Henry L Lazarus
4715 Osage Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19143   

Science Fiction for May 2024

by Henry L Lazarus

I wouldn’t look to fantasy and Science Fiction for help with theology, but in these crazy days, it allows the reader to think out of the box. 

Peter S. Beagle has a rare treat. A new novel! I'm Afraid You've Got Dragons (hard from S&S/Saga Press) takes place in a fairy tale setting and is about a dragon exterminator, Gaius Aurelius Constantine Heliogabalus Thrax, who inherited the job from his father. Bellemontagne is filled with small dragon pests, The kingdom also has a beautiful princess, Cerise, who's suitors come from all over. Then Crown Prince Reginald of a richer country of Corvinia stumbles into Bellemontagne searching for an heroic deed that would prove himself to be worthy of his father’s kingdom, at least to his father. Of course there are ferocious  dragons and an evil wizard controlling them. Expect this on most award lists.

Christopher Ruocchio has a finish to his seven volume series, which I may eventually get to. In a far future where nobility have lifetimes ten times that of the commoners, Hadrian Marlowe has been hiding for two centuries since he had slapped the emperor and was under a death sentence. Unfortunately there are millions-of-years old  Disquiet Gods (hard from Baen) hidden, and being sought by the Cielcin who worships the observers as gods and calls them observers. The ancient beings want to eliminate all life. Opposing them is the Quiet who has already resurrected Hadrian after his head was caught off in battle. A messenger brings him not only a pardon, but a request to join an archaeological expedition to a planet where one of the observers might be trapped.  Of course a giant world ship of the Cielcin arrives once the observer is brought out of hiding. This is definitely a solid shaggy god tale. People who worship God will find a lot of the ideas heretical, but I found it fascinating. I hope it finds its way to some awards since it easily is complete on its own. In Taran Matharu’s tale of a future Dragon Rider (hard from Harper Voyager) magic is utilized by  those who are soulbound to an animal. Sabine has been slowly conquering the kingdoms around it. Jai of the Steppefolk is a royal hostage who acts as a nurse to the aging first Emperor. The imperial heir is engaged to Princess  Erica of Dansk, the only country known to have soulbounded to dragons. An evil plot sees lots of dignitaries murdered at the wedding, including Jai’s older brothers. In escaping, Jai hides in a dragon’s corpse and discovers a hidden dragon egg which he helps hatch and somehow bonds to the young dragon he calls winter. Soon Jai and Erica’s handmaiden, Frida, are on the run looking for safety. This is an intense adventure where Jsi has to face horrible tortures including being hung from a pole to die, while he learns the magic he now has to. I couldn’t put the book down and look eagerly to the next part of the tale.    

James Logan starts a tale of a loveable rogue who’s been making a living as a gambler. Lukan Gardova came from a prominent family with a promising future until he kills a high-placed aristocrat in a duel.Then the manager of his father’s estate informs him of his father’s murder with only three clues written in blood; his name, the city Saphrona, and the name of a woman he discovers is on death row having been framed for murder. So he makes The Silverblood Promise (hard from Tor)   With the help of a pickpocket, a thief and a forger, he slowly unravels a horrible plot. There’s dark magic afoot. Admittedly it is mostly luck that lets him survive the worst the city can throw at him. While this starts a series, the tale is essentially complete, yielding Lukan  a clue that sends him to another city. A very promising start. 

Davi is an American girl stuck in a timeloop fantasy. She’s killed, wakes up in a pool of water where a prophet tells her she is destined to stop the Dark Lord. Thousands of times later she decides that she should learn How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying (paper from Orbit). At first she has to die a few times to get minions, but eventually she has to face other contestants to prove she should be the dark lord. Django Wexler tells a tale that is just as much fun as it should be. I had a giggle all the way through. I’m eagerly waiting for the second half. 

Maddileh is a knight on a quest. Kill the dragon called the white lady who can't be killed by mortal man, and retrieve the The Fireborne Blade (hard from Tordotcom). Her squire seems to have magical ability, though she hates mages, and he is trying to rescue his sister from  the dragon. Charlotte Bond puts a twist on this tale that I never saw coming. Wow. 

