around since before that fall and will do anything to prevent another fall. When a trident is marked on the walls of his house, he takes his electrobike and goes from the territory of one god to another, trying to find out who left trident images on all the temples of the believers.  Corvyn takes his time, enjoying delicious meals in every city, leading to a tale that takes its time to get moving. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is attempting to make a depressing point about humanity. The result is interesting, but not for everyone.
Jason Offutt tells an odd tale of Brick, who sells muffins and loves dungeons and dragons; Skid Roe, who grew up in a circus and now works as a guard at concerts; Cord, who has turned a house where a man went mad and killed his family into a murder house with fake haunted house effects; and Dave Collison, who lived in that murder house before the murders and now is a physicist working in a secret government lab. Dave’s boss is a mad scientist, and when he turns the machine on one night, it sends Dave bouncing between places from his past and alternate worlds.  Dave had been trying to pick up Skid at the time the machine went on. Brick had been close enough to be effected. Soon Dave and Skid are in an increasingly changing world that eventually includes both Zombies and Klingons. So You Had to Build a Time Machine (hard from CamCat Publishing) is a fun romp through the implausible and great fun.
Catherine Asaro returns to the dying planet Raylicon where the city of Cries sits next to The Banished Seas (hard from Baen) This time Major Bhaajan, a P.I. who grew up in the undercity, and served in the Skolian Army, has to find two missing people including one who vanished from a party she was being honored at. Along the way Bhaajan is almost murdered and discovers a plot that may involve her sponsors, the power Majda family.  The problem is also related to the ancient starships that brought humans to Raylicon six thousand years ago. Great series.
Raymond E. Feist continues his epic tale about the lost King of Ashes (hard which I had to buy), the only survivor of the royal family of  Ithrace whose existence as a new born was hidden when treachery destroyed the kingdom and all the known members of the family executed. The problem is that the family had magical power, leaving many groups hunting for the baby. Hatu, raised and trained by assassins  and his best friend hiding as his wife, Hava  end up in Beran’s Hill at the end of the first tale where they become innkeepers. Then the whole area is invaded by an unknown army.  Beran’s Hill is destroyed. Hatu is kidnapped by one group and sent far across the seas to a land hidden by perpetual fogs called the Queen of Storms (hard from Harper Voyager).  Hava soon follows,  is captured by slavers, and put on a ship heading the same way. The sword smith  Declan has lost his new wife and joined a mercenary troop looking for vengence. I’m eagerly waiting for the next part of the tale.
Lois McMaster Bujold’s eighth Penric tale finds the sorcerer captured by pirates, which proves to be very bad for the priates. He also runs into two young sisters, The Orphans of Raspay (hard from Subterranean Press) whose mother had died and were traveling to find their father. The first six Penric tales have been reprinted by Baen books and are lots of fun.
    Baen has reprinted in paper the last Kencyrath tale by P. C. Hodgell By Demons Possessed, Wm. Mark Simmons fun tale of A Witch in Time, and David Weber and Jacob Holo’s time travel tale The Gordonian Protocol.
    Locust magazine has posted the top sf and fantasy novels this year at locustmag.com. Winners will be announced June 27th.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on July 24th. This is the annual Hugo Review Panel for the 2020 Hugo awards. Unless canceled, the meeting starts  at  8 p.m. at the Rotunda  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.