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Science Fiction for August 2023

by Henry L Lazarus

Creating culture is a fun part of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Talented writers can delve the past or create future cultures that are totally different than what we live with.
Howard Andrew Jones has a fun fantasy set in a period just after the Punic wars.
Hanuvar, last and greatest general of Volanus and Lord of a Shattered Land (hard from Baen) barely escaped the destruction of his city on a wounded flying serpent. The Dervan Empire, like our Roman empire enslaved the survivors, and Hanuvar wants to rescue as many as he can. Unfortunately wizards have brought monsters to his  world, and rescuing his people involves fighting them. This is a fascinating, absorbing, and episodic tale that enthralled me. I hope this finds its way to an award list.

Ann Christy has a very unusual apocalyptic tale. Coco Wells wakes up in Manhattan to find out that most living things are caught up in time links, where they repeat the same minions over and over. T first living in The Never-Ending End of the World (hard from Campfire Publishing LLC) she thinks she is the only survivor. Eventually venturing out of the city, she finds others and the beginnings of settlements. The tale follows two generations of people, who eventually discover the cause and a possible solution, but others are willing to go to great lengths to stop them. Fascinating. I hope this finds its way onto some award list, 

Aurora “Rory”  Quinn has been raised by her treasure-hunting Grandmother ever since her mother died in childbirth and her father went mad. At almost eighteen, she decides to help her Grandmother on an easy task to help an old friend. One of his grandsons has stolen a rock reputed to open a gate to Hell. He works with a Black Rock band determined to open the door to advertise their second album. Since they are posting pictures of their trip to a dormant volcano in  a remote part of Iceland, the adventure promises to be tame. That is until a car drives them off the road and shoots at them with arrows. Paula Stokes tells an exciting tale that includes very real demon spirits that possess people. The Hellfinder (paper from Fitzroy Books) is quite real and there is a whole, ruthless society devoted to sealing up cracks to the demon dimension. I really enjoyed this tale, and would love further Rory adventures.

In our world, according to Wole Talabi, gods have organized corporations to maximize prayer energy.  Shigidi is an ugly nightmare god in a boring job until he meets Nneoma, an ancient succubus makes him handsome. Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon is a heist tale in which Shigidi and Nneoma have to rob the British Museum of a magical  relic to get free of a powerful god. The heist is, of course, impossible and lots of fun. I look forward to more adventures. 

Our hero wakes with amnesia and only the half burnt pages of The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England (hard from Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC) to guide him. He does have medical nanites to protect him because he comes from a future which has discovered how to move to alternate timelines. As he slowly discovers his memories, he discovers he really wasn’t a hero in his own time, but this new world is in danger from the people from his time because of the magic inherent in the world. He has to discover the true hero inside him. This is one of the books that Brandon Sanderson wrote during Covid, and it’s fun. 

Aparna Verma tells of a kingdom created by a fire goddess, whose rulers have the ability to manipulate fire. It’s facing an assassin cult, and another kingdom that has already conquered one of its neighbors, and the potential rise fo a seventh prophet. The last prophet, two centuries before, almost destroyed The Ravani kingdom. Elena Aadya is due to take the rule from her father,The Phoenix King (paper from Orbit) on her twenty-fifth birthday. Yassen Knight is an assassin on the run from his guild who is assigned to guard her. This is an exciting beginning to a fun, and unusual trilogy, and I'm eager for part 2.

I was very excited to learn of a new tale by Jacqueline Carey set in the same world as the excellent Kushiel's Dart (paper) which I read twice. Cassiel's Servant (hard from TOR)  is exactly the same tale, told from the viewpoint of Joscelin, her Cassiline warrior-priest and protector, which leaves out a lot of the bondage sex. There is new information, because the two were separated a few times, but I think the original is still better. 

The two-author team,Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms,  writing as M. A. Carrick conclude their tale of an imaginary Italian renaissance city-state of Nadežra which is filled with various cultures that rarely get along, Ren, who was introduced in The Mask of Mirrors (paper) as a scam artist pretending to be nobility, has become more settled in her life. Then the woman, who she had robbed and claimed as her mother, comes to the city, blackmailing Ren by threatening to give her secret away.  While as the black Rose she still has to save her city, even against a civil war, the balancing act has become very difficult. Eventually she has to navigate into the dream world and navigate to Labyrinth's Heart (paper from Orbit)  to calm the city and solve its basic problems. I really enjoyed this series. 

Cat Rambo continues her tale of the crew of the bioship You Sexy Thing (paper). Most of them worked at a restaurant owned by Niko Larson, former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, and had followed her into exile. Then a Pirate attack on their station sent them to the pirate that they may have destroyed. Apparently, the pirate king not only survived, but is after them. Their only hope is an ancient weapon called Devil's Gun (hard from Tor) that exists on an ancient and very dead space moth, that can only be boarded with a Paladin. This is a quirky tale filled with quirky human and alien characters, including the bioship. Lots of fun with more adventures to come. 

Lilith Saintcrow concludes her quest tale of Nat Drozdova, who thought she was human and found she was the daughter of the goddess of spring. First she has to find Spring's Arcana (paper), which her mother had hidden all over the country. Then, finally she must locate the Dead God’s Heart. The trail leads to The Salt-Black Tree (hard from Tor)  near New Orleans that she has to ride a giant snake to get to. Like all good quest tales, there is a twist. The full tale is marvelously lush,   showing a side of modern America filled with Gods and Goddesses that most of us would never recognize. 

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller return to Tinsori Light station now firmly in the Liaden Universe and belonging  to Clan Korval by Salvage Right  (hard from Baen). Two l light keepers had been keeping the mad AI running the station at bay for centuries. Now others come  to fix the station and deal with its complicated problems. Among them are familiar figures from previous Liaden books. It’s fun to see people dealing with complicated problems like restoring destroyed areas, and dealing with mechanical birds that suddenly appear. There’s also the  Lyre Institute which has agents in place to capture the station.This is a heartwarming tale and the twenty-fifth addition to the long running series.  

T. Kingfisher tells a nice variation of Sleeping Beauty and the fairy guarding the Thornhedge (ebook from Tor). Toadling was stolen by fairies as a child, raised with pond monsters, and sent with the magic of the curse to the tower whenSleeping Beauty is born. She can turn into a toad. The knight is a second son on his own and not very good at knightly deeds. And sleeping Beauty is not what the stories tell. A very nice novelette.

Glynn Stewart has a fun short about a superhero, Blue Lancer (ebook from Faolan's Pen Publishing) at a bank without  his powered suit. When a teleporting villain takes the customers hostage and demands his presence, he is faced with an impossible problem. I want a novel with further adventures. 

The Hugo novel nominations for 2022 are: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi; Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy by Travis Baldree; Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir; and The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Baen has reprinted John Ringo’s fun tale of dealing with aliens by selling maple syrup, Live Free or Die as an ebook. 

Stephen Lawson has a collection of  new tales about Robosoldiers in paper from Baen and D.J. Butler has further adventures of Indrajit & Fix as they are Between Princesses and Other Jobs (hard from Baen)

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.