Henry L Lazarus

4603 Springfield Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19143


Science Fiction for January 2010
by Henry Leon Lazarus

The line between science and religion is thin and always moving. There is always danger for those who step between the literal interpretation of the Biblical books and experimental science. Witness the minor hubbub today caused by those politicians who insist Creationism be taught in schools. It’s hard to believe that the first trial for heresy was over the belief that the Sun orbited the Earth.

Kim Stanley Robinson has a unique look at the first modern scientist, inventor of the telescope, discoverer of Jupiter’s moons, and a man whose ideas form the background that Newton used to develop his physics. Galileo Galilei was impossible to like. Egocentric, and manic-depressive. He boast of sleeping with over two hundred women, but never married the mother of his children and sent his bastard daughters to a nunnery as soon as they were old enough. He was also subject to epileptic comas. Mr. Robinson uses these comas to create Galileo’s Dream (hard from Bantam Spectre) in which the scientist is sent to the far future to meet with the inhabitants of the Galilean Moons who are obsessed with the discovery of intelligence at the depth of Europa’s ocean. The tale follows the real historical events from Galileo’s discovery of the telescope, through the trial for heresy in which he actually lied under oath to save himself, through his death. In the far future, he adapts quite well to a society with space ships and lower gravity habitations. This is an obvious award nominee, but I had trouble putting the two pieces together in my mind. 

If USA channel picked a paranormal series to base a new television series on, they couldn’t go wrong with Carrie Vaughn’s tale of minor celebrity, radio host, and outed werewolf, Kitty Norville. The latest has her agreeing to be in a reality tv show in which vampires, werewolves, psychics, and real magicians try to convince a real skeptic without actually showing their true faces. Kitty’s House of Horrors (paper from Grand Central Publishing) is set in the mountains far from civilization and the producers have more in store for the participants than a simple tv show. The usual fun that has me grabbing for the latest adventure as soon as it arrives.

Laurell K. Hamilton was one of the originators of the trend and the one who pushed it into soft porn. Merry the detective, fairy princess, spent the first few books of the series trying to get pregnant with multiple partners. Now she is back in LA and the case  of Devine Misdemeanors (hard from Random House) has to do with murdered miniature fairies arranged to mimic paintings. The porn is kept to a minimum and can be skimmed over, and the case is a real mystery. Fun.

There’s a war brewing between the five settled worlds and, in fact, two armada’s are within months of one another. Genetic engineering is at the heart of the dispute-- i.e, how much control should there be. Lopali was created, low gravity and all, to be the home of people adapted to fly, but the wingmakers made them sterile. In the third book of Brenda’s tale of six genetically modified orphans who had been left on a small colony that hated genetic engineering. In Wings of Creation (hard from Tor), Joseph, with his ability to fly in the data streams, might be able to correct the wingmakers mistake and restore the ability of the fliers to have children. Politics rears its ugly head and the fliers, who never fight, are caught between those who want the status quo to continue, and those who welcome the change; between those who want Lopali to pick sides in the coming war, and those who want Lopali to stay neutral. This intense read didn’t always work for me, but I’m interested enough to continue with the series.

Mike Resnick has been writing a series about a naval ship of the far future gone rogue, the Theodore Roosevelt and its heroic commander Wilson Cole, who have tried their luck at being pirates, mercenaries, and then rebelling against the Republic, gone corrupt. Now as a Starship: Flagship (hard from Pyr) they have to somehow bring down the corrupt government. It’s a million to one shot with a few thousand ships fighting millions. But Mr. Resnick has a rabbit to pull out of his hat at the last moment and, of course, ends the series happily. Fun, and difficult to put down. 

Steven Brust’s long running series about a Gangster in a magical world has Vlad Taltos dealing with the lawyers of the clan Iorich (hard from Tor) which brings vlad back to the capital city when war leader and close friend of the Empress, Aliera e’Kieron is arrested and refuses a lawyer. The politics have to do with a Jhereg plot that Vlad has to get to the bottom of while still being hunted by Jhereg assassins. I wouldn’t start reading the series with this tale, but fans will be overjoyed to get it. It’s easily the best tale in a while, and bodes well for the remaining tales to be told. 

The funnest aliens of Larry Niven’s known space series were the Puppeteers, the ultimate cowards who have sent their worlds fleeing the galaxy when they learned it was slowly exploding, and the Pak Protectors, the ultimate aggressors who constantly blow up their own world, and who also are fleeing the galactic explosion. Now Mr. Niven and Edward M. Lerner tell how, despite the vastness of space, the Pak are on collision course with the Puppeteer’s worlds. Our human hero, Sigmond Ausfaller, has to somehow, with one ship, turn the Protector fleet around and stop the Destroyer of Worlds (hard from Tor). There is no retelling of previous Niven tales, and the result is a fun read and a nice conclusion to this prequel series. 

