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

    In Science Fiction and Fantasy not only are the characters created by the writer, but also the society they live in.
Linden A. Lewis has an amazing first novel that hopefully will find its way to an award nomination. After a century long war in which the artificial intelligences quit is disgust, Earth and Mars have combined into the Geans, and are served by a mute sisterhood who both bless the soldiers and serve as their prostitutes. Opposing them are the rich Icarii of Venus and Mercury whose discovery of a metal on Mercury allows anti-gravity. Our heroine is The First Sister (hard from Skybound Book) of the space ship Juno which had been captured from the Icarii. She was supposed to leave with the last captain, but somehow has to restore her ranks as the sister minstering to the Captain. Lito val Lucius is an Icarian specialized soldier wounded when the Gaens took Ceres. His old partner has turned traitor and he and a new partner have a mission to work they way into Ceres and kill his old partner with whom he had been linked with a brain implant. They also have to kill the mother of the sisterhood. Nothing that either character has been told is correct. There are so many twists here  that the tale just blew me away.  Sequels are promised, but the current tale stands enough on its own. Excellent.
Marie Brennan tells of a universe of post-apocalyptic worlds, slowly disappearing like Driftwood (paper from Tachyon Publications) into a central core of final destruction. One constant of this group of worlds is a guide called Last. He may have finally disappeared, so a group of people who knew him gather together to tell their tales. This is a fascinating universe and I suspect this group of tales will find its way to be nominated for something.
Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs is a genius who only survived because the musketeer Jean-Claude stopped the midwife from killing her because of her deformed hand. Curtis Craddock sets the action on a broken world with floating islands and continents Nobility is defined by having one of the defined magical talents, like shape shifting or mirror walking, and at the beginning of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (paper) Isabelle is chosen to wed the second son of the king of one of the two known continents but this is all a plot by an ancient sorcerer and stopping him reveals Isabelle’s rare magical right arm. Then The celebration of the King of Isabelle’s home continent’s  birthday, reveals a plot to overthrow him with a disease that removes magic. Isabelle and Jean-Claud have to navigate through a An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (paper) to save the kingdom. As a result there is a discovery of a third continent that may contain the vault of the savior. Granted captaincy of an expedition to this The Last Uncharted Sky (hard from Tor), Isabelle has to not only deal with treachery, her mental health as a consequence of what happened in the previous book, but also stop the man who wants access to the vault to destroy the world. Very exciting and an interesting and well defined unusual world. I can only hope for more tales set in this interesting universe.  
I can only hope that terrorists don’t read  Ben Bova and Doug Beason’s exciting tale of a Space Station Down (hard from Tor) because they show a plausible way for terrorist to get aboard the ISS. The only survivor, Kimberly Hasid-Robinson, is at first disconnected from NASA support and watches as her astronaut friends are murdered so the station can be set to de-orbit as a potential bomb. The technical details feel accurate and make for an edge-of-your-seat thriller.  Good way to take your mind off current events.  
Micaiah Johnson tells of a future earth ruined by corporations. Travel to 372 alterate earths is possible only for people whose doppelganger has died. Most of Cara’s alternate selves died young in the harsh reality of the Ashlands. Then Adam Bosch, inventor of the technology, hired her and others like her to collect data on the other worlds,. That gives her a job and a temporary visa.  She has a deep secret, family ties to the Ashland and is trying to get citizenship In the socialist walled Wiley city. Then reports of her alternate on Earth 175 dying, lets the corporation send her, almost killing her in the process. Her alternate is actually alive. Earth 175, however, reveals a secret about Adam Bosch, something worth stopping him. The Space Between Worlds (hard from Del Rey) is a tense thriller that kept me up late finishing it. I hope this gets nominated for an award.
Sucker Punch (hard from Berkley) is Laurell K. Hamilton’s twenty-seventh tale of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. Ms Hamilton practically invented the genre of vampires and werewolves in an alternate world where they are part of the landscape. After the first ten, the tales added enough sex to edge into porn. This tale has no sex, but there is a lot of relationship talk that wasn’t necessary. Anita has been called to a small Michigan town where another U. S. Martial has a problem with a warrant of execution against a wereleopard thought to have killed his uncle. The guy is locked in jail, but the Marshal thinks that the execution would be murder, especially if the young man was framed for the murder. The uncle was very rich, with relatives eager for their share of the fortune. Of course the judge who issued the writ, will only extend the writ for a few hours. Anita’s friends and friend-enemies somehow make it to add their comments. This is a minor addition to a fun long-running series and a must for fans of the series.
Modern Earths with magic can create horrible murder weapons. A musical super-star is murdered at her ranch by a spell of death and decay that attacks like a disease and contaminates the area it infects. Nell Ingram is one of the agents of  PsyLED sent to investigate and has an ability to work with nature to make things grow. Faith Hunter’s tale of Spells for the Dead (paper from ACE) is a solid police procedural in which the PsyLED agents not only have to discover who was responsible, but also the motive and the real intended victim. They also have to discover how to stop and eventually contain the contamination. Lots of fun.
Jon Hayes is merely Bystander 27 (paper from Angry Robot) when his pregnant wife is killed during a fight between  Captain Light and the Jade Shade. He can’t let well enough alone, slowly realizing how inane his world’s logic is. Villains somehow have access to super science to commit stupid crimes. Damage is cleaned up the next day. He even visits the Jade Shade, only to discover an empty space instead of a jail. Stealing weapons from minor villains, he plans to confront Captian Light at the ceremony honoring him to help discover why his world is so caught up in super hero battles. While the solution is a bit odd, Rik Hoskin tells an exciting and centered tale of a Navy Seal veteran using all his skills to probe the impossible. Lots of fun.
According to Michael Swanwick, the late Gardner Dozois, one time editor of Asimov’s have been working on a tale of a low tech society living next to City Under the Stars (paper from Macmillan), city whose inhabitants have reached the ultimate and dissapeared. Hanson is a coal shoveler whose has gotten too old for his job and murders his foreman. A series of events gets him inside the locked city with the ability to open it. Tortured to reveal what secrets he knows, he eventually leads an expedition inside the strange city. I can see why it took so long to write, but there is an awkward feel to this strange tale, but this is the last writing of the brilliant Gardner Dozois and is well worth a read.
In the second half of Anthony Ryan’s tale of Vaelin Al Sorna who has gotten himself caught in a fantasy version of the Chinese Mongol invasian, Vaelin has to battle the The Black Song (hard from ACE) within him, a spirit that gives him advance warning of sword blows, but sometimes turns him into a berserker unable to distinguish between friend and foe.  His alternate with the same power has turned himself into a god, sacking cities and, with magic, turning most of his foes into wariors who worship him. Since the new emperor of China has been pushed out of the continent into the nearby islands, the exciting battles at the end are fought at sea. Very exciting.
I almost didn’t include Karen Osborne’s exciting tale about the Architects of Memory (hard from TOR) because the two heroines end up is such a horrible position. But this is the first of an exciting series. So that more is coming. This is a tale of a future where indentured people are treated like slaves and huge corporations barely interupt their war in the face of an alien invasion that destroyed many colonies. Twenty-five is a small scavenger ship working in a battlefield where a weapon was discovered that forced the aliens away.  Ash Jackson had been an indentured miner and is hiding the fact that she is dying of a disease caused by mining. Now she is hoping that getting citizenship will allow her to be treated. The aliens are truly weird and different than anything I’ve seen before. The twists come fast and nothing is as expected. I wish the tale had paused at a happier note, because I hate waiting to see ihow Ash and her captain Kate survive.   
Steven Brust has spent most of his career writing about the world of the  Dragaeran Empire. Most of these are about the adventures of a assassin, Vlad Taltos whose life is short compared to that of the Dragaeran’s who can live for thousands of years. As a lark he created a series of prequels based roughly on Dumas’s tales of the Three Musketeers (all five books) and set before the lose of the magical orb, caused the empire to lose most of it’s magic. His latest The Baron of Magister Valley (hard from Tor) is based on another Dumas work about an falsely imprisoned Noble who manages an impossible escape and finds a way to get his revenge. It mainly is set in the interregnum period between the loss of the orb and its recovery.  Like the others the style, is purposely awkward, but I find it funny and the series worth reading.  
Carrie Vaughn has a second short tale of The Heirs of Locksley (paper from Tor), the children of Robin Hood. The tale takes place during the second crowning of thirteen-year-old King Henry III and somehow involves Mary, the eldest, winning an archery contest and saving her betrothed’s life. John, the second child, sneaks into the King’s chamber to teach the boy how to climb a tree and somehow uncovers a plot. Light fun.
Arcane America surmises that Haley’s comet in 1759 brought with it a return of magic. Before that Ben Franklin had become The Caller of Lightning (hard from Baen) because of the special metal in the key which was also found in the Liberty Bell. Peter J. Wacks and Eytan Kollin have fun with Ben Franklin’s investigation into magic in both Philadelphia and London. He encounters magical societies, but also an immortal man who has spurred these societies over the ages, and a plot to use the Bell when the comet was directly over head, to create more immortals. Light fun.
    Outland Entertainment has an anthology from Neverland's Library edited by  Roger Bellini, Tim Marquitz, & Rebecca Lovatt in trade.   Baen books has an anthology Give Me Libertycon (trade and edited by Christopher Woods and T. K. F. Weisskopf) with new tales by  baen authors who are celebrating the Chattanooga convention.
    Paper reprints from Baen include Charles E. Gannon’s Marque of Caine, the fifth of that fun series; David Drake’s RCN tale, To Clear Away the Shadows; and D. J. Butler’s Witchy Kingdom.
    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.