Henry L Lazarus
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
 
Science Fiction for February 2011
By Henry Leon Lazarus
    Fantasy and Science fiction may have started with Jules Verne and Mary Shelley, but it grew strong roots in the pulp fiction of the twenties and thirties. Like scripted televison, it is usually has solid, although flawed,  characters punching through obstacles and, of course, saving the day. Sometimes, however, literature shows through the bravado of the action plot.
Jasper Kent has been invoking both Tolstoy and Bram Stoker by adding vampires seamlessly to Russian history. His first tale told of Twelve (paper) vampires sent to aid the guerrilla warfare against Napoleonís invasion. Aleksai learned of their nature and one by one, killed them.  It is Thirteen Years Later (hard from Pyr). History tells us that Tsar Alexander I, a healthy forty-six year-old, will die of a cold. His family maintains that he faked his death and lived on as a monk. When his brother Nicholas takes the throne, a Decembrist rebellion by Army officers, who want more of what they saw in Paris when chasing Napoleon home, is brutally put down. Mr. Kent adds a pact with Dracula and Peter the Great, and a member of the British Royal Society experimenting on vampires to discover their weaknesses. Aleksai and his son Demtri are are the heart of this exciting look at Russia in transition. These are must-have books and I canít recommend them high enough. Three more books are planned in the series which finishes with the Russian Revolution.
Vampire Raylene Pendle, born a flapper, earns her blood by stealing lost secrets both embarrassing and of value for blackmail. When a blind vampire, who claims to have lost his sight in a government lab, asks her to retrieve secret files that may indicate how to cure him. But the Bloodshot (trade from Spectra by Cherie Priest) files are supposed to be in a highly protected secure area, except they were stolen by an ex Navy Seal/Drag Queen. Soon Raylene and Adrian are being chased by CIA agents in black SUVís. Plus, someone has restarted the research project and they want the files and are willing to kill to get them. Very exciting action that practically demands a sequel. This was a wow!
I have been waiting for five years for Steve Cash to finish his tale of The Meq (paper). We first met Zianno or simply Z) in 1881 when he survived the train wreck which killed his parents. He was really twelve He thought he weird when he didnít age, but he was really a member of an ancient race of people who never age until they meet their destined partner, and then with a special ceremony during a solar eclipse, begin aging. In 1945 in Nagasaki, he is protected from the atomic bomb by his enemy Fleur-du-mal. All he and the other Meq know is that the five magical stones they carry must be renewed in a ceremony called The Remembering (trade from Del Rey) but the information is hidden in Eastern Germany where the Nazis had hidden ancient stones that hint at the answer. So Z is present during the Soviet invasion of Hungary and near enough to the grassy knoll in Dallas to see JFKís real assassin. Eventually he hadmeets some Neanderthal Meg who point the final clues so that all goes well and the stones are renewed for the next seventy thousand years. This is a wonderful series with a beautiful ending.
Tad Williams has taken a slightly shorter time to conclude his massive, albeit fascinating,   cautionary tale that proves that mad Autarchs should let sleeping Gods lie. It seems that Southmarch (paper), a capital city on the edge of the Fairy kingdom, has in its hidden depths the place where the last war between gods took place. One dying god locked the others into sleep. For the last few generations the Xians have been slowly conquering the world and their current Autarch thinks that if he can get to the site of that final battle deep under the castle, a place of mystery for the half-sized funderlings, he can awaken one of those gods and bring him under his command. It is all a Shadowplay (paper) for the royal family as the King Olin, captured years before, is brought by the Autarch to be part of the ritual to raise the god. When Southmarch is has a revolution, his twin heirs go off in different directions. Treachery forces Princess Briony out of the castle to wander with a group of traveling players, eventually to reach the southern kingdom of Syan where the heir, Eneas falls for her and brings soldiers with him to help her home. It is also a time of Shadowrise (paper which I bought for my Kindle app) in the twilight of fairy lands when Prince Barrick has a quest guided by a mad raven to reach the ancient court of the Fairies with a magical mirror. But all roads lead back to the home castle where the fairies, humans, funderlings all must find their Shadowheart (hard from DAW which I bought for my kindle app) and stop  the Xians from performing their ritual. Of course the ritual is impossible to stop and the god risen is uncontrollable. The world is doomed, but for the courage of the littlest fighter and a child still ten after fifty years. Wow, this is easily Tad Williams best.
Paul McAuley proves that conspiracy theories work much better in an American Empire that stretches across alternate versions of America. Cowboy Angels (Pyr) opened this new frontier starting in a version of America they call Real. Then they overturned governments, Nazi. Communist, and dictatorships in between to restore democracy and freedom. Then President Carter is elected and ends the action. Adam Stone retires, leading hunter trips on a world without humans. Then his best friend, thought dead for three years, turns up trapped in a version of America, where the Cuban Missile crisis turned nuclear, after killing numerous doppelgängers of a female mathematician. The macguffin is a device that can reset a turing gate (used to travel between alternate Americas) so that it sends someone to another time. The bad guys want to change events so that Carter is never elected. So Stone goes from hunting his friend to running across America with him and his daughter, to being tortured by the bad guys, to nabbing an atomic bomb set to blow up Carter in our past. Very exciting and impossible to put down. I read it in a day.
In Kim Harrisonís ninth tale of the witch Rachel Morgan and her partnerís Jenks (a pixie) and Ivy (a living vampire), itís time for a road trip,. Trent, the elf magnate, has a quest that requires him to cross country in a car (the modern equivalent of a steed), and security reasons block Rachael from flying to the meeting in San Francisco which is supposed to clear her of the charge of doing black magic. But under the St. Louis Arch is a Pale Demon(hard from Eos) who can walk in the Sun and who loves to eat souls. So from fighting off other elves to saving her friends from being killed, to proving to the demons that she is really one of them, Rachael has her hands full. This series is always light fun and much better than the generic paranormal romance.
Maria V. Snyder tackles the generation ship genre with aplomb. Inside Out (trade from Harlequin Teen which I bought for my Kindel app) introduces us to Trella, a seventeen-year old scrub who has explored all the ducts of the cubic starship. Most of the history of the ship has been lost when one of the controlling families seized power and erased most of the history. The lower two decks are massively crowded with maintenance workers and the upper with administration, all controlled by the Trava family who easily recycle their enemies. Trella and Riley, her upper boy friend, are at the heart of a revolution. Freedom from the Trava family leads to committee rule and refusal of the lowers to work. Add outsiders coming from the Outside In (trade from Harlequin Teen ) on a ship light-years from any planet and you have another fun and exciting adventure.
The best part of John Ringoís tale of an asteroid converted to a Citadel (hard from Baen) to fight galactic fleets coming through the new gate to our solar system, is the young recruits who have to adapt to life in the citidel. Dana Parker is a naval engineer/ pilot who has to find her legs in the very confusing work environment. Butch Allen has been hired as a wielder in the harsh environment of Space. Of course the Rangoran Empire decides to attack the solar system after taking down a star empire that had been humanityís friends, even though embargo would have been effective, but not as much fun. This is a must for space war fans, though there is nothing very original. I couldnít put it down.
In her third adventure Genevieve Scaian, known as the hound to the magical community of Boston because of her magical ability to smell out missing things and whose day job is being a bike messenger, has to deal with a weakening of her powers, and a demon come to recover her missing trinket. The demon caused a famous darkness at noon on May 19th 1780, which in reality may have been caused by a massive Canadian forest fire, and wants her powers back. As Margaret Ronald tells it, Evie is tricked into going back to 1780 on a Soul Hunt (paper from Harper Voyager) to retrieve the object and then has to save Boston from the consequences of her actions. Fun and I hope we get more adventures
Itís a case of werewolf politics in Linda Robertsonís third tale of a witch who harbors werewolves during their moon time. Her boyfriend, the Domn Lup because he can transform any time and retains his human thoughts, has come to the attention of the Werewolf leadership. Decades ago Persephoneís mother performed a ritual that made Johnny what he is and erased all previous memories. Seph has to perform an Arcane Circle (paper from Pocket) to find the secrets hidden in Johnnyís past. Fun.
 The second book of K. J. Taylorís tale of a land where Griffinís partner with humans and are the only ones with magic, continues as Aaron and his Griffin Skandor, flee the city where Aaron was killed and reborn without a heart. They make The Griffinís Flight (paper from Ace) across to the enslaved north where Aaron faces his heritage and meets his Goddess. The final tale, nest month, will tell of the Northern uprising and Aaronís final fate. Iím still reading.
    Last month I mentioned The Buntline Special by Mike Reynolds. The correct author is Mike Resnick. I guess the snow got to me.
     Baen has reprinted two of Sharon Lee and Steve Millerís fun Liden universe tales in The Agent Gambit (trade) along with John Ringo and Tom Kratmanís tale of the Posleen, The Tuloriad (paper).
     The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on February 11th, 2011 at 8 pm at the International House on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus. Jim Freund, the host of the Pacifica Radio show Hour of the Wolf . Guests are welcome.
     Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods from Wolfsinger Publications which can be bought on Amazon.com.