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Science Fiction for January 2014
by Henry Leon Lazarus
    Science Fiction and sometimes fantasy sometimes are about real scientists who are rarely as logic driven as they appear in most books.
James Cambias takes us to a deep sea lab on the planet Ilmatar; a Ceres like world covered with ice with a deep ocean where intelligent beings see with sonar. The Human expedition has been prevented from any interaction by the more Powerful Sholen, a species that has blown themselves to the stone age four times and will do anything to prevent other species from doing the same thing.  In  A Darkling Sea (hard from Tor) one of the researchers, an adventurer who sells his adventures, comes too close to the Ilmatarans in a stealth suit, they dissect him. That’s the trigger the Sholens need and their powerful ship arrives to remove the human expedition. Passive resistence turns active, andthen to guerrilla war aided by the Ilmatarans. Mr. Cambias has a nice ear for cultural differences and nicely has very few actual villains. This is a tale I would nominate for an award. It’s an amazing look at interspecies interaction that feels very real.
DK Mok shows us another type of scientist, one with a quest. Chris Arlin is a crypto-batonist When a representative from Sinacorp, a huge evil corporation, tries to recruit her to join an expedition to find the real Eden and The Other Tree (paper from Spence City) that can confer immortality. Chris mother was killed on the last expedition,. But her father is dying of cancer, so she decides to hunt for Eden on her own, a place written about in Sumerian and Pre-Sumerian records that are far older than civilization. She enlists the help of a priest in the department of Religion and the two of go off hunting for clues around the world From Naples to a strange University in Australia, to a desert location deep  in the Middle East. One group is trying to stop them first by scaring them off, and then by attempting to kill them. The Sinacorp people are buying up all the clues. But somehow they manage to face the gates to Eden deep in a cave. Ms. Mok somehow manages to make this quest feel quite real and even Eden somehow feels as if did protect early humanity one hundred fifty thousand years ago. Think Indiana Jones with normal people. Highly recommended.
Matt Willis borrows from a real sighting of a sea monster in 1848. Daedalus and The Deep (trade from Fireship Press) tells of the British corvette heading home on its final voyage. They were supposed to hunt pirates, but instead they found the monster and pursued it only to have themselves under attack from a determined, intelligent being from the ocean depths. We see the tale mainly through the eyes of Midshipman Colyer, a woman posing as her dead brother to send money to her family. It is impossible not to get caught up in the lives of these interesting characters as they face both monster and hurricane in the great Southern Sea. This rivals one of the best sea yarns and is impossible to put down.
Ian Tregillis has a fun angel noir tale that is Something More Than Night (hard from  Macmillan) Humans only become angels when an angel dies and all others just die. Bayliss, who thinks of himself as a Philip Marlow character picks a random stranger. Molly Pruett, who is visiting Australia for her mothers funeral, is crushed beneath a trolley and becomes an angel while the ashes of Gabriel fill the sky. Thrown into a totally new world where a beating can throw memories around, Molly is attacked by Cherubs looking for the missing Jericho trumpet. Then human souls appear in structure of heaven, something unheard of. As Molly and Bayless investigate the murder of Gabriel, Molly learns how to interact with people almost killing her old girl friend on the first attempt. People are being murdered on Earth by someone using the trumpet. There’s a great twist to the mystery, and a solid mythos that takes a bit of work to understand but is well worth the effort. With glorious poetic prose, the tale is memorable fascinating .
K.A. Stewart builds a wild west built on Magic with artificial horses and two types of magic. Indian magic can’t be felt by the Americans, and vica-versa Caleb Marcus was a powerful magician able to alter the flight of cannon balls during the Civil war, but he was injured and lacks most of his power. He’s part of the Peacemaker (ebook from Intermix) corps. He and his jackalope familiar, Ernst have come to a small town with a rancher who has a small army. Children are losing their inborn magical powers, the land has dried up and earthquakes are coming more often. The Rancher, of course blames the red skins, but when Caleb goes for help he ambushed and tied up as food for the local predators. I really enjoyed this oddball mix of genres that somehow works. The sequel should be lots of fun.
All religious books are historical fiction with Gods no more real than the ones walking around in Homer’s Iliad. It’s easy not to believe. Jillian Campbell, The Atheist (paper from Norn Publishing) in Sarah Ettritch’s fun tale of people with powers who get their orders in their sleep from God., is a government agent who infiltrates organizations to find while collar criminals. Her latest target, a new church. Then the Pastor is murdered and she blamed for it with fake evidence planted in her apartment. But, according to the people who break her out of jail, she is a fledgling Deiform, one of only fifty in the world. This is a fun, exciting first of a series, introducing us to a world where Deiforms help make the world better while Beguilers try to increase evil. 
