Science Fiction for July 2024

by Henry L Lazarus

Frequently Fantasy and Science Fiction provide wish-fulfillment tales that are more fun than real life, but also more dangerous.   Keeping an organization like the Super Justice Force  running demands a lot of people without super powers. As David F. Walker tells it, they like to hire ex-cons to help rehabilitate. The Second Chance of Darius Logan( hard from Scholastic Press) is about a young man whose life had gone downhill after his parents were murdered in a mad robot attack. Luckily Darrius is given a second chance to work at the headquarters and meets some rehabilitated supervillains and even some superheroes. Darius is basically a good person in bad circumstances and when the headquarters come under attack proves he too can be heroic. I’d like to see more.
Aliette de Bodard writes far future adventures where ancient Chinese culture predominates. The navigator guilds move ships through the Hollows from star to star and they keep the ships safe from the monstrous Tanglers. When one of the monsters escapes into real space, To capture it,  guild navigators from different clans,Việt Nhi, Hạc Cúc, Lành, and Bẩo Duy, are brought together to work under an imperial Envoy. Then the Envoy is poisoned and the four strangers have to work together to capture the beast. Then someone lets it out and heads toward a major civilization center.  This tale of
Navigational Entanglements (hard from Tordotcom) is a gem of a work and easily one of the better tales from an award winning author.
Carrie Anne Noble offers a fun look at a grown up Hansel and Gretel. Their father has died, but the jewels they got from
The Gingerbread Queen(paper from Oliver Heber Books) let them live comfortably in a larger village. Hansel has been enjoying life, gambling and whoring, until his gambling debts force them both back to the gingerbread house. The duck that had assisted them the first time to go across the pond is still there, because he once was a wizard. But in getting to the gingerbread house, Hansel abandons Gretel and runs back to pay off his debts leaving Gretel with a wounded duck. The only way to get help is with a baker’s son in a village where everyone thinks she is a witch. The enchanted forest has a purpose for Gretel, and fulfilling that purpose is the only way for Gretel to survive. Light fun.
When a growing religion preaching life-after-death meets a young woman who can step into death and bring a soul back, it is not good for the young woman. Marianne Gordon tells the tale of Hellevir who first stepped into death to bring her mother, who had died in childbirth, back in trade for a little finger. She is working as a herbalist in a small village when the Queen with
The Gilded Crown(hard Harper Voyager)  brings her the body of her granddaughter and heir, Sullivain, who had been poisoned. Death lets  Sullivain  return to life for  a minor trade as long as Hellevir finds special objects for future trades. Of course, Hellevir is brought to the capital city when her parents had moved and where a religion from her mother’s homeland is becoming more powerful. The same politics that caused Sullivain’s poisoning are still present and one noble family may be at fault. There is more coming.
K. X. Song borrows from Mulan with a tale of Meilin who pretends to be male to get away from an abusive father and an equally abusive potential husband. The jade, her mother left her,  binds her to a magical water dragon, Qinglong that gives her powers, powers she has to learn to wield. The enemy kingdom is using magical fire to destroy her kingdom’s armies and only she can stop the man wielding the fire
so that The Night Ends with Fire (hard from Ace). Very exciting. However, the tale ends on an expected dark note that needs the sequel. Fun.
Sharon Lee and the late Steve Miller latest Liaden Universe tale sends a master trader and his trader daughter to Colemeno where the dust that had blocked the system access has dissipated.Colemeno is unusual with a
Ribbon Dance (hard from Baen) of lights in the night sky because of the increased magical ambience. This results in a society split between those deaf to the ambience, those that need a grid to weaken the effect, and those that can live with full access to their abilities. Trader Padi yos’Galan who has been holding her abilities back, is most affected and finds help on the planet. There’s a nasty family that has to be found and stopped. There are orphan twins in need of help. Everyone is very polite as befits Liaden space, and, because using the ambient requires lots of energy, there is lots of cake. This tale may be the 26th in the series, but it is relatively independent and can be used as an introduction to this excellent  40-year-old series.
The crew of the Ambit, Nash, Saint and their AI captain Eoan, after stopping the terrorist
Isaiah Drestyn who had caused colony Cascade Failure (paper) now have to deal with Jal’s sister being kidnapped. To rescue her, they have to break Drestyn out of prison, and bring him to a dying, ancient starship with Gravity Lost (paper from TOR). Of course it’s a trap and the villain at the heart of the trap is one of the Captains running the Guild. As much fun as the first and I suspect that L. M. Sagas will bring the  Ambit  back for another fun adventure.
Julia Vee and Ken Bebelle send Emiko Soong on a second adventure, this time to her ancestral home in Japan where her father is head of their clan. She has to master her new Sentinel abilities, and also stop an assassin who can attack from any shadow  from killing her friend and  her brother. Her brother is going through a major testing that will determine his rank in their society. There’s a hidden General behind the assassin, and the Sentinel of Tokyo has gone mad
 from too much Blood Jade(hard from Tor) Lots of fun and I look forward to further adventures.
Clay Harmon continues his tale about a frozen world heated by the volcanoes of the
Flames Of Mira (paper). It is a place where people can bond to elements and shape or move that element. Metalsmiths bond to iron allowing hard steel. Navigators bond to silica to help map the tunnels where people live. The Sovereign has united the area with his ability to shape humans, and in an effort to keep the peace, is becoming evil. This time the characters go Into The Rift(paper from Solaris). Jakar, who was bonded to six elements, is trying to find the people enslaved by a cult and discovers a strange water being who can control people. Ester sets off to locate stolen rhidium that allows bonding to elements and returns to the forge to discover horrible things had happened to her friends. I’ve really enjoyed this saga so far and look eagerly to the next, and probably final book.
Marko Kloos’s series about
The Palladium Wars take place in a solar system settled by Generation ship.Gretia, the most earth-like planet, tried to conquer the other five worlds but lost and is now occupied. There are numerous rebel groups. The Fourth book of the series, Descent (paper from 47North) sends Aden Jansen undercover for the Alliance to infiltrate a terrorist group. Other characters from the previous book continue to work for peace. This is a fun series that individual books cannot be read alone. I recommend the series highly, especially if it continues to a solid ending in a future tale.
Glynn Stewart’s 15th tale, set in a universe where mages teleport starships with magic, continues with the problem of the planet Chimera. It is settled by both humans and alien Reezh. The Reezh are survivors from a horrible war that destroyed many systems, and  the civilization that destroyed those planets has become aware of Chimera’s existence. The Mage Queen send some ships and a newly appointed

Ambassador For Mars
(ebook fromFaolan's Pen Publishing Inc) . The Thorn under Mage-Captain Roslyn Chambers is the youngest captain in the new fleet, and the new Admiral doubts her ability despite her medals of honor and her softening the leadership of Chimera before the new fleet arrived. Of course there’s a fun space battle and a potential war in the future. This is a must for fans of the Starship's Mage series but has too much background for new readers. Excellent series. 

Baen has reprinted David Weber’s first, and best Honor Harrington tale,On Basilisk Station  with a new teachers guide, and Howard Andrew Jones excellent Lord of a Shattered Land in paper. They also have in paper Tales of the United States Space Force edited by C. Stuart Hardwick with classic stories and essays about the new service. 

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.

More reviews are at http://www.henrylazarus.com/sf.htm