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Science Fiction for January  2015
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    Gender roles were well-defined during most of human history. Still, despite this, strong women did appear. Fictional versions done right, makes for fun Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Maggie Anton writes historical tales about strong Jewish women. Rav Hisda's Daughter (trade from Plume) was one of the few women mentioned in the Babylon Talmud and probably lived from the late third century to the middle of the fourth at a time when the Parthian Empire, dominated by  Zoroastrianism ruled Babylon and Persia and was invaded numerous times by the Romans. It was also a time of strong ceremonial magic with spells written on clay pots and metal amulets. When Hisdadukh was nine, she was asked which of her father’s students she wanted to be betrothed to and told her father both of them. At thirteen she is married to Rani, and has a happy marriage until he is bitten by a snake. Convinced that Raba, the other student, was magically responsible she travels to Israel where a disease kills her daughter and almost kills her. From the very beginning she earns extra money as a certified amulet and blessing maker. But her training becomes more intense as she works to become an Enchantress (hard from Plume which I bought as an ebook) . She is prophesied to have and does have five sons. At the same time her magical powers grow. Eventually she faces the sorcerer who has been turning travelers into burros in the Arabian Desert. I was enthralled by the description of Jewish life in the era before Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. At times the magic here seems like superstition, but then it starts working. I hope this gets nominated for an award.
Jo Walton loves Plato’s Republic and imagines Athena using time travel to create The Just  City (hard from Tor). People from our past, Like  Maia, a Victorian spinster originally named Ethel,  who prayed to be part of the experiment are picked from their time and sent back to be masters. Ten thousand forty children, including Simmea, are bought at slave auctions over various periods. Apollo  is one of them, learning what is human by becoming one. The city is placed on Thera two centuries before the island will explode and erase all traces. There are no slaves because robots provide the labor. When the children are old enough Sokrates is added as a teacher, taken just before his fatal hemlock drink. When the children are old enough they are paired in single-day weddings to randomly chosen  partners, every four months until most of the girls are pregnant. Sokrates is fascinated by the Robots, convinced they are intelligent beings and wants to communicate with them. The tale ends with Sokrates confronting Athena about the logic of her choices. Fascinating and I think  an award nominee.
Michael Moorcock has been writing for a living since his teenage years in the middle fifties and was very much at the core of the New Wave when he edited New Worlds in the late sixties. However instead of a memoir, which would be well received, he tells of an alternate version of himself with subtle differences (his wife’s name, the number of children and even his birthdate) The radical difference was his ability to enter, Alsatia,  the refuge of the Carmelite Friars in which fantasy characters like Pecos Bill and Dumas’s musketeers share drinks at the pub with real historical figures like  Prince Rupert, nephew and general of Charles I. In the real world he hears the noise of The Whispering Swarm (hard from Tor) while he lives the same life as the real author. In Alsatia he finds refuge from the noise and from his wife in the form of Moll Midnight. But things eventually get dangerous when he gets involved in Prince Rupert’s plan to rescue Charles I from beheading by Cromwell in 1649. The tale is a mind-bender, mixing reality with the fantasy Michael Moorcock is known for. It ends when Mr. Moorcock turns thirty and there are two sequels promised.
W. C. Bauers tells a very intense tale of future war and an Unbreakable (hard from Tor) heroine who also talks to her dead mother. Promise Paen’s parents were both murdered by Pirates attacking her home world Montana which is loosely tied to the Republic of Aligned Worlds.   The Lusitanian Empire feels Montana is an easy addition to their empire Promoted to Lieutenant, Promise soon finds that her platoon of marines, along with Ann, the President and a small militia lacking modern weapons. Mr. Bauers lets you feel the bloody violence involved in military encounters. I can’t wait for sequels.
Joel Shepherd sixth tale of android Cassandra Kresnov finds that the Federation is being infiltrated by the Originator ((trade from Pyr) species that created the technology that created her and other GI’s . The Talee have destroyed themselves twice and are very leery of any technology that led to their apocalypses. Sandy’s adopted son Kiril was fitted with a growing uplink connection that improves on the connector driving elements in the League literally nuts. In fact for humans it’s a solution to the problem. To get at him the Talee GI’s who look like humans, put Sandy’s home in  artificial reality . Only the GI’s can shake it. High action with lots of fun. S
Justis Fearsson is a weremyste, a magic worker who goes nuts during three nights around the full moon. The only drugs available to curb the symptoms also keep the magic at bay and, despite his father have mostly gone over the edge, he’s not ready for that. He was a cop, like his father for eight years till his condition got in the way. Now he works as a P. I. Then the Blind Angel, a serial killer he investigated as a cop, returns with a high-profile victim and only Justis knows that magic was involved.  Then the killer attacks all the weremystes involved and only really learning how to improve his magic can keep Justis alive. Spell Blind (hard from Baen) is a solid mystery with an interesting magical twist. David B. Coe has more adventures planned for Justis and I look forward to them.
