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Science Fiction for October 2023

by Henry L Lazarus

Sixty years ago Science Fiction and Fantasy were mainly found in magazines like Analog and Galaxy. Paperback novels were frequently stitched short stories that had appeared first in those magazines.

Howard Andrew Jones’s second group of linked stories which continues the tale of Hanuvar trying to rescue his people in an alternate post-Punic-Wars with magic and monsters. The City of Marble and Blood (hard from Baen) . has two arcs. An explosion of a magical energy leaves Hanuvar a teenager, making it easier to hide, but with magical consequences that could kill him. The other is a string of baby murders linked to a symbol associated with his daughter. This is a wonderful and dark series that I hope finds its way to some awards. While it would make a great streaming series, the heavy references to slavery, which while true to the era,  doesn’t fit current liberal thinking. 

Benedict Jacka starts another series in which magic comes from wells and drucrafting  is a hidden part of our modern world. Stephen Oakwood knows nothing of that despite An Inheritance of Magic (paper from ACE . His mother left him at age one, and his father, after teaching him the basics of drucraft, disappeared when he turned eighteen. He had made two sigils of light that were little better than flashlights, but earned money at basic jobs available to high school graduates. Then relatives he had never met dragged him into their squabble, almost killing him.  Then when he used his sigils to escape their kidnapping attempt, brought his pet cat close to death. He had to learn drucraft quickly. His only advantage is his rare gift to actually see the essence of magic. I can’t wait for the adventure to continue. 

Balthazar was originally the son of the governor, and would have inherited the position except most of his family was slaughtered when the population blamed them for really bad weather. Thai is a world that, according to Greta Kelly, worships Greek-like gods, which  most of the population  no longer believes in. Balthazar, whose gang  of friends and family specializes in difficult thefts. He has been hired to steal an idol of the god of the sea before it is consecrated. One requirement is he works with  another thief, The Queen of Days (hard from Harper Voyager). He doesn’t know that the ‘gods’ come from another universe with strong magical powers and if the god of the seas makes it to his world, his city is doomed. Fun And exciting. I would really appreciate a sequel. 

Brandon Sanderson tells of two worlds with the same language. One is dark, covered by a shroud of mist out of mist. The other is filled with light with floating plants. Yumi and the Nightmare Painter (hard from Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC) should never have met. Painter is one of many protecting his city from the nightmares that crawl out of the mist by painting the nightmare into something safe, like bamboo. Yuni stacks rocks to attract spirits who are then used to create tools for local villages. One day a spirit asks her for help, and then finds herself a spirit while Painter occupies her body. The reverse is true when they sleep. Painter is a ghost in his own world, but  Yuni retains her own body. Eventually Painter’s city is threatened by nightmares, while scientists with a machine promise to replace priestesses and instead destroy the spirits. Fun and interesting. 

In Eden, Kentucky, a small coal mining town, the Starling House (hard from Tor) is the place no one talks about.  It has power without being connected to the grid, and its various owners meet early deaths. According to Alix E. Harrow, Opal dreams about it. Born and raised in the town, she’s been taking care of her sixteen-year-old brother. The person who had built the house, a century before, was famous for Underland, a horrifying gothic fantasy about monsters below the Earth. Because of her dreams Opal gets a job cleaning the house from its current occupant, Arthur Sterling. Representatives from the local company, who somehow can’t get inside, use her as a spy, but eventually she learns the truth about the horrifying house. Fascinating. 

Aliette de Bodard has a novel set in her far future Xuya universe filled with habitats, mindships and lots of bots and based on Vietnamese culture. This tale takes place in the Scattered Pearls Belt that was recovering from a rebellion a decade before. Quỳnh was railroaded to execution by being thrown into space by friends who were proving their  willingness to sacrifice a friend to gain power. She survived with the help of a mindship, also damaged in the rebellion. Her friends have become the military governor of the Belt and its prefect. Quỳnh, out of A Fire Born of Exile (ebook from JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.), is out for revenge, But the help she gets from her friend's daughter Minh,  the sister of lost friend, Hoà a repair person,and a sabotaged mindship ruined for political reasons, finds her looking for justice instead, Earlier shorter parts of this series have won the Nebula and I can see this easily on some award lists. 

K. J. Parker (Tom Holt) tells of a man hiding from multiple bounty hunters. Saevus Corax Deals With the Dead (paper from Orbit) as a way of hiding. His company cleans up battlefields stripping and burning the corpses,  healing and selling both the survivors and all the weapons. Then His past catches up with him an he is forced to be come king of a country with most of the gold in the world. Unfortunately two giant banks are fighting for that gold, and threaten world war. There’s also the problem that his father, not the current king who is dying, wants him dead for killing his brother. Saevus has to somehow connive his way to freedom while saving his company and himself. It’s hard to read without a grin. Luckily two more adventures are coming soon. Highly recommended. 

