Science Fiction for June 2024

by Henry L Lazarus

Science Fiction and Fantasy let us look inside ourselves.

Rosalie M. Lin put her tale in the flapper era of Shanghai, a century ago. Jingwen’s grandmother performs magical surgery to give gangsters silver arms. She wants Jingwen to be her apprentice, but Jingwen only wants to dance in the clubs. Unfortunately Shamans are coming to the city, and they want to take control from the gangs that control the city. They also want to bring back an ancient Chinese god, the Daughter of Calamity (hard from St. Martin's Press) to destroy the city. At the same time something is stealing face parts, like mouths and eyes from the dancers Jingwen. And there is an American Doctor getting involved with the city and he is sponsoring a dance troupe, starring Jingwen, to tell a current version of the Calamity tale. Excellent. I hope this shows up on some award nominations. 

Readers who love action tales like the Reacher series will love Zac Topping’s tale set in the coming nineties when things have gotten much worse. Ander Rade was one of many shaped genetically into a super-soldier. Captured before the process was declared illegal, he spent seven years in a prison in South America fighting in death duels for the Warden’s amusement. Then Agent Morgan Moreno of the Genetic Compliance Department gets him out of prison to help her hunt Darius Turnin, a super-soldier hired to create a terror attack in Atlanta. Thus he and the agents follow a Rogue Sequence(hard from Tor) of exciting action scenes in a pulse-pounding adventure in the future. I couldn’t put it down and really hope Ander has more adventures coming.

In The Daughters' War(hard from Tor) Christopher Buehlman  tells how Galva enlisted in the Goblin war to fight with giant warbirds (they don’t fly) who have been magically designed to kill the monstrous enemy. Two of her brothers are both generals in the fight, and a third is apprenticed to a mage.  Her high status allows her into some of the events that change the outcome of the war. War is horrible and this war is worse because Goblins consider humans food and are difficult to kill. Not only that but the war is going badly. The horrors of war shape Galva’s personality into the deadly  fighter seen in The Blacktongue Thief (paper) .Excellent and hard-to-put-down.

Tobias Buckell,  and Dave Klecha have fun imagining US marines in a Lord of the Rings world. Portals opened into Earth and Earth is fighting back with modern military. Staff Sergeant Raymond Cale and his squad have been tasked with escorting a very important princess to their base, when everything goes wrong. First there are the trolls that are strong enough to take down a sky-scraper, then the injured Princess in a helicopter is flamed down with dragons. Then their base is destroyed and the enemy has control of the local portal to Earth.  Of course it’s now  up to the small squad of marines to use The Runes of Engagement (paper from Tachyon Publications)  to get the princess to a magical tree to save the day. Lots of fun. I’d love more adventures. 
Tim Pratt has a romp through the multiverse with a tale of
The Knife and the Serpent (paper from ‎ Angry Robot). Glenn, a grad student at Berkeley, has found the love of his life in Vivy. She, also loves him but has concealed that the is an agent for the Interventionists, and organization that protects worlds from invasion from other multiplanetary organizations like the Prime Army.Tamsin Culver discovers that, when her Grandmother dies, she is a refugee from a technologically more advanced Earth. She goes through a door into that Earth to get revenge on the ruling family that destroyed her family with a meteor strike. Tamison and Glenn get involved when they learn that the Prime Army is poised to take over Tamison’s home world. I giggled the whole time I read it and really enjoyed the action. 

Millions of years ago, gates were seeded throughout the galaxy allowing easy jumps between planets. Alice discovered one in 1968 on Earth  and ever since has found adventure. In a bazaar she discovers an antique data core linked to the Unexploded Remnants (paper from Tordotcom) of an ancient war between two planets. When she awakens the core, she finds numerous groups after the device. All she wants is to rescue the personality locked in the device, but doing so means going to a vault on the device's home world, while being attacked by people with evil designs on the powerful device. Elaine Gallagher tells a hard-to-put-down tale that deserves many sequels.
Genoveva Dimova tells of a witch in the walled city of Chernograd. During the twelve Foul Days(paper from Tor) after the winter solstice, the monsters come out. Especially Zmey, the king of the monsters who has special issues with Kosara. When he attacks the bar she was gambling in, she sells her shadow to escape into the outer city of Belograd. Unfortunately the loss of her shadow not only means the loss of her magic but also means she is turning into shadow. Then the person who took her shadow is found dead.Helped by detective Asen trying to stop smugglers, she has to return to Chernograd and face Zmey who needs the twelve witch's shadows to take down the wall. This is a fun adventure in a unique world that deserves sequels.