S.G. Redling tells a tale of the Nahan, the real species of human hiding among us and the basis of the vampire myths. They get energy from blood, can hypnotize with their breath,  and live for centuries but are quite alive. Killing a common human while drinking their blood gets them high.  Ourselves (ebook from 47North) is the tale of Stell, a  Nahan raised in a religious group that tries to deny the Nahan blood thirst. She ignored their teaching and mostly ran wild in the woods where she met Tomas.  Tomas applies and gets accepted to join the ruling Storytellers, a job that takes the special talents. Something went wrong with the previous apprentice and Stell and Thomas have to break a few rules to get to the bottom of a corruption in Nahan life. Very intense.
David Welch looks at a far future in which hyperspace travel is common and humanity has spread out to thousands of stars. Rex Vahl is sent on a suicide mission into the Chaos Quarter (hard from 47 North) where piracy and general lawlessness rules. A few settled planets have provide some civilization, but there are rumors of a third major power forming, the Hegemony. Sent in without crew, Rex soon picks up Chakruja, former prostitute with tiger-striped skin as a co-pilot in training and milk provider for the baby that  Lucius, an ex-noble on the run  from the Europan empire arrives with (the mother was shot). Finding the dead Ambassador to the Hegemony sends a Hegemony bio-ship on his tail, while at the same time a Europan war ship is in pursuit of Lucius. Lots of fun and exciting chases.
John Ringo concludes his Zombie Apocalypse tale with the retaking of Washington D. C. Strands of Sorrow (hard from Baen) has its fun with a few rescued brass who don’t understand how a fourteen-year-old girl can be a Marine Lieutenant and one of the best Zombie killers in the world. The biggest hitch comes when the Secretary of Education is rescued, the highest-ranking, cabinet member and immediately stops  the clea- up campaign because she thinks the infected are still human. Exciting and fun.
I was expecting a twist but Mike Resnick plays his tale straight. Colonel Nathan Pretorius’s impossible mission, if he chooses to accept it, is to take a team deep into Kabori territory to The Fortress in Orion (trade from Pyr)  With him is a clone of General Michkag and his handler. The mission is to infiltrate and substitute the clone for the real General. His recruited team includes: Snake, a contortionist thief; Circe an empath; Pandora a computer genius; Gzychurlyx an alien who can create visible images; and Proto an ex-soldier whose replacements parts make him almost android. Fun and probably the first in a series.
Roxane Dambre tells of the Daierwolves of Paris (ebook from AmazonCrossing and translated by Patrick F. Brown)  who can change to any shape or partial change. They have a preferred shape. Aloysia (who likes to be called Lou) favorite shape is that of a Panther. Daierwolves also interbreed with humans.  Chalcrocs, which are more like the movie werewolves with lots of hair and a killing streak that lasts for three nights a month. Lou needs to join the French Secret service because they apparently have discovered the hidden secrets. When she arrives at their headquarters she discovers, in addition to the handsome agent who recruited her, that they had one dead Chalcroc and actually captured a Daierwolf. Letting Mister Bear escape was a mistake because it turnsout he is quite mad and wants  Daierwolves to rule humanity. She has somehow to capture him again, protect her sexy secret agent and keep him for learning her secret. Fun. Light fun.
Emily Drake starred in her first Broadway musical when fairies stole her to the Realm.  Her sister, Sophia,  who had rescued her before, knew immediately and took the first flight to New York. According to Shanna Swendson the Realm had been missing a Queen for centuries and was slowly dying. In A Fairy Tale (ebook from NLA Digital LLC) one of the fairy leaders remembered a song sung by Sophia that gave directions to the empty throne and kidnaped Emily to lure her sister. Helping the sisters is a police detective on sick leave whose wife had been stolen seven years before. There’s an interesting twist to what would be a modern version of a standard fairyland visit, but the tale is fun and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
     Hard sf fans will enjoy Ben Bova and Eric Choi collection of mostly new tales in Carbon Tipped Pens (hard from Tor)
    Baen has reprinted Sharon Lee and Steve Miller last Liaden tale, Trade Secret and John Ring’s zombie tale To Sail a Darkling Sea in paper. They also have reprinted classic tales such as Robert A. Heinlein’s The Man who sold the Moon and Orphans of the Sky (one Book) and two of James P. Hogan’s tales in Worlds in Chaos both in paper.
    New American Library has reprinted Daniel Price’s fun time travel tale about people from our time taken to the future, The Flight of the Silvers in trade.
    Open Road Media is putting out the following classics in Ebook form: Joe Haldeman’s Worlds; Philip Wylie’s Tomorrow; Nancy Springer’s Larque on the Wing; Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix Plus; and Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword.  
    Mijke Redsnick and Robert T. Garcia have edited a collection of original tales from the Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs (paper from Baen) which are a must for Tarzan and Princess of Mars fans
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on, January 9th  2015 at 8 p.m. at International house on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. This is the infamous  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).