Mike Lucifer,Spiritual Consultant, left town when his partner died. Coming back to find magical objects to hawk, he finds a dame looking for his help in determining whether a coworker is possessed. Both work for an Apple like company whose founder died young.  Unfortunately it’s a case of All Souls Lost (ebook fromJABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.) as the programmers committed suicide. Dan Moren uses classical tropes well in this tale of a burnt-out detective facing a huge company with a horrifying secret that only Mike can stop. I really enjoyed this tale and hope it is the first of a series. 

A. J. Ryan (Anthony Ryan) has a terrifying tale of a mercenary group Red River Seven (paper from Orbit) who wake with no memory find themselves heading up the Thames towards a London afflicted with a horrifying disease. Not only that, but recovering their memory will turn them mad. This suicide mission is impossible to put down, and gave me nightmares. 

According to Phoebe Wagner, there is a dark world filled with vampires, werewolves, fey, and witches. Juniper (gin) was introduced to this world when as a college freshman she went to a party in the All Saints Casino in Reno, only to get bitten by a vampire, That’s when she discovered her blood was hateful to Vampires, over the next two years, living in the casino, she learned she was also  immune to werewolves and started developing super powers that let her jump high, run fast, and heal fast. A Shot of Gin (ebook from The Parliament House) starts when a zombie (thought to be extinct) attacks the casino. Eventually, in the Nevada desert, she discovers her real father and what she really is. Unfortunately her real father is attacking the casino and only she can stop him. Lots of fun and a solid basis for a series. 

The seventeenth century was filled with burnings, mostly of innocent women.  Chelsea Iversen tells of  The Witches at the End of the World (paper from Sourcebooks Landmark), two witches whose mother had been burned at the stake in a small village in Norway. When their grandmother, who raised them in a hidden cabin deep in the woods, dies Kaijs decides to go back to the village and live a normal lfe by forsaking her witchcraft. Minns, hower\ver is filled with rage and curses the village, not knowing her sister was heading there. This is a tslr of disaster and love. It is intense and essentially tragic. Recommended. 

Glynn Stewart tells the tale of Kiera Alexander, Queen of Mars on a interstellar liner seeking an eligible bachelor as consort. Barry Carpentier who becomes  Mage-Queen's Thief (ebook from Faolan's Pen Publishing) is only on the liner to steal a specialized shuttle. Of course they end up on the shuttle facing multiple enemies and have to work together to survive. I think it should have been  longer. 

Jane Lindskold concludes the tale of three retired women in a book club who were brought to the world they call Over Where to find the  Library of the Sapphire Wind (paper). The world has strange creatures and people with animal heads. The small group of people, now called the House of Rough Diamonds (hard from Baen) has to thwart treasure hunters while restoring the Library to full use. This is a nice conclusion to the series. 

Ed McDonald continues the tale of Raine, a young woman who can see into the sixth gate of death. As an apprentice Draoihn, she has managed to evoke the magic of the first gate and is training for her final testing. Her mentor Ulovar is sick with a magical disease. The king is getting older and his heir is out of the country prompting the various lords to start contesting for the crown. One of her friends, Ovitus, has somehow managed to reach the second and third gates and is engaged to marry the princess heir to the neighboring kingdom, But Ovitus has cheated by working for the Traitor of Redwinter (Hard from Tor) and only the headmistress of  Redwinter and the knowledge Raine finds in an ancient book can save her country and her world. This is a fun series and I look forward to the conclusion of the series.

When Seanan McGuire told the story of how October Daye could Sleep No More (hard) after losing her memories to Titania in her attempt to remake the fey lands around San Francisco, fans might have wondered what Tybalt, King of Cats, and October's new husband was doing The Innocent Sleep (hard from DAW). Now we know. This is a must read for fans of the series. 

Tor is reprinting Vernor Vinge's Hugo winning A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY  as part of their Tor Essentials collection with a new introduction by Jo Walton. 

Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell have a collection of heroes who have No Game for Knights in paper and there is a 25th Anniversary Edition of More Than Honor with stories edited by David Weber,, David Drake, and , S. M. Stirling for the first time in hardcover. Both books are from Baen. 

Baen has reprinted in paper Dan Koboldt’s fun tale of Deploying Dragons

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.