Luanne G. Smith continues her tale of Petra Kurková, a witch with the unusual ability to turn one object into another, even turning something into gold. It’s World War I on the Russian side and in the first one the Russian troops were infected with two curses, zombies and werewolves. She and a small group of other people with special powers use The Witch's Lens (paper) of her ghost-seeing camera to stop the undead curse, now she has to look through The Wolf's Eye(paper from 47North) to help one of her teammates understand the curse he has to deal with and to stop a sociopath who uses his werewolf ability to murder. Along the way she learns how her father’s research led to her talent and more. This may have completed the tale, but I’d love to see more adventures. 

Suzanne Palmer has a final adventure for Fergus Ferguson, who’s been hiding from Earth Authority since he stole something very important. He is kidnapped and brought to a pirate, Bas Belos, who is searching for his missing sister. The trail leads to a Ghostdrift (hard from DAW) jump point that leads to a solar system in the middle of emptiness that is a graveyard for lost ships. To survive Fergus has to somehow bring two warring species together that never even tried to talk to one another. It's a fun ending to a series that started with the excellent Finder (paper)  that I remember fondly. 

Kelley Armstrong has a mystery series that mixes Sherlockian detective work with a dash of Outlander. Homicide detective Mallory Atkinson has found herself in the body of a maid in Edinburgh in the 1860’s. She has helped undertaker/medical examiner Dr. Duncan Gray solve a few cases and now she and her friends have to deal with a case of Disturbing the Dead (hard from Minotaur Books) . The corpse in this case is a mummy brought back from Egypt that is due to be unwrapped by Sir Alastair Christie.  Of course, it was obvious to me that the mummified corpse was replaced by … The solution to that murder and other nefarious goings on is mundane. This is a fun series and I hope more cases will be written. 

Admiral Henry Wong has come to help the alien Londu who were under attack from  old enemies and an Enigma fleet with matching technology to his own, Now his Expeditionary Fleet races  across the Wartorn Stars (ebook from Faolan's Pen Publishing) ro the Londu homeworld to save them. As usual Glynn Stewart has an exciting tale. He is one of my favorite authors.

According to Jeff Wheeler, the Jaguar priests headed by the evil Jacob Calakmul are preparing a Final Strike (paper from 47North) to seek revenge on the Europeans who, under the leadership of Cortez, destroyed the Mayan civilization. The plan to kidnap world leaders, including the President, and cut out their hearts. Opposing them are the Roth family, who have now gotten help from some US agencies. But their daughter, Suki, is their real hope and she’s been kidnapped herself. Putting powerful magic in the real world requires that the reader suspend belief. In this third book of the trilogy, I had a little trouble getting over that. However it is fun and has a nice conclusion. 

David Weber is revisiting events in his long Honor Harrington series. Toll of Honor (hard from Baen)  revisits the time of her duel with Pavel Young through other eyes and follows up with some space battles that Honor wasn’t available for. Fun, especially for fans of the series. New readers would be advised to return to the original series. 

Baen books has reprinted in paper Robert E. Hampson’s The Moon and the Desert about a future bionic man, and  Larry Correia’s Warbound  about  magic in the 30’s. They also have David Boop’s fun tales of High Noon on Proxima B in paper. 

Nominees for the 59th Nebula awards are: The Saint of Bright Doors, Vajra Chandrasekera (Tordotcom); The Water Outlaws, S.L. Huang (Tordotcom; Solaris UK);Translation State, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK); The Terraformers, Annalee Newitz (Tor; Orbit UK); Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon, Wole Talabi (DAW, Gollancz); and Witch King, Martha Wells (Tordotcom). 

Nomination for the coming Hugo awards are: The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty (Harper Voyager, Harper Voyager UK); The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera (Tordotcom); Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh (Tordotcom, Orbit UK); Starter Villain by John Scalzi (Tor, Tor UK); Translation State by Ann Leckie (Orbit US, Orbit UK); and Witch King by Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

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.