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Science Fiction for October 2021
by Henry L Lazarus

    I write these Fantasy and Science Fiction reviews a month ahead of time. The world has been changing so fast that sometimes that things are really different by the time these books hit the stores.
Gregory Benford has a potentially award winning tale of first contact a few centuries from now. Rachael Cohen becomes a trainee at the SETI library on the Moon. Signals from other civilizations were very plentiful, some of them AI beings that could be downloaded into computers and interrogated. Rachael proves very good at communicating with these Shadows of Eternity (hard from Gallery Books, Gallery / Saga Press), finding a way to save the solar system from heavy radiation from an ancient supernova. That brings a small ship of a flying species, the Ythri, through a worm hole that the Ythrians somehow have managed to lose. Their leader Fraq, quickly involves Rachael in a series of escapades out of her comfort level, including diving from orbit to Earth, and communicating with the Marsmat, intelligent vegetation deep in cavern under Mars. This is a wow of a tale that gets more exciting with each page. Highly recommended.
K. Eason tells a blow-away tale of high-tech magic in the far future. A generation before, during a major battle, one side opened a hole in the multiverse letting out brood monsters attacking planets for many light-years around the fault. The templars were formed to fight the Brood and stand Nightwatch on the Hinterlands (hard from DAW).  The tale starts with a zombie cyborg leftover from the war, a Riev. Even though programmed against violence, this one has murdered an artificer. Enter Templar Lieutenant Iari who likes to work with her counterpart Gaer,  an ambassador from the Vakari ( the beings who had created the warp in space) and probably a spy. There’s another artificer creating portals to the Bloom and subverting Riev programming. This is an edge-of-your-seat exciting tale set in a very unusual universe. I hope it finds its way to awards.
J.S. Kelley has a fun adventure for  Rosalind Featherstone, known as the Gutter Mage (hard from Gallery / Saga Press) because she doesn’t belong to any mage Guild. She had to drop out of the Mage college after her professor took advantage of her, not for xex, but for ritual that left her hands tattooed and gave her the ability to summon fire. Magic works by trapping spirits and has a nineteenth century technology level based on it. Roz and her partner handle problems for people, sometimes for barter. When a rich noble wants them to rescue his kidnaped baby, they jump at the chance. Unfortunately there is no baby, only a device to disrupt the spirits that make elevators work. Roz, faced with deceit and treachery, has to somehow save her kingdom. I read this with a smile on my face and hope for more adventures to come.
Alastair Reynolds returns to universe in which humanity is almost wiped out by alien devices designed to destroy civilizations. Miguel de Ruyter heads a small settlement hiding from these wolves, when a starship owned by a woman named glass kidnaps him. Apparently he has erased centuries of memories, and he is one of the keys to stopping the Inhibitor Phase (paper from Orbit). Special stones were supposed to be collected by Glass’s allies, but they were stolen. Stealing them back, while avoiding the wolves in the system, is especially difficult. In fact, everything in this quest tale is especially difficult. Interesting characters keep this edge-of-your-seat exciting tale from turning cartoonish. I had no trouble reading this without remembering previous books in the series.
Leda Foley decides to create a travel agency in this internet age. Then she directs one of her clients, police detective Grady Merritt, away from a plane crash because of her rarely used psychic talent. He decides to pull her into a dead murder case that’s been sitting for a year. Grave Reservations (hard from  Atria Books) is Cherie Priest’s venture into light mystery and I easily see it as a CW series. Lot’s of fun.                 
Alix E. Harrow has a tale of a mult-universe of Sleeping Beauties. A Spindle Splintered (ebook from Tordotcom) starts with Zinnia Gray who is dying of an industrial accident caused disease.. She is so fascinated with the sleeping beauty mythos, that she got a PHD in literature studying all the variations. Because of that her best friend got a spinning wheel to prick her finger on her twenty-first birthday. That sends her into a fantasy version of the tale (somehow her cell phone still works and connects her to her friend) where she helps that sleeping beauty confront the witch who cursed her. Properly funny and lots of fun.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr.  introduces us to an empathic world where abilities range from powerful empath to mistreated suggestibles. Steffan Dekkard is an Isolate (hard from TOR) unaffected by empaths. He works security for councilor Axel Obreduur who heads the Craft party. The other parties have become corrupt. The councilor has started training him for greater duties and he is falling from his security partner empath Avraal Ysella. This is a time of unrest as political rivals use assassination  as a tool, and his knife skills and protection from empathic attacks, allow him to save his employer.  I find L. E. Modesitt, Jr.  always fascinating but other readers might find this tale a bit dry. This is not his typical tale of magical power. More of the tale is coming next August and I personally can’t wait.
Derek Künsken continues his far future tale in which ancient star gates link solar systems, and some of humanity has been genetically modified. Belisarius finds himself in the middle of The Quantum War (paper from Rebellion Publishing Ltd). 145 Homo quantus were thought lost when their world was destroyed. Unfortunately the Congregate and locked them in a floating jail on their home planet of Venus. Despite being pacifists, they  are being modified to hook their brains to computers to pilot fighter space ships.  The only way  Belisarius can think to rescue them, is to let himself be captured and tortured. Very exciting, and I look forward to more.
    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.