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Science Fiction for June 2021
by Henry L Lazarus
    Totalitarian states occur frequently in Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’m more and more afraid that the US will soon become one.
Two centuries from now Neil Sharpson tells of an idylic world run by three AIs. Most of the population, including AIs, have uploaded to giant servers, The exception is the Caspian Republic where people live in dread of being accused of being a machine and taken out and shot. When the Sparrow Falls (hard from Tor) tells of state security agent Nikolai South who has spent his career trying not to be noticed. When a writer for the propaganda bulletin dies in a bar fight, his body shows signs of being the type of clone Ais use. The AI had lived in the Republic for two decades. For political reasons, the AI’s exwife, Lilly, is allowed to come to the republic and identify the dead AI from his writings and effects. That puts Agent South in the middle between the various internal agencies. In addition he and his partner were working on a case to find who had gotten the uploaded chips from people using this method to escape the Republic. Lily might be the person who was going to smuggle the chips out. This is a no win situation for someone just trying to survive. I hope this gets nominated for an award.
G R Matthews tells a fascinating tale of Seven Deaths of an Empire (hard from Solaris) and how they lead to disaster. The first death is of the Emperor who died with teenage heirs.  Helping to guard the body on its trip from the  invading  the northern lands is Apprentice Magician Kyron and his master. Trying to keep the empire together and protect the heirs against assassins is General Bordan. Kyron has to improve his magical abilities as the Company is attacked by Northern tribe warriors. Complicating measures for each is a powerful church. Intense and gripping.  
Stephen Aryan has a fun tale of The Coward (paper from Angry Robot). At 17 Kell Kressia joined a group of a dozen heroes headed to the far north to slay an Ice Lich who was bringing the cold south. He was the only survivor. A decade later, unrewarded for his actions, he’s been living a quiet life convinced he used up all his luck in his survival. The cold is coming back and his King wants him to go back. Of he’s going to take the money and run.  Somehow, instead, he acquires a motley crew and finds it impossible to quit. Opposed by the local church that send assassins and soldiers, and all the horrors of the far north, it is an impossible trek that brings out the hero in all his crew. Lots of fun.
Tasha Suri starts a fun tale of an unlikely connection of a princess and priestess. The Jasmine Throne (hard from Orbit) won its battle against the Ahranyi by the sacrifice of its elite women in a holy fire. The Ahranyi priests had dominated the continent before that with powers gained from dipping into hidden holy waters. Malini , sister to the current emperor, disappointed him by not letting herself be burned with her handmaidens. So he sent her off to be imprisoned in the old temple of the Ahranyi where she was kept drugged and out of contact. Priya and her brother escaped being burned with the rest of the priests. She had dipped in the holy waters only once and was hiding. Somehow she becomes the maid, and only servant to Malini while outside the temple a revolution has begun. This is a promising begining a fun series.
Carrie Vaughn has a fun tale of a future theme park with its own island. In Questland (paper from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books) visitors go on a generic fantasy quest in a place with real looking dragons and unicorns. Unfortunately a force field has sealed off the place. Literature professor Dr. Addie Cox, is recruited to help a group of mercenaries invade the island,  find the rogue employee (her ex-lover), and, of course, drop the force field. Lots of fun.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia has a short tale about The Return of the Sorceress (hard from Subterranean Press). Yalxi’s lover had stolen the jewel she used for power. The jewel contained the essence of the sorcerer who had trained them, and who they had been forced to kill to save their lives. Somehow she has to bring her lover to the swamp where the dead sorcerer lies and fight him. Too short.
Katherine Addison returns to the world of the award nominated The Goblin Emperor(paper) . Thara Celehar, The Witness for the Dead (hard from TOR), has the ability to read some memories from the dead. That enables the Prelate sometimes to answer inheritance problems, and sometimes to solve murders. In this tale he uncovers the murderer of an Opera Diva, helps find a man murdering his wives for their inheiritance, and goes up in the hills to end a ghoul. Very quiet and also fascinating.
Kim Harrison has a new addition to her tales of Rachel Morgan, a Million Dollar Demon (hard from Ace) trouble for the new  master vampire of Cincinnati who thinks that fear will help her control the city. Rachael is thousands of years younger than the older demons. If she had their powers, the confrontation would have been easy. Unfortunately, her demon allies are mad at her. Al even throws her into Alcatraz, a prison for witches. Somehow, of course, with a help of a potion that turns people into mice, Rachael prevails. Lots of fun, as usual.
Fans of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series will be excited to read the tale of how the people of the Duchy of  Valdemar excaped an evil empire to gate to a locations Beyond (hard from DAW) the borders.  Duke Kordas Valdemar, using the plans his grandparents created, has to somehow do the impossible before the erratic Emperor decides to grab everything in the duchy and throw its people into his latest war. This before the companion talking horses arrived, but there is a love for horses.  Fascinating.
    Tor has reprinted in hard cover the first half of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun; Shadow & Claw.
    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.