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Science Fiction for January 2024
by Henry L Lazarus
I’ve been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy for about sixty years and still get surprised by a new great tale.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is one of my favorite authors. My favorite of his series takes place on the world of Recluce. The latest takes place about a century after settlement from the Rational Stars. Alayiakal is raised by his father, a major in the Mirror Lancers, near the Great Forest and trained to hide his abilities in Order and Chaos from the Emperor’s mages so he can join the Mirror Lancers himself. The tale follows him From the Forest(hard from Tor) through his training and various battles until he is promoted to over-captain. This is planned as a trilogy and I look forward to the sequel.
Aimee Pokwatka has a tale of ordinary people surviving extraordinary circumstances. Madigan Purdy isa chemist who is persuaded to teach a small class of preteen girls in what had been her home town library, set in a former bank building, Then The Parliament (hard from Tordotcom) of murder owls attack the library in a swarm, killing any who try to leave. To confuse the reader, part of the tale is another tale about a monster who gives enhancements to young girls taking body parts in payment. Only The Silent Queen can save her kingdom. There is no reason given for the owl attack, but both tales are fascinating. Aimee Pokwatka is definitely an author to watch.
Linda Crotta Brennan tells a wondrous tale of Brigit, a teenage girl in a nineteenth century fishing village in Nova Scotia. She hides the fact that she is The Selkie's Daughter (hard from Holiday House) and has to have the webbing between her fingers cut regularly. Then the fish stop coming because one family has decided to kill seal pups, some of whom were selkie children. Then her father is lost trying to fish risky waters. To save him, Brigit must reveal herself to her friends and somehow rescue her father and embrace her heritage.Very satisfying tale for all ages.
Monalisa Foster mixes Fantasy and Western, Threading the Needle (paper from Baen) by putting her tale on a colony planet, Goruden, where the rural sticks use nineteenth century technology out of necessity. She also borrows her plot from the John Wayne western El Dorado. Talia Merritt, a former military sniper called Death's Handmaiden, is the stand in for John Wayne. Her former partner is a sheriff in a small town and has gotten addicted to a bad drug. The good guys have been breeding special cows for use in terraforming that are potentially very valuable. The bad guy has hired gunslingers to help steal the cows. As much fun as expected. Old westerns had very satisfying endings.
Ben Aaronovitch has a new tale set in the same world as his Rivers of London series but taking place in the dark cold of a Wisconsin winter. FBI Special Agent Kimberley Reynolds, who has seen actual magic, is following the lead of a former agent who had retired to the small town. She arrives to find him missing and the town just hit by a snow tornado. If these Winter's Gifts (hard from Subterranean Press) weren’t enough there are murders and magical monsters. Lots of fun.
Richard Fox starts a romp of a tale. In a very far future, technology is powered by rocks from another universe that only the attuned can visit. Jayce Artan, knows nothing of that, being a rare human on a mostly water planet. He helps guide fishing boats and helps them avoid sea monsters. Hired to take a group to an ancient shrine, he is discovered to be attuned and then rescued from agents of the dead and defeated Tyrant by a Paragon who is looking for someone to bond to very special stones. There’s also a girl in the group. So Jayce goes questing through Light of the Veil (hard from Baen) to the magical world on the other side. There he, and the girl face challenges. The story will continue, but it’s light fun and I look forward to the next part.
Marko Kloos continues his long running tale of humanity’s long running war against the Lankies. These huge beings attacked Earth at a time when colonies had been settled on planets on other solar systems. It’s been eight years of mere survival for the one hundred and fifty survivors on Scorpio (ebook from 47North). The atmosphere has become unbreathable, and they live in an underground community carefully avoiding Lankie attention. Alex Archer is part of a salvage team as dog handler for Ash, black shepherd who can detect the alien. Then she and her crew have a real horrible day and all looks lost. Since this is the first book following Alex, it’s obvious that things turn for the better. Lots of fun and I look forward to Alexis future adventures.