Kinsley Preston thinks she is a normal college student until her parents are murdered and she finds that she is a shadower, a type of vampire slayer, with special blood that increases vampire powers. There’s a war between basically good vampires and evil ones, and the evil ones have been murdered, like Kinsley’s parents until she is one of the few left. Kyona Jiles’s tale of  Kinsley’s face off with one of the truly evil vampires, her training, and her
First Death(self published ebook). Then her Aunt is kidnapped and Kinsley needs a Second Chance (book)  to learn how to work with the vampire Beckford Alexander,  a group of  human monster killers, other shape-shifters  and the succubus Lilith to finally face the evil Isaac. This is a nice opening to a fun urban fantasy that is growing on me. 

Rebecca Fraimow has a fun tale of Lady Eve's Last Con (paper from Rebellion Publishing Ltd.) which takes place on an artificial satellite near Alpha Centauri filled with the super-rich. Hustler Ruth Johnson’ sister  Jules had a fling  with playboy Esteban Mendez-Yuki and got pregnant. Ruth, masquerading as a rich heir, is determined to create a marriage-con to avenge her sister and also retrieve enough money to allow her sister to settle down. The con is complicated by Esteban’s half sister Sol who has gotten herself in debt to gangsters. The gang is willing to create dangerous situations that Ruth gets caught up in. Lots of fun. 

The second half of M. R. Carey’s Pandominion series, Echo of Worlds (paper from Orbit) has a very satisfying ending Infinity Gate (paper) introduced the two multiverse empires ready for a war that will purge both sets of alternate Earths. Pandominion is biologically based and the Ansurrection is built on machine intelligence and the two cannot communicate. Hadiz Tambuwal, a scientist who discovered the multiverse from her own world destroyed by a nuclear war, and who has had her mind copied into a box.  Together with her supercomputer Rupshe and two soldiers . an ex-agent from the mechanical world, and Topaz, a school girl from a rabbit run world, they have decided to try to stop that war. There is a super-intelligent plant that covers its Earth called Mother Mass, that may have the ability to broker peace between both sides, but the Pandominion has hidden its location. So they have the impossible task of locating Mother Mass and then going to its Earth. I really enjoyed this ending, which was not what I expected. Highly recommended. 

Seanan McGuire has a third entry into her series where intellectual concepts can be anthropomorphized. Alchemists can even make them human, and can create humans and other creatures directly Tidal Creatures  (hard from Tordotcom)  like the lunars who are people who partner with the many Moon gods, exist along with personifications of the seasons. On the Berkeley campus, there is a group of Lunars who take turns being part of the moon that shines on the Impossible city. Then one of them is murdered. At the same time Kelpie is a lab assistant who thinks she was altered by an alchemical accident, but she is really a construct made to resemble the hind from Artemis’s hind from ancient legends. When the Alchemical Congress decides to take down the lab, she barely escapes. Now together with Artemis, other lunar deities, and some of the characters from the previous books, they have to find the murderer and keep the Impossible city safe from the Alchemists. This is an excellent series, though the concepts are head-twisting. Highly recommended.  

Patricia Briggs has a new tale of coyote shifter, Mercy Thompson and her werewolf husband trapped in a Winter Lost (hard from ACE) snowstorm in an iced -in lodge in Montana.  It seems that Mercy’s half-brother has been cursed by a Frost Giant because he stole an harp. needed to prevent Ragnarok.  Adam and Mercy have to find the thief and survive the deadly cold in a fun adventure. There’s also a wedding in which the groom has to trek through the  Impossible weather. I always enjoy these urban fantasies and look forward to more. 

