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Science Fiction for March 2024

by Henry L Lazarus

I  have been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy for over sixty-five years and I still love it. It’s because it is constantly changing.
I have a soft spot for super heroes, J.M. Reilly satisfies that  need with a tale of
Punch-Girl (ebook from BooksGoSocial), a high-tech batman who captures normal criminals. The Minister shows up, torturing a corrupt rich business man on and streaming the result. Alec Baum is a normal CPA whose wife, Jessica is running with Punch-Girl’s publicity, He has a terrible secret that gets worse when a truly psychotic super-villain, the Slayer, shows up. This is an edge-of-your-seat read thriller with lots of twists. I couldn’t put it down.
Grace Curtis writes about an old-fashioned
Floating Hotel(hard from DAW) that is really a starship traveling on a regular route between a number of star systems. Grand Abeona Hotel is crewed by refugees who somehow found a place on board and each has their own personal story.  it has decayed from an elite hangout, to a place for the wealthy and for conferences it still has bellboys and regular keys. The empire, ruled by the same emperor for five centuries, is starting to decay, with worlds being strip-mined and various institutions have started to use force. The person writing Lamplighter dispatches may be on board and that has attracted spies who happily use torture. The background tales are absolutely fascinating and I would hope this tale finds its way to some award lists.
Usually an AI connected to a person is small enough to be out of the way. In Marisa Wolf’s version the AI needs a large device, though it can use the mind/body of  their modified human clone, imposing difficulty for the human to move and think. Humanity has spread to three systems and two organizations have been fighting for decades. Talinn Reaze along with her AI Bee have been running a tank from a backwater part of the war, when Talinn meets a broken tank with an older version of herself. It turns out that she has to think
Beyond Enemies (trade paper from Baen) along with the survivors of her team and older versions of them. Everything she knows is wrong, and the more she learns her journey, upends her view again and again. This is a fascinating tale and highly recommended. 

The Ambit has a two person crew and an AI captain working with the Union to keep peace in the galactic spiral. When a deserter from the Union Army joins them they soon find that The trust, a huge corporation, is dealing with Union taxes, by causing Cascade Failure( paper from TOR) in the terraforming machinery on mostly abandoned words, killing the few remaining people. Helped by a terra-forming engineer trying to get evidence and stop the horror. There’s also a terrorist who wants to use the effect on Corporate headquarters. Saving the day will put all of Ambit’s crew in life-threatening danger. L. M. Sagas tells an exciting tale that is hard to put down. Lucki;y there’s already a sequel scheduled for what promises to be a long and exciting series. 

Kim Harrison starts a new urban fantasy in which magic produces dross which has to be swept up. Petra Grady sweeps up the bad-luck causing dross, the lowest job that requires magical talent, for almost a decade. But she is Three Kinds of Lucky (hard from ACE)  because her magical talent is rare, and not what she thinks . It all comes to light when a magical researcher, Benedict Strom who is also a childhood friend, wants her to work on his project for stabilizing dross that might reduce the need for sweepers. Then the dross vault explodes, and Benedict and Petra go on the run, chased by magical rebels and the magical authorities. Lots of fun and a solid opening for the series.

Rin Chupeco tells of a world with both vampire and human kingdoms. Remy Pendergast is the only son of the Duke of Valenbonne and also a fearsome reaper, killing vampires to save peasant towns. He is disfavored by the reapers of the human kingdom of Aluria because his mother might have been turned vampire when he was born. The kingdom is under attack by a new type of vampire, almost mindless and revived after death. In Silver Under Nightfall (hard from‎ S&S/Saga Press)  he has to work with two royal vampires from a vampire kingdom friendly to humans Xiaodan Song, with a special talent effective against these new vampires, and none hundred year-old lord Zidan Malekh. There are lots of twists and plots to uncover and a solid ending leaving open room for sequels.
Lyra Selene borrows from Swan lake for  a tale of stolen princesses who turn into swans during the day. They were brought to the land of the Fae, Tír na nÓg, where they are guarded by the Fae lord Irian who bears a magical sword. All of the princesses were replaced by illusion except the High Queen's daughter Eala. In her place was Fia, a changeling not Fae and not human. Then a gate is found into the fae land and Fia, along with prince Rogan, Fia’s childhood friend betrothed to Eala. They can only enter Tír na nÓg one night a month, and it will take a full year, till the time is right to recover the swan princesses.
A Feather So Black (paper from Orbit) has a number of twists leading to a satisfying ending. It is a wonderful adult fairytale and sequels are promised.
Melanie K. Moschella starts a fun fantasy about Raek (dragon with pretty feathers) riding warriors. Meera Hailship was working in the palace kitchen when the King captured a Raek and its rider. After the Raek killed a couple of soldiers, Meera volunteers to feed, and manages to convince the intelligent beast not to kill her. The
Iron-Bound Flames (paper self-published) may be kept from her, but she chafes at the torture of the beast’s rider. Not only that but the king has her spying on a visiting nobel. It’s a fun tale that is available for free on Amazon. The next four books are being published at the same time.
Aileen Erin returns to the world of her Alpha girls books with the story of Samantha Catherine Lopez who was conceived by a father possessed by a major demon and as a result can open portals that can send demons back to hell. She lives on werewolf pack lands and works with them to prevent demon infestation.
Invocation (paper from Ink Monster, LLC) tells of her rescuing a fae friend of the pack and also discovering her true love. Exciting and romantic at the same time, Further adventures to come. 

Z. W. Taylor continues the tale of Charlotte who when running from a violent ex suffered The Bite(paper)  and had to survive the three new moons to fully become a werewolf. Now she has to go through training, training that involves learning to be a tracker with a team by surviving The Hunt (paper from W by Wattpad Books) in a haunted forest filled with magical traps. I’ve enjoyed this series a lot and am looking forward to the next tale that will deal with the dangers facing the pack that have been hinted at so far.

Peter V. Brett continues his latest trilogy that tells how the children of his previous tales fight against the same magical monsters that come from the core. The corelings are like bees and are created by a single queen. That queen was destroyed in previous books but now Olive Paper and Darin Bales have to rescue their parents and stop the birth of The Hidden Queen (hard from Del Rey).Exciting , but at least one more book to come. 

Baen has reprinted Larry Correia’s  fourth book in his black sword cycle, Tower of Silence, in  trade paper. It does not complete the sr\eries. They also have a new edition of Charles E. Gannon’s  first book in his tales of Caine Riordan, Fire with Fire, also in trade paperback.Jason Cordova has  a fun collection of new tales about Chicks in Tank Tops that is also in trade paperback.  

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.