Heather Fawcett writes of an early twentieth century in which Fairies are real enough that scholars study them. All is going well. Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries (hard) has been published to great acclaim and she has tenure at Cambridge, Then her friend, Professor Wendell Bambleby who has asked to marry her and is really a Fairy king in exile, is attacked by fairy assassins sent by his stepmother. The trail leads to a small village in the Swiss Alps where a famous fairy academic had disappeared fifty years before. There, together with her fae hound Shadow, her niece, and for some reason the head of her department, She and Wendell face numerous dangers in an effort to find the door to Wendell’s realm and to get enough information to write Emily Wilde's Map of the Otherlands (hard from Del Rey). Somehow she also has to rescue his cat. This is a wonderful romantic series. Highly recommended.
Prefect Dreyfus works for the Panoply that polices the ten thousand disparate city-states orbiting the planet Yellowstone. The latest, a tale of Machine Vendetta (paper from Orbit), starts with a murder. Ingvar Tench had been lured to a blockaded station and her death might have been thought a sort of suicide. She isn’t the only one whose cutter was hacked. The system has had two AI’s fighting and a group thinks they have a way to trap the entities. Unfortunately, according to Alastair Reynolds, they don’t leaving the whole system at great risk. Caught in the middle are Dreyfus, his recovering wife and Ingvar Tench’s daughter. Lots of fun, and probably up for some award.
Mur Lafferty has a new mystery set on Station Eternity(paper), a living alien space station that appeared in the Solar System a decade from now. Mallory Viridian fled Earth because her ability to solve murders of random strangers kept forcing her towards more deaths. Apparently she had been stung by an alien wasp hiding on Earth before the station arrived. Now some of her old friends are coming to the station so of course there’s a murder of a human and thousands of the alien wasps. I bought Chaos Terminal (paper from Ace) because I missed the review copy in my list of review books, I enjoy this series enough to pay for it.
Beth Cato concludes her tale of a world with five gods where chefs really cook with magic. The second half of the tale is A Feast for Starving Stone (paper from 47North) The first half was a fight with the gods that ended with Princess Solenn losing her tongue. Now she has to be a diplomat to find allies against a conquering emperor using lots of magical food. Her birth mother Ada Garland who has to rescue her ex-husband before he is executed. Great ending.
The Castle Federation had won its war against the Terran Commonwealth by destroying devices that allowed for instant communication across light years. The commonwealth broke into small successor states, some ruled by former admirals of the Commonwealth. The Dakotan Confederacy, and what remains of the original Commonwealth ruled from Earth are both asked for help from Weston Republic, under attack from a triumvirate of three formal admirals. James Tecumseh of the Dakotan Confederacy sends four ships. Imperator Walkingstick sends more ships, hoping to restore the commonwealth by adding Weston, and is willing to use traitor Admirals from the Triumvirate to assist. Only James Tecumseh’s Unbroken Faith (ebook fromFaolan's Pen Publishing Inc.) can save the day. Glynn Stewart is an expert at making space battles clear to the reader while making readers care about his heroes. This tale is no exception and is a must for his fans.
Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar(hard from DAW) series is defined by the intelligent talking horses called Companions who chose their herald riders. The appear a decade after the refugees have settled in what would be Valdemar, and Duke Kordas finally agrees to be called a king. Half the book leads up to the Companions' arrival through a magical portal, and the second half puts the young kingdom at war. Lots of fun and a must for fans.
In Endangered Species(paper) Charles E. Gannon dropped Caine Riordan and his crewe on a strange planet with whatever technology they could carry. There were plenty of different species, including humans and genetically modified humans on the planet and they soon were involved in rescuing one of their own and fighting a small battle. Protected Species (hard from Baen) continues the journey and includes finding an ancient missile silo preserved in amber and several battles. I’ve enjoyed the journey so far, but hopefully the end will come in the next book.
Tor is reprinting Michael Swanwick’s award winning Stations of the Tide in hardcover. Baen is reprinting in paper Simon R. Green’s tale of Ishmael Jones solving a murder in an old Manor Haunted by the Past, and John Van Stry’s tale of an engineer on a tramp starship Summer's End.
Christopher Ruocchio and Sean CW Korsgaard have a collection of new Worlds Long Lost (paper) tales of ancient extraterrestrial civilizations.
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.