J.M. Reilly continues  his tale of a female superhero with lots of gadgets in Starpoint City.   This time our heroine faces Mother Bird, a psychotic who lets her teenage followers commit awful crimes and even commit suicide. This leads to our heroine having her funding stolen, because she isn’t as rich as Batman. But Mother Bird wants Punch-Girl Revealed (ebook self-published) for a very quirky reason. This is a very satisfying superhero series and I look forward to more adventures.

The crew of the Calamity (paper) is back. In a far future dominated by rich families, they have to help bounty hunter Cynbelline Khaw, who they knew with a different name in the first tale. She has to rescue a hidden daughter of one of the high families from the Abyssal Abductor, a kidnapper who killed her cousin. Unfortunately that means a trip to the floating city on her home planet. She also has to turn over the crew’s doctor, Micah Arora, to another member of a high family. This is a Fiasco (paper from Bramble) because she is falling for him. Constance Fay keeps the action exciting with lots of twists and turns, even an attack by Pirates on the water- covered Gindisik known for the algae it processes. I expect that further adventures will come for the crew. I really enjoyed both adventures so far. 

Tim Akers sends his Knight Watch heroes into another mythology, the mythology of steampunk. The Eccentrics (hard from Baen), led by a version of Nicholas Tesla, patrol the Gasalt the way Knightwatch patrols the mythic to protect the mundane from monsters. John Rast, who joined Knightwatch by killing a dragon with his mom’s Volkswagen, has to help the other crew because they are being attacked by vampires, thought to be extinct. So they fly over this world of alternate science from the Victorian age,  in the Silverhawk, a flying steamship, and of course crash several times while finding the true monsters. There's plenty of action once they find the true villains and fun twists. I like that the series has opened itself to alternate fantasy realms and look forward to further adventures
Simon R. Green tells tales about powerful  characters facing impossible odds. Hyde & Seek (hard from Baen) continues the tale of Tina and Daniel who had transformed into Hydes. This tale starts with the destruction of Jekyll & Hyde Inc. (paper) and the two Hydes learn about alien invaders like Martians, Reptilians, and the grays all intending to destroy the Earth since the Hydes had destroyed all the monsters of London. Lots of fun, especially for Simon R. Green fans.
Lilith Saintcrow has the middle book of her high fantasy trilogy. In
A Flame in the North (paper) sent Solveig and her shield maiden north with a group of werewolves because the dark lord of the far North is rising and Solveig’s rare tallent to use all the magical elements might provide hope. After surviving the fall of two hidden  Elven kingdoms, she finds safety and happiness in a third, relaxing enough to help in a boat race. Alas treachery leads to The Fall of Waterstone( paper from Orbit). The only hope to stop the dark lord is a magical gem that Solveig does not want to deal with. This is promising to be a great addition to High fantasy and I’m loving the story so far.
Carissa Broadbent continues the tale of Oraya, adopted human daughter to Victor, the Vampire king. In
The Serpent & the Wings of Night (hard) we learned that she was really half-vampire after Victor was killed. Now in The Ashes & the Star-Cursed King (hard from Bramble) she has to learn to be queen to Raihn’s king and deal with a massive revolt. At the heart of everything is the blood of a goddess. Very intense and hard-to-put-down. These were originally self-published, but I imagine the new editions have had some editing. I’ve really enjoyed them.
Megan E. O'Keefe concludes her tales of a future in which people can be printed and all the colonies and Earth have been infected by a shroud disease. Now to liberate the
The Bound Worlds (paper from Orbit), Naira has to do the impossible by recovering from being cracked and somehow stop the universe from expanding too much. These tales are fun, but the science behind them seems awkward and gave me a headache when I tried to make sense of it. 

Orbit has reprinted in paper Icehenge Kim Stanley Robinson’s tale of trips to the outer solar system during the time of his Mars trilogy, and Ann Leckie’s excellent Translation State.

Baen has republished in paper the first of the Black Tide Rising anthologies edited by Gary Poole and John Ringo, and Salvage Right, the last of the Liaden series by Sharon Lee and the late Steve Miller. 

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.