Kim Newman has been slowly writing his Anno Dracula (paper) series since the middle nineties and I’ve been following eagerly. He basically assumes that the events in Bram Stoker’s Dracula happened, except that Dracula survived and came out in the open, Marrying Queen Victoria, he created lots of vampires. The Bloody Red Baron (paper) of World War I  in fact didn’t fly an airplane, he was a giant bat. Dracula dies in 1956 when Dracula Cha Cha Cha (paper is a top song) But in the depths of World War II, Dracula converted a young man. Johnny Alucard ( hard from Titan Books which I bought electronically) shows up on the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula which resembles our Apocalypse Now. That gets him to New York where he learns to sell his blood creating a cocain like craze while running in Andy Warhol’s circle. When that falls apart he ends up in Hollywood as a producer working with big names in movies like The Rock. The real fun of this series is how real and fictional characters interact. It’s a world in which Captain America and Hamish Bond work together, and Jim Rockford in a private detective. I dons’t know if the next decade will see a conclusion to this fun series, but each part stands on it’s own. Highly recommended.
Justin Gustainis has a third police procedural set in a version of our world  world where all the mythical  creatures exist. Stan Markowski is a cop in the Occult Crimes Unit. His partner. Karl Renfer and his daughter are both vampires as are many of the gang bosses. Known Devil (ebook from Angry Robot) starts when two drug addicted elves try to rob the diner where Markowski and Renfer are eating. Except there are no drugs that effect the supernatural creatures. It seems a new gang is moving in to Scranton. There’s also a political party that hates supernaturals and is gaining popularity with every incidence of violence that hits the local paper. This is fun and good reading not only for fantasy fans, but also for mystery fans who like their tales with strange backgrounds.
John Dixon, a former boxer who worked with troubled kids has the tale of Carl Freeman who won a junior boxing championship, but after the death of his parents fits poorly into foster care until he stops a local football team from bullying a weaker boy and sends some of them to the hospital. That gets him a trip to Phoenix Island (hard from  Gallery Books ), a boot camp for troubled teens. However it’s far worse. Commander Stark created the camp to get new mercenaries and,  in the later stages of training, the weaker recruits are hunted to death by the stronger. There’s also human experimentation going on, nano-technology to improve speed and healing ability. The final chip to create the nano-tech man (like bionic but not artificial) has left the subjects brain dead. The story will continue in the CBS show Intelligence starting this January. The tale is very intense with a Lord of the Flies feel.
Myke Cole resolves all the plot twists in the third, exciting  Shadow Ops: Breach Zone (paper from Ace). Earth and another world on a different plane have connected releasing super powers in those latent’s who have the ability to access it. Laws were pass to make certain types of power illegal and the laws are enforced by the Supernatural Operations Corps. The first tale introduced us to Oscar Britton, a man who can teleport from plane to plane, an illegal talent. The second we see paper pusher Colonel Alan Bookbinder sent to a Fort on the goblin world which comes under attack. In this tale, Jan Thorsson who can fly and shoot lighting is in charge of defending New York against a goblin assault let by an ex-girl friend who can literally rot the wall between the worlds. He can only win with the help of Latents who have hidden their powers. Very exciting and a must for those who enjoyed the first two tales.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is one of my favorite authors. Rex Regis (hard from Tor)completes the five part prequel to his world where People work magic by imaging things. Lydar was all by conquered by Quaeryt in the previous books and all that remains is a treaty with the fifth section of the Island. However treason sends  Quaeryt to the north where he is ambushed by enemy Imagers. Other than that excitement, the Island of Imagers is built and a place for them found in society. It’s a quiet tale and a nice ending. There’s another Recluse novel coming next year.
    David G. Hartwell ‘selection of the Year’s best SF 18 (trade from Tor) with tales from 2012 is out. I’m sure that it will include some of the award nominees.
    Baen has reprinted in paper the last Keldara tale, Tiger by the Tail which has the usual fun action; two Andre Norton tales in The Iron Breed; and David Webers last Honor Harrington tale, A Rising Thunder.
    A second collection of tales by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Constellation Volume 2 is out in trade from Baen.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on January 11, 2014 at 8 p.m. at International House on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus..This is the annual election meeting . As usual Guests are Welcome.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords).