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Science Fiction for December 2023

by Henry L Lazarus

Prophecy is at the heart of many  Fantasy and Science Fiction tales. The current War in Israel evokes many prophecies written twenty-five hundred  years ago that somehow fit today. I hope it’s just coincidence and not the war of the whole world against Israel predicted for the final days.
David Mealing concludes his shaggy god  Ascension Cycle trilogy with a resounding crash. I think it is a work  of genius. On another plane, the
Soul of the World(paper) can be manipulated by various gods who once were human. Vail, the goddess of Life and Regnant, the God of death, have a contest every thousand years with three champions . If Vail wins the Earth is lush and green. If the Regnant wins, people live in dark caves barely surviving. The first book introduced Sarine, a street artist with a magical lizard Zi who lets her draw strength from magic and Erris, a genius general whose magical powers let her link with aids around the battlefield. She’s been winning battles  for the new democracy, but running into a political storm. There’s also Tigai who not only can teleport, but restore himself after being wounded. Three previous champions have cheated, killing the new champions so they can win for Veil and keep the sun shining. To do so they have sapped the Blood of the Gods (paper) and have killed Vail. Sarine doesn’t realize that she is the new body for the goddess and is supposed to be replaced. In the final tale the Chains of the Earth (paper from Orbit) have to be broken in the plane of the Earth’s Soul with the help of other gods like the sun and the moon.I had to buy the second book and don’t regret it at all. Carissa Broadbent starts a tale set in a world ruled by flying vampires created by the goddess Nyaxia. Oraya doesn’t know why she was adopted by the Nightborn vampire king, but she grew up in his court preparing for a one a century contest, the Kejari, in which the winner gets a wish granted by the goddess. Rather than risk being turned, she plans the ultimate risk of this deadly contest to become vampire. Raihn , who had survived being turned, is the potential love interest if he doesn’t kill her first. The Serpent & the Wings of Night (hard from‎ Bramble) is difficult to put down with numerous twists and turns. It is very bloody and I can’t wait for part two. K. J. Parker (Tom Holt)’s final tale of the rogue, tells how Saevus Corax Gets Away With Murder (paper from Orbit). It starts with the world on the edge of war, cutting back the small wars that kept Saevus’s company in business. Then his sister asks for his help despite the fact she had put a price on his head for years. She had killed her husband and was on the run. After leaving her in a place of safety, his friends talk him into a treasure quest. Unfortunately the devil is in the details, and Saevus has to rely on his usual luck to get him out of impossible danger. This is a nice ending to the trilogy. I grinned through all three books. John Ringo and Lydia Sherrer continue their fun tale of a teenage gamer living a few decades from now. Lynn Raven, high school student, is so good at VR gaming that she is selected by a larger corporation to beta test a game that will take her Into the Real (paper) with artificial reality glasses. When the game is launched she joins a team of fellow students that do well in the semi-finals. Now she is going Through the Storm (hard from Baen) as she and her team prepare for the finals, go through several captains, and deal with the heavy publicity the game has attracted. What the reader is told, but Lynn and her fellow gamers don’t know, is that they are fighting real  invisible monsters attracted by Earth’s energy output. I love this series and can't wait for the next book. DJ Baldwin has a fun tale of Dr. Mia Peers, who owns her own lab, inherited from her parents. She has developed one anti-sleep drug that is waiting for approval. She also is an Olympic medal sharpshooter, partially to make up for the athletically gifted twin sister in a coma from an auto accident. She is working on an enhancement drug that has resulted in one super rat, and a thousand dead ones. With funding running out, she tries it on herself and finds she is Unbound (ebook from DJ Baldwin Books) able to heal very fast and superstrong. The bad guys are mostly one dimensional, but there is a secret about her and her twin. :ots of fun and I look forward to more adventures.
 Alexander Darwin continues his tale of a future world where combat between people, genetically adapted for fighting, determines justice in fighting circles and fighting with The Combat Codes that allow no enhancements.  While still focusing on Cego, who is in his second year of the The Lyceum, the tale is broadened to include his older brother, Silas, who has became known as the slayer because of his awesome fighting skills,  and his friend Solara Halberd who has crossed a continent to bring her father’s body out of a rich Daimyo’s museum. But the loss of
Grievar's Blood (paper from Orbit) to benefit Daimyo aims is a motive for revolution that may be coming in the final book of this trilogy. Highly recommended
Jeff Wheeler continues the tale of writer Jonathon Roth whose family survived the Mayan
Doomsday Match (paper) the previous year. While his wife is being held captive, he has kept things secret, but now he needs to see the Jaguar Prophecies(paper from 47North) kept in a museum in Dresden. The Jaguar priests are soon after him and if he hadn’t taken precautions, he and his family would be dead. However they end up in the underground temple where a new death game has started. The final book will complete the series.
Justin Lee Anderson continues his tale of the kingdom of Eidyn, where mages are despised and hated for their abilities..
The Lost War (paper) showed a country beset with Zombies and demons  created by mages and a deadly secret. The Bitter Crown (paper from Orbit). Sends the various heroes out to put down the demons and stop  the Zombie curse, but their are no good solutions and our heroes have to make horrible choices. The next tale will complete the series. Very intense. Kelley Armstrong has a short addition to her tales of modern-day detective Mallory Atkinson who has woken in the body of a nineteen-year-old chambermaid in Victorian Edinburgh. This time she is trying to help  Alice and follows her to a dance hall related to prostitution. But a  worse fate  is going on in this case of Cocktails & Chloroform (hard from K.L.A. Fricke Inc). as Mallory is kidnapped to the wharves. Fun.
Glynn Stewart shows how the interstellar war that was used in several of his series started. It is a time of mostly peace, despite a war between American Colonies and Russian colonies. Admiral Christopher Macleod is happily visiting a Chinese colony to show off the technology in his small fleet for potential sale to allies, when a beleaguered fleet appears and makes impossible demands on the Chinese colony. Christopher is face with a choice of
Honor & Renown (ebook from Faolan's Pen Publishing). I couldn’t get over the choices the admiral of the beleaguered fleet made. She was arrogant and stupid. This is a must for fans of the series.

Tor books has The Wolfe at the Door in hardcover, a collection of tales by Gene Wolfe.

The Hugo award winner this year is Nettle & Bone, by T. Kingfisher (Tor Books)  The world fantasy award winner is Saint Death’s Daughter(Solaris) by C.S.E. Cooney. 

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.