Science Fiction for January 2012
by Henry Leon Lazarus
Since Science Fiction and Fantasy tales occur in
manufactured backgrounds, itís very important that the writer create a
vision that allows the reader to suspend his belief long enough for the
tale invoke its spell. The reader has to care for characters that exist
in a seemingly real world.
Usually computer created worlds donít feel real to me. But Rod Reeesís The Demi-Monde: Winter (hard from William Morrow) dragged me into itís crazy world so much that I really cared about the characters, both computer-generated and real. The Demi-monde program was written for a quantum computer to give soldiers training in Urban Warfare. Evil historical figures like Ivan the terrible, Henry the Eighth, and the designer of the final solution Reynhard Heydrich were added for spice Reynhard has established his Fourth Right which controls two of the five sectors of the imaginary world. He not only wants to conquer his world, but somehow get out into the real world and restore Arian primacy there too. Somehow he has managed to kidnap the real Presidentís daughter, The only person who can be fit in to the program to rescue her is an African-American jaz singer., Ella Thompson. The only out is through a portal and there is only one. Death in the program is brain death in the real world. Helped by a con-man, spiritualist Vanka, she manages to get Norma out of Fourth Right hands only to land in the Warsaw Ghetto which the Fourth Right has decided to raze. Even with its cliffhanger ending, this is so intense that I almost couldnít put it down.
P. C. Hodgell wrote the first two tales of Jame starting with the fantasy, must- read , God Stalker (part of a duology from Baen). We only had a few books in the series while she was an English Professor, but since retiring she has become more prolific. In her final year at the military academy, Jame confronts Honorís Paradox (trade from Baen) the conflict between family orders and real morality. Her twin brother, Torison ten-years older because of the strange paths she took, and ruler of the Kencyrath has enough problems to deal with, and she has to deal with elemental spirits as well as clan politics. There are constant attacks on her and her friends at school, an eight to one death challenge from the cadets who belong to families who hate her, and white and black stones from the faculty that can mean the difference between graduating and being kicked out. I keep this series at my house.
Brandon Sanderson returns to his world of his Mistborn trilogy three centuries later, a world with dynamite, horseless carriages in The Alloy of Law(hard from Tor) Waxillium, with powers of motion and weight control, had been a lawman in the rough, has inherited a poor, but powerful house in the heart of civilization and thought he had to give up his crime fighting. Then a gang of thieves, known as the Vanishers, kidnaps his fiancé and he, a deputy from his lawman days who can create an area of stopped time, and his fiancéís cousin studying law enforcement, have to track down the gang. There are exciting fights and an enemy who literally cannot be killed. I hope there are sequels.
Carol Bergís third tale of the Collegia Magica is told through the blind eyes of Dante, the mad necromancer who is hated throughout the land. He is ruing that Anne has temporarily left him to assist her ailing parents Ďs estate. Then a retired soldier arrives with a magically induced dream of The Daemon Prism (trade from Roc) that has haunted him for a decade. Then a letter arrives from his brother about his dying father who has a warning about that same magical jewel. Soon he and his friends are under constant attack on their way to find the three singing jewels created from a meteor centuries before. At the end of his journey he finds old enemies who bribe him with a cure for his magically induced blindness, letting him play with the magical prisms to aid them. Anne has heard of his problems and follows his steps, rescuing his friends and eventually aiding him to face not only his enemies but the greedy hungers within him. Great series, and lots of fun.
John R. Fultzís first novel takes us to a time of extremely powerful sorcerers, heroes, monsters, and giants. A truly ancient sorcerer Elhathym comes to Yaskatha, a kingdom he had ruled millennia before and causes the dead to rise and murder everyone in the Palace except for the Kingís son. Seven Princes (paper from Orbit) from four kingdoms, including two half-giant heroes, and one princess come to help him to regain his kingdom. One of the princes turns traitor, and learns blood magic to murder his half-brother. The princess, Sharadza , learns the way of sorcery and finds two powerful ancient sorcerers to help attack Elhathym. I found the tale oddly compelling and like the fact that most of the problems have been resolved. A sequel is planned and Iím waiting for it.
Ian Watson starts his tale when Everett Singhís father, a physicist, is kidnaped. He had been part of a team that created a portal between our Earth and the nine other Earthís already in contact. He was important because he created a map of the planes, and sends it to Everett, not realizing that Everett will use it to cross to another Earth to rescue him. The Earth he finds is one of electric cars and dirigibles. Somehow he gets the small crew of the Everness, including the Captainís crazy daughter, to help him, but at its end the Planesrunner and the dirigible have found their way to another, unmapped Earth, with his father lost on an other Earth. This variation of Sliders is fun and the science well conceived. Iím eagerly waiting for the continuation.
