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Science Fiction for May 2023

by Henry L Lazarus

May is usually a month for publishers of Fantasy and Science Fiction to print major works. This May is no exception. 

Originally the southern tribes would bring demons from the Underearth to animate bodies of those of the tribe who were lost too early, allowing their memories to be recovered  Then the Hierarchs came along and destroyed the desert tribes as they did other peoples. Kalisteron, had inhabited the body of Enns when the war began and he was a part of the rebellion becoming known as Witch King ( hard fromTordotcom) After the establishment of the Rising World, Kai is kidnapped and trapped in water.  Martha Wells tells the exciting tale of his quest for answers and for his missing friend, while filling in the details of what happened during the rebellion.  Very exciting and sure to get major nominations. 

Justin Cronin tells of a group of isolated islands where the wealthier inhabitants get reincarnated. Proctor Bennett works as The Ferryman (hard from Ballantine Books) helping the aged and sick to the Nursery island  where their bodies will  be  reborn and their minds reset. The worker class live on the annex island and are born and die normally. One day, Proctor’s client is the man who mentored him (father) and at one point he whispers a mysterious word. That causes his whole life to go off his tracks, and at the same time the Annex is priming for rebellion. There is a nice puzzle behind this world of  the archipelago of Prospera, I suspect this will be on several award nominations. 

Megan E. O'Keefe has a future in which bodies can be printed and minds downloaded, but multiple copies of minds in different bodies causes insanity. Terraforming new planets has resulted in  The Blighted Stars (paper from Orbit), Unfortunately a shroud has destroyed life on terraformed planets , and has spread to Earth. Naira Sharp was a bodyguard for the Mercator family until she found out their mining efforts were responsible for the shroud and was part of a revolution against the family. Tarquin Mercator might have been heir to the family, but he was mainly a geologist trying to discover where the shroud came from. The answers may lie on the sixth, cradle. When their ship is attacked by another ship in their expedition and overwhelmed by misprinted bodies that attack in Zombie-like fashion, they and some of the crew manage to get to the surface in s shuttle. Survival is difficult on a world affected by the shroud, but there are misprints waiting to attack. Many of the answers lie on the surface, if Naira and Tarquin can work together. This is a puzzle piece of a tale, setting up a sequel that promises to solve the problem. Very exciting. 

Lynn Raven is so good at WarMonger 2050 that she earns extra money as a mercenary paid in real money that helps her and her  widowed mother survive on heer nursing salary. Then she is asked to beta test a new AR game that will send her Into the Real (paper from Baen) playing her game outside with special glasses that let her see the monsters she has to kill. When the game goes live, a massive prize is offered to the best team, so she has to work with her gamer high school friends who had no idea how good she was at War Monger.Lydia Sherrer and John Ringo follow Lynn’s fun  through the first competition, never letting her and her team know that they are fighting real monsters and the fate of Earth will rest on their young hands. I was really drooling over the hi-tech parts of this well defined future and wished I could buy them now. I can’t wait for part 2. 

Emma Törzs tells of two sisters, the last of the Kalotay family who guard a library of books that can be used to work magic.Joanna guards the collection, keeping the books from her mother who once tried to burn them. Esther has been told to keep moving every November, but you can’t do that while working on a base in Antarctica. Unlike her sister , she can’t work the magic of the books, but she can be attacked through mirrors at the base. What neither Ink Blood Sister Scribe (hard from William Morrow) know is that there is another, very wealthy library in England and the last scribe in the world, Nicholas, constantly has his blood drained to make the magical ink. Unfortunately Nicholas is on the run from a mad uncle.  Very intense tale and very enjoyable. This could  easily be nominated for some awards if people find it. 

Antonio Moro has moved from various  refugee camps to working odd jobs on  freighters  in a dark future. He finds himself on Thule near Antarctica  where he volunteers to fight the raiders from the league attacking the island. Thule is run by idealistic physicians who don’t understand fighting and the mercenary group Bronzewing has left after driving the first attack off.  Antonio has  talent for art despite being illiterate, and soon finds a job. With the raiders still sending missiles at the island, he needs an ally  and finds it in an independent AI, Par Augustus who is finding his way in understanding his very rare existence. Sue Burke’s excellent tale, Dual Memory (hard from Tor) tells how the two of them work together to save the island. Fascinating. 

Christopher Paolini has a simple tale of survival set in the same universe as his excellent To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (paper). Exobiologist Alex Crichton is mourning the death of his lover, when his survey ship discovers a planet with a hole in it emitting Fractal Noise (hard from TOR). The only way to observe the hole is to spend days walking to the edge pulling sledges. What follows reminded me of polar expedition tales. Very tense, but I couldn’t help wondering why the Survey ship couldn’t have merely sent a report so that a better equipped expedition could explore this strange discovery. 

Tim Akers writes of a world in which chaos is slowly dissolving order. Mages tie spirits into their souls to command powerful forces. Rae Kelthannis’s father was a stormbinder, able to keep storms away from the area he was protecting. Then Something happened and Rae’s family fled with a spirit sword. Rae wants to be a stormbinder like his father and, using his father’s texts and the spirit blade, hopes to induce an air spirit into his soul. Unfortunately using the sword, reveals it’s presence to an unkillable demon, who kills Rae’s parents and sends him and his sister on the run through the chaos that destroys his town. Rae, it turns out, is actually Wraithbound (paper from Baen) and has to learn to use his powers fast to help he and his sister survive. This is a violent first book of a trilogy with a unique background that I sometimes found confusing. 

Rylan Flynn can see, and sometimes talk to ghosts in her hometown of Ashby, Indiana.. One day a ghost leads her to a murder victim tied to a tree. Dawn Merriman’s tale of The Spirit Girls (ebook from Second Sky) is a nice, solid, mystery that follows a predictable path. Fun.

Lilith Saintcrow starts a tale of Spring's Arcana (paper from Tor) in which Nat Drozdova has to find a hidden jewel to save her dying mother. To find it she has to work with the divinities behind our world. She has to work with Dimi, the god of thieves, who was assigned to her by Baba Yaga, the goddess of winter. Nat was raised as human and is overwhelmed by the strange new world she really belongs in. There are four magical objects that have to be found first, and this half of a fun tale let only find a few. Interesting. 

Eidyn may have locked up the necromancer and demon-raising Mynygogg in his castle  but it still seems like The Lost War (paper from Orbit) continues with demons wrecking the countryside and a zombie-like disease inflicting  the country-side. This is a world where mages are despised and have unique talents. Aranok is the first mage to be named King's Envoy, He is sent to release a foreign Queen to return to her county. He is given companions like a drunk general and an ex-pirate queen. Adding a young orphaned blacksmith and eventually a demon-killing knight and her monk confessor. Something is wrong with what they have been told and the whole journey is filled with traps. There is a twist at the end that sets up the second half that I can’t wait for. Justin Lee Anderson shows a lot of promise as a fantasy writer with interesting characters and a tale difficult to put down. 

For twenty years Charles Stross has been writing  about The Laundry Files which mixes classic spy tales with Lovecraftian horror. The first introduced the Laundry British spy agency and mixed Len Dighton’s The Ipcress File with Lovecraft for a fun walk throughThe Atrocity Archives (paper). The agency was trying to keep the eldritch horrors out of our world and they failed.Eve Starkey thought her boss, super villain, and technically husband, dead. Then he appears, a walking dead, grabbed something from his safe and disappears through the dreaming roads to the past.In 1816 (the year without a summer)  she is held in the village, a place modeled after the 1960’s tv show , The prisoner where she meets Dr.Frankenstein and has Regency Romance adventures. Season of Skulls (hard fromTordotcom) is a hoot and a must for fans of the series.   

Kira Demirci left Apollo with assassins on her tail because she had been a Prodigal (ebook from Faolan's Pen Publishing) ace pilot in the war against Brisingr. Now, as admiral to a large mercenary fleet, she learns that Brisingr has conquered Apollo. To take it back will take allies, and old friends working together. Glynn Stewart has a nice ending to the six book series. 

John Rast was a gamer who joined Knight Watch (paper) after killing a dragon that manifested into the real world and then saving the world from his best friend. Sometimes his job takes i\him to conventions where evil can manifest. This time he finds a zombie-creating sword and Valkyries determined to bring on Ragnarok.  These Valhellions (paper from Baen)  send him from Valhalla and back, erasing even his magical abilities. Lots of fun and properly silly. 

Larry Correia continues the tale of Protector Ashok Vadal who who drifted out to sea after nearly dying. He wakes on a frozen island where he is imprisoned in the Tower of Silence (hard from Baen). Luckily his jailors make the mistake of bringing him out of his cell, where he promptly escaped by killing most of the guards. Helped by a monk who believes he is an ancient king reborn, he has to find a way through the labyrinthian tunnels under the sea and fight a monster. His friends on the mainland are all in trouble and need rescuing. The series, now at four books, feels like it is  near completion. Compelling. 

Tachyon Publications has a two volume collection of The Essential Peter S. Beagle in hardcover. Mr. Beagle has been a major author since his publication of The Last Unicorn and these editions are a must for fans.

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.