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Science Fiction for April 2023

by Henry L Lazarus

March was such a dreary month with blizzards in California, bank failures, and an unending war in Ukraine. I need fun Fantasy and Science Fiction to recover.

Robert E. Hampson wanted to study Bionics because of The Six Million Dollar Man tv show, and he is an expert in fields related to cyborg technology. His version is set twenty years from now when flight surgeon Glenn Armstrong Shepard is injured rescuing a pilot on Lunar training grounds. The Moon and the Desert  (paper from Baen) shows the same complications of adapting to artificial limbs as the pilot of the original show, but the technology represents modern science far more advanced than what the 1970’s could conceive. The main situation he is needed for is problems on the ship returning with expedition members from Mars. Glenn’s bionics allow him to survive heavy G forces needed to get supplies to the endangered ship, and his medical skills are needed to cure the disease killing the crew. Light fun. 

Patrick Dugan has a fun heist tale set after magical creatures left  Earth. The elite, of course, are Dragons . The main rule is Never Steal from Dragons (ebook fromDistracted Dragon Press) . Gelsey, a pixie, has no choice. A dragon wants a team of thieves to do an impossible heist and steal back a formula for making gold from a rival Dragon clan.  Along for the ride are a grifter Silai who can mimic others; Kelthar, a mage slowly drinking himself to death; Nyx, a hacker who is in prison; Aikila a smuggler with a grudge about Dragons; and Lorcan, a mercenary fighter trying to earn enough money to help his sick daughter.  Together they attempted  an  impossible heist, but the dragon was lying to them. Great introduction to a fun universe and fun characters. 

Daniel M. Ford starts an excellent series about Aelis de Lenti, fourth daughter of a noble house, who is a newly graduated Magister of the Lyceum, She is assigned as The Warden (hard from Tor) to Lone Pine, a remote border village, whose inhabitants are afraid of her. As she tries to help the village, complications happen with a troupe of adventurers, a pile of cursed gold, and a murder attempt by one brother against another. In the badlands a, there's a gang of brigands under the control of a witch who has warped their minds. If that weren’t enough, there's real evil left from the war that she will have to deal with in the next book. Very enjoyable. I look forward to her next adventure. 

Glynn Stewart starts a fun tale of an impossible quest set in a universe of bubble worlds floating in the Aether. Cat Greentrees loses his command of an elven Nine Sailed Star (ebook from Faolan's Pen Publishing) ship when he decides to bring word of Dragons aiding the Gobvar instead of having his ship destroyed by said dragons. Archmage Armand Bluestaves has a vision of Dragons conquering the known universe. He hires Cat Greentrees to captain an Aether ship, as well as a Gobvar crew headed by Shamon Brushfire Hammerhead who had lost their last ship because of prejudice against Gobvar who had fled  the Gobvar empire. Together they have to float on the Aether to find another ship that can sail in areas lacking both air and Aether. Lots of fun and I am waiting eagerly for part 2. 

Evelyn Skye novelizes a forthcoming movie from Netflix, which is an exciting survival tale about a Damsel (hard from Random House Worlds) in distress. Elodie, a princess from the dry island of Inophe, is betrothed to a prince from the wealthy island of Aurea. It’s an exciting time  for her  traveling and preparing, but she doesn’t know that after her wedding, she will be sent into a Dragon’s lair, one of three princesses per year that the Dragon demands. What follows is a tale of survival, as Elodie navigates the maze surrounding the Lsir, hunted by the Dragon, and guided by words scratched into the walls by previous victims of eight centuries of girls like her eaten by the Dragon. Lots of fun. I hope the movie is as good. 

In the war between  the Csteli and the much larger Levastani Army, the Csteli have created magical exo-skeletons that turn their dedicated children into The Iron Children (ebook from Rebellion Publishing Ltd). Led by nuns whose souls have been downloaded into the mechanical body of the Sor. Asher is in training to become one of these Sor commanders. Her commander is wounded badly enough to be returned for repair, leaving her in charge. An earthquake throws a small platoon into disarray, making them vulnerable to the  traitor dedicate among them.  Rebecca Fraimow tells an intense war tale on a strange world. Recommended.

Kate Elliott’s tales of  Unconquerable Sun, the heir to Eirene, Queen Marshal of the Chaonia Republic are great beach books. Very exciting at times, with enough breaks in the action to let the reader get a great tan. The second tale,Furious Heaven (hard from TOR) puts Sun in charge of the Chaonian Navy and she takes desperate chances as she fights the Phene Empire, with its four handed citizens. Her companions are in the thick of fighting. They find partners in love ,some are kidnapped, and others avoid assassination. This is a long read and fun. 

Steven Brust has been telling early tales of Vlad Taltos fro the time before he married Cawti, and was a minor gangster in the Dragaeran Empire.  Vlad’s business involves minor crime like loansharking, gambling, abd prostitution houses When a Tsalmoth (hard from Tor) is assassinated owing him 800 imperials. Vlad can’t stop trying to get his money back which leads him to odd plans, mostly involving an ex-princess of the Tsalmoth clan. This is a sold example of the gangster fantasy that Mr. Bruist excels. It’s a good entry to the series, taking place before other tales. Warning. It’s impossible not to get hooked.

One of the problems of traveling on slower than light starships is that so much time passes Earth that the traveler might return to an absolute disaster. That’s what happens to Colin Alexander’s Leif Grettison. Because of relativistic travel and hibernation a hundred and fifty years have seen civilization collapse. Because machines killed billions after they were infected with viruses, the mostly empty Earth has receded toWorld War I technology and there are still wars. Lief, The Lucky Starman (paper from Alton Kremer) finds that his military training from a previous war. Even though he had sworn never to fight again. Lots of fun and a set up toi the next tale. 

Sylvain Neuvel completes her tale of aliens whose children are clones and who have been working for fourteen thousand years to raise humanity to the stars. In 1999, Aster was twelve, and had just  lost her foster father. She doesn’t know about the mothers who lived before her or about their work in creating the Space Race. Unfortunately a blood test reveals her alien nature and she is forced on the run from the US Army, her only ally is the tracker who murdered her Mother and has to work For the First Time, Again (hard from Tordotcom). Unfortunately he had activated a signal device to alert their people that Earth is habitable. He had turned it off after a week, but they could still come. Somehow they have to get the device off Earth before the Aliens come looking. This is a great ending to a tale based on the very real history of space exploration. The series is highly recommended. 

Charlie N. Holmberg continues her tale of Merritt Fernsby who had inherited the haunted Whimbrel House near Boston in a version of 1846  where magic is becoming diluted. Hulda Larkin, who works for the Boston Institute for the Keeper of Enchanted Rooms (paper) also known as Biker. They had faced a wizard who could absorb powers from other magicians and in the process the spirit haunting Whimbrel House is now in a dog. Unfortunately the London office has sent people to investigate the disappearance of the Head of Biker and missing money. Merritt, as Heir of Uncertain Magic(paper from 47North) is trying to control his new found magical powers, and Hulda is facing the committee from London with evil intentions. Light, romantic  fun, and another is promised. 

Charles E. Gannon continues his tale of Druadaen who was exiled from his home because of his discoveries in This Broken World (paper). Sent to a tower with a magical mirror, he elects to pass through the mirror Into the Vortex  (hard from Baen) not knowing he would be dumped naked into another world. His friends, with the help of a magical ring, travel to another possible gat, all the while dealing with bar fights, shipwrecks, and buried cities. Everything will all come together in the next book. , 

Lara Wray tells of Laurel-Leah Fields, who doesn’t know her memory was wiped, and her magic blocked  at age 10. She’s working as a waitress when her magic is unblocked and she is immediately attacked for her magic. Surviving that, she is sent to another world where she has to pass a series of trials to get into Alius Academy (ebook from BooksGoSocial ). This is a nice introduction to this world \, but unfortunately just stops suddenly,. I’m waiting for the sequel to find out how she does on the final test. 

Baen has reprinted in paper Scout's Progress , an early Liaden Universe tale from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and Jane Lindskold’s tale of three older women sent to the

Library of the Sapphire Wind on another world. 

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.