I bought two hardcovers at the last Philcon. L. E. Modesitt, jr. remains my favorite author and his latest continues the tale of Rhenn, a portraitist who discovered he had imager abilities and was forced into the imager guild far older than most. In the latest he has been assigned as the imager liaison to the Civil patrol and his first duties include working with and observing the normal patrol activities, including patrolling. That brings him to the attention of one of the gang leaders, and some of the corrupt officers. In addition he has to solve the Imager’s Challenge (Tor) of a high holder who wants to destroy him and his family. There’s a war breaking out and one of the religious groups favors the enemy and is not above causing riots to weaken Rhenn’s city-state. L. E. Modesitt, jr’s solid integration of magic into the social strata is here as expected and I love this series.

Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s latest mystery with talking cats is here. Joe Grey is coming back with mice in his mouth, when he finds evidence of a murder in a deserted swimming pool. Later another cat is hurt by the murderer and it’s a case of Cat Striking Back (William Morrow) is this latest adventure. I got addicted to these when I got review copies of the first three and I’ve been buying them ever since. 

In Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s far future, cats use telepathy to talk only because they have been exposed to a sparkling beetle Catalyst (hard from Del Rey) brought by a cat from a cat-run world. Government runs amok, when vets see the remnants of the sparkle in horse dung and round up all animals who may have been infected. Caught up in the mess is Chessie, a barque cat with a pedigree of keeping pests down and finding oxygen leaks in starships. Add in her son Chester who is one of the first to bond to a human because of the beetle; Jubal his bond mate who tries to rescue him; Carlton Pontius, Jubal’s father, who starts the tale by kidnapping Chessie; and Pshaw-Ra the cat who is so much more. This is the start of a new series that is a bit silly with an overly complicated background.

I bought three books in electronic form this month.

Patricia Briggs latest tale of Charles, enforcer of the American werewolves and Anna, his love and an Omega brings them to Seattle so that Charles can chair a conference of foreign werewolves and talk them into going along with his father’s intention of outing werewolves to the world. Then someone hires a vampire hit team, determined to destroy the conference. Was it the French alpha known as the beast who loves to hunt humans, the British ex-archaeologist alpha who believes he is the reincarnation of King Arthur and has Excalibur to prove it, or one of the fae who are already outed but who cannot break their word. Hunting Ground (paper from Penguin) is a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to more of Charles and Anna’s adventures.

In Morganville, the vampires that run the small texas town don’t go to the college that brought Claire in the first tale since they only come out at night when they demand tribute in blood from the townsfolk. In the sixth tale, Bishop might be dead, but the problems he left behind remain. There’s someone new in Clair’s life, Kim, and she has usurped one of Claire’s best friends. At the same time someone has wired the town with video cameras. If the secret’s of the Morganville vampires get out will the town do a Fade Out (paper from Penguin) I don’t know where Rachel Caine is going with this fun teenage tale, but she has me hooked.

Libba Bray has definitely channeled Philip K. Dick in her tale of Cameron, a teenager dying of mad cow disease in texas. Then an angel tells him that if he can locate a Professor X who has opened a door to other universes, he may be able to find a cure. So he and his dwarf friend from the next bed start off Going Bovine (hard from Random House, Inc./Delacorte Books for Young Readers) on an expedition across the country. First they go to Mardi Gras where they find an ancient musician, then they lose their bus and end up in a camp dedicated to happiness where you always bowl a strike in their alleys. Add in Baldur, a gnome on a quest to return home and who has been disguised as a lawn gnome, and a mad party in Daytona with Reality tv producers and makes for a very weird ride. Fun and disquieting. No for your average kid. 

Baen has reprinted John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor’s latest tale of earth’s only starship, Claws that Catch (paper). Tor has reprinted Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter’s look at what happens when people can lose their privacy by looking into The Light of Other Days in trade paper. 

Collections include Poul Anderson’s classic tales of The Van Rinn Method (paper from Baen), Newford tales from Charles De. Lint, Muse and Reverie (hard from Tor). 

Jaake Black hasx written The Authorized Ender Companion (hard from Tor) for fans of Orson Scott Card’s series. 

The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on December11th at 8:00p.m. at The Rotunda on campus of the University of Pennsylvania..This is the annual election meeting. Guests are welcome, but may be confused.