Henry L Lazarus
4715 Osage Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19143   

Science Fiction for April  2024

by Henry L Lazarus

Fantasy and Science Fiction can  take the reader to strange places.

Daniel M. Bensen finds The World's Other Side (ebook) on an alternate version of Earth where Africa conquered Earth five centuries ago. It is a world where Christians live in small enclaves, and are afraid of being sent to labor camps in the Yukon. Bounce Nakmara comes to the Ilinwa city of Shikaakwa to do post-graduate work and was assigned a room in the christian section of the city where George Boatman’s family lives. George dropped out of seminary school and is a gang leader and smuggler, whose main rivals are a tribe of Mound Builders. Wentama is a cop who mostly watches the city from his drone and is interested in George’s sister Joan who acts as a nurse for the christians who won’t use pagan healthcare. But violence starting with burning a pimp,  leads to more violence. Bounce, a native African, is soon trying to help. There’s love and mistreatment of Native Eurasian refugees that has to be addressed. This is an excellent look at what might have happened if the world were reversed. I hope it finds an award. 

John Wiswell tells the story of an abandoned blobby shapeshifter, Shesheshen who lives in an abandoned manor. The locals consider her a monster, especially since killing humans grants her human organs to use.  Hunters find her as she awakens from hibernation, and, despite hiding as a human girl, is discovered and chased over a cliff. There she is lucky enough to be rescued and nursed to health by Homily, who thinks she is human. Maybe Homily is Someone You Can Build a Nest In (hard from DAW)  Unfortunately Homily’s family, particularly the Baroness, is desperate to kill her monster form to remove a curse. Even though Shesheshen knows the curse is a lie, she gets involved in hunting herself to help Homily deal with her mother. But there is a dark secret here, and Shesheshen is facing a truly dangerous trap. This is a fascinating tale of love and the essence of humanity. Maybe this tale might find its way to an award nomination. 

Melanie Mooney is an EMT who stumbles on a UFO on her way home from work. Because she tried to help the alien pilots, she is offered a job in a galactic EMS where unusual aliens are the rule.Patrick Chiles starts a fun series about emergency treatment to aliens in a galactic civilization in Interstellar Medic: The Long Run (paper from Baen). While the background seems borrowed from UFO books, the tale flies when Melanie has to deal with injured aliens. Fun. 

Edward Ashton has an interesting look at an AI who decides to drop in on a small war near Bethesda Maryland about forty years from now. Mal Goes to War (hard from St. Martin's Press) when normal, poor people called humanists decide to fight  the rich who are modifying themselves to make themselves superior. Mal had been observing the war from a drone it had hijacked when access to  Infospace was blocked and it was forced to drop into an exoskeleton of a dead body guard.  It seems logical to assist the bodyguard’s  modified human charge in survival, and thus begins a pinocchio type tale as Mal learns about humans and actually forms friendships. Learning both about itself and about what was driving this silly localized war. I really enjoyed the tale and would love to see Mal in a further adventure. 

Glynn Stewart starts a fun series about treachery in a Royal family that rules a star kingdom. Commander Lorraine Adamant was thinking about removing herself from a place in the Royal line so she could have a real naval career.  Then her uncle decides he would rather be King and kills most of her family. A chance warning and her alert bodyguard, Vigo Jarret, allows her survival and the survival of her ship, though there are still assassins aboard. Her only hope is to get to a wormhole and execute a desperate plan, The Exodus Gambit (ebook from Faolan's Pen Publishing Inc.) On her tail is a ship bigger and faster than the Frigate Goldenrod. But her captain is smart and there is a bare chance of survival. Lots of fun. 

Daniel M. Ford continues the fun tale of Aelis de Lenti, appointed The Warden (paper) of the village of Lone Pine, a place without a warden for years. The people of the village accept her now, even when she unlocks a magical crypt and unleashed walking skeletons. The stop them in her role as  Necrobane (hard from TOR) must travel to a lost citadel where a control rod might be found. That, unfortunately, leads to more problems. This is a highly recommended fun series that I can't read without smiling. I can’t wait for her next adventure. 

Max Gladstone decided to end his excellent Craft Wars series with a trilogy. This is a world with so much magic that people created gods that enslaved them. Eventually people mastered the magical craft and killed many of the gods to mine their magic. There is a stock exchange and people who use religion for magical reasons. In the first book, Dead Country (paper) Tara Abernathy goes home to visit a dying father and meets Dawn, a young lost girl with untapped magical abilities. Dawn has a vision of Wicked Problems ( paper fromTordotcom) coming, namely giant spiders that intend to eat the planet. Desperate to find  power to stop them, she races across the world acquiring powerful friends. Tara is convinced that Dawn's  methods will destroy the world, and chases after Dawn with her own allies. Along the way characters from previous books in the series pop up.  Wow! I can’t imagine how the third book will top this exciting adventure.
Steven Brust’s massive series about Vlad Taltos has, after forty years, finally gotten to part seventeen. With a member of the left hand trying to assassinate him, for magical reasons Vlad hides in a theater preparing a musical about a famous play that brought down the Lyorn (hard from Tor) Emperor centuries before. Since Dragaerans can live for thousands of years, the play left a sore spot in the Lyorn clan and their prince will do everything to stop the play. There are a large number of inside jokes about theater culture, Vlad has to bring off a convoluted scheme involving the Phoenix Empress to trap all his foes. Along the way he gets hints of his destiny. Theoretically this series is supposed to stretch two more books, so hopefully there might be an ending in a few years. Excellent series.
Hannah Whitten continues the tale of Lore, a former poison runner. She and Bastian have killed his evil father. She, despite not being noble, is engaged to him and is
The Hemlock Queen (hard from Orbit). This middle book of a trilogy tells how humans became the gods whose bodies provide magic. Bastian has a dark secret fighting him, and the gods are coming back in new bodies. Next year this will all be resolved. 

Tor has been republishing the works of John M. Ford in paper, who died way too young of his diabetes.  His first novel, Web of Angels, is about the early internet and there is a nice introduction by Cory Doctorow. It first appeared in 1980, so it's a bit dated. 

Tor has a collection of stories and essays from Cixin Liu who has won numerous awards for his The Three-Body Problem. A View from the Stars is available in hardcover. 

Lancelot Schaubert  has put together a third volume Of Gods and Globes(ebook from Lance Schaubert) with original tales about the influence of heavenly bodies on our lives.

Baen has stories set in the honorverse of David Weber, What Price Victory? (hard). Baen has reprinted Tim Akers’ fun Wraithbound in paper about a boy bound by the wrong magic.  

Solaris Nova has a new edition of E. J. Swift’s fun Paris Adrift about a student in 2017 Paris who travels back in time to save the world.

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.