Brett Patton has mechanical suits that are neat. They are biological and can meld with other devices to form larger devices. But they also influence the minds of their pilots. Mat Lowell has been selected for the Mecha Corps (paper from Roc) to help in the fight against the Corsair pirates. A genetically modified person, Rayder, who killed Matís father, has united the Pirates and Mat and his friends have to master the new Demon suits to even have a hope of stopping them. Very exciting, and hard to put down. Itís the first of a series.
I hadnít read Tamora Pierceís previous books about Beka Cooper, a cop (they call them dogs in slang) in a fantasy world. This time the Mastiff (hard from Random House) is chasing after kidnappers who took the Kingís only son. Along with her partner, her scent dog Achoo who can find a scent even days later, Pounce Ė a cat who is really a constellation (he doesnít like staying in the sky), a mage Farmer who is much more powerful than he lets on, and a knight, Lady Sabine. Rebel nobels and mages are using the four-year-old prince as a link to his parents so that they feel the same suffering he does. The exciting tale pits our heroes against impossible odds and dangerous magic as they cross the land. I enjoyed Bekaís talents of talking to dead souls bourn by pigeons and to dust devils who are more alive than people think. This is a fun, exciting adventure that could easily have been published as an adult tale.
Mike Resnick continues his tale of Doc Holliday in an alternate West where Indian magic has blocked the western advance of the U.S. This time, in The Doctor and the Kid (trade from Prometheus Books), Doc has gambled his retirement money away and decides to try for the bounty on Billy the Kid. But, alas, Billy is protected magically by one of the Indian shamans and canít be hurt. Geronimo offers to remove Billyís protection if Doc will destroy a train station built on an Indian Burial ground. So he calls on his friends Ned Buntline and Thomas Alva Edison who are working on ways to stop the Indian magic. Light fun.
Michael Flynn has been nominated for awards for his series Donavan Buigh, a man broken into multiple personalities. Some of the Shadows of the Confederal want to make war against the ruling Names, so they kidnap Donavan, a man who once may have led a previous revolt, and take him In the Lionís Mouth (hard from Tor). Shadow culture is based on a weird fifteenth century culture that was so weird that I was having trouble following why some of the event occured. The tale doesnít have enough of Donavan in it and drags when he isnít present, but there is a hit of a sequel in which he will shine.
Dave Duncan concludes his fun fifteenth century fantasy that has magic coming from voices like Joan DíArc heard.. But all the fun part of that magic has been dropped for a talent that includes teleportation and cursing. People with the talent are tied to normal people with a curse. Wulf, who is in love with his brotherís new wife, uses his talents to halt the attack on his brotherís castle which makes him important to the VIPís of the age. With the help of his Grandmother who also has the talent, and his lover who is very feisty, survives the politics that happen When the Saints (hard from Tor)overwhelm an individual. . Everything is neatly wrapped up in a deus-ex-machina trial.
K. D. McEntire mixes Buffy the Vampire with Dead Like Me and adds a dash of Peter Pan. Wendy can see into the Never where ghosts live. There she is known as Lightbringer (hard from Pyr) because she can use her light to send a soul onto the next level. She is hunting the soul of her mother, trapped into a coma. Piotr, dead for centuries, has been protecting the souls of lost boys until they move on. The evil walkers that eat souls are on the attack driven by a new player, The White Lady has her own plans for both Piotr and Wendy and only by working together can she be stopped. .
George Mann has a new steampunk adventure for Sir Maurice Newberry and Verionica Hobbs who serve the very old Queen Victoria kept alive with magic. The Immorality Engine (hard from Tor) is about a society determined to overthrow the Queen and restore what they consider ancient values. They clone dead copies of themselves to torture instead of torturing themselves. The plot comes to life when a thief uses his copy to persuade authorities he is already dead. At the same time the doctor treating Queen Victoria has been using the device to make copies of Veronicaís sister Amelia, the only person who can have living copies made of herself. Soon the pair are fighting giant mechanical spiders and trying to protect England. I had the misfortune to read this when my computer crashed, which made it difficult to concentrate as I was restoring my computer at the same time. Still I did enjoy it.
Reprints include Poul Andersonís Captain Flandry (paper from Baen);Robert J. Sawyerís Mindscan (trade from Tor) about a man downloaded into an android body, and four John Grimes novels from A. Bertram Chandler when he was a Galactic Courier (trade from Baen)
The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on January 6th at 8p.m. at International House on the University of Pennsylvania. Campus .This is the annual election meeting.
Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords)