Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                HOME
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Science Fiction for September 2020
by Henry L Lazarus
    When background, characters, and plot all merge successfully, Fantasy and Science Fiction soar.
Christopher Paolini’s venture into  science fiction is a gloriously wonderful space opera. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (hard from Tor) tells the tale of exobiologist  Kira Navarez. She is part of a team certifying a moon as safe for colonization three centuries from now when humanity hadn’t discovered other alien species, and only found ancient ruins of a previous civilization. Kira literally falls into a hole, and discovers the burying place of a nanotech symbiote that promptly attaches to her.  A human warship shows up and promptly arrests her. Then aliens humans call Jellies attack and she barely leaves the system in a lifeboat. Months later she arrives in another star system to discover it under attack.  Rescued by the Wallfish, a ship with a crew that doesn’t ever fit in (think Firefly), she and the crew are soon in hot water. The skin suit bonded to her, whose name, she discovers in dreams, is Soft Blade, suggests a world of ancient technology that might have a weapon to save humanity. From there everything gets more complicated and the Wallfish face not only human authorities, a rebel Jelly group, and  corrupted aliens fighting both. What makes the tale work so well is the well defined background, the nuts and bolts of a universe that feels real. I hope this wins some awards.
Natalie Zina Walschots takes a look at being a Hench (hard from William Morrow) in a world of Supers. Anna Tromedlov is a data processor. When working for Eel, she ends up in the field and is almost killed by Supercollider. Recovering from her injuries, she starts figuring the cost of superhero rescues, starts a website, and then is hired by the super villain Leviathon to ruin the lives of superheroes through social media. The techniques she uses, unfortunately, could be used on any celebrity and are truly horrifying in their consequences. Part office politics, part comic heroics, this is an amazing tale and an author to watch.
Khidr is a coast guard like space ship with a crew of twenty-five.  Under Fearless (hard from Flame Tree Press) Captain Ellisa Shann it patrols space between Earth and Mars to assist ships in problems. The problems start when a a distress call from the freighter Hercules is suddenly cut off. Then sabotage kills a technician under the 5 G burn to reach the freighter. That’s when everything goes wrong. The Khidr is soon fighting for its life and the life of its crew because of politics Captain Shann never heard of. Allen Stroud tells a hard sf tale with white knuckle stress that doesn’t let up till the end.  I want more.
Griffin Barber and Kacey Ezell start a fun future P I series. Humanity has scattered after aiding the Monitors in a galactic war that got Earth destroyed. On Last Stop Station, Ralston Muck works as a bouncer. He lost his A. I. angel that controlled his modifications when he was framed for war crimes. Siren, a singer at the club, is kidnaped and her Angel separated. Angel should have died but instead finds her way to Ralston who has a Second Chance Angel (hard from Blackstone Publishing) . Together in one body they start looking for Siren, finding treachery on Last Stop Station. On another world they barely survive the destruction of their ship, only to discover a major corporation doing something illegal. Lots of fun and I’m looking forward to future adventures.
D. J. Butler has a fun tale of two rogues on a world with a thousand races of humanity. In the ancient city of Kish, a large policy on the life of Ilsa without Peer. Ilsa is an ugly opera singer with a combination of  pheromones and magical voice that can enchant an audience and make individuals very suggestive. Indrajit, a bard who has memorized his people’s epic but can’t read, and Fix, who digs for knowledge, have been hired as secondary protection of the singer, only save her life on the stage In the Palace of Shadow and Joy(trade from Baen). Multiple attacks follow. There’s a weave of treachery so deep, that Indrajit and Fix can’t go more than a few chapters without facing impossible odds. Light fun with future adventures promised.
On the colony on Europa a robot, 812-3, killed a human and was convicted of murder. Aiya Ritsehrer, a lawyer, meets the bot and decides that even An Unnatural Life (paper from Tor.com), especially since the human prisoners want to kill the bot. This is a dark gray tale with a lot of moral ambiguity. Interesting.
David Mack tells of the hidden Magickal past. Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullet were magickally designed to break the wards protecting John Kennedy. The Shadow Commission (hard from Tor)  behind the assassination is also attacking other mages including Cade and Anja who have worked together since World War II. Soon their friends and students are dying. Magick works by invoking demons to give super powers, and the tale is filled with super fights in which our heroes barely survive. Lots of light fun.
Jeff Wheeler left Bingmei on a quest to the Phoenix Shrine where she is supposed to die. In the final book of The Grave Kingdom, she learns that death is not final and she learns some of The Immortal Words (paper from 47 North) that will help her defeat the immortal dragons and bring resolution back into her world. Very exciting and a solid ending to the series.
Emma Bellamy is doing rotations through various police departments in order to become a detective. Then, when assigned to the Supernatural Squad that mediates between London’s werewolves, vampires, and other creatures, she is murdered. She discovers she is Brimstone Bound (ebook) and not quite human when she comes back to life. Then her partner is murdered.   Helen Harper has a nice mystery tale and a promise of future cases. Fun.
    CAEZIK SF & Fantasy has a collection of new tales And the Last Trump Shall Sound in paper from Harry Turtledove, James Morrow, and Cat Rambo about a future Pence presidency after the Donald finishes his next term.  Travis S. Taylor, Timothy Zahn, Michael Z. Williamson, Kacey Ezell, and Josh Hayes have short tales based on Battle Luna (hard from Baen); Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell have collected Noir Fatale (paper from Baen) tales; and Tom Kratman has tales from others set in his Terra Nova (paper from Baen) universe.
    A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (Tor) has won the Hugo award.     
    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.