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Science Fiction for February 2013
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    Epic fantasy has for decades followed the quest format established by the late J. R. R. Tolkien. A small group of adventurers find, or try to destroy a magical object and , as in Lord of the Rings,  end up saving their world. George R. R.Martin took a separate path with his endless Game of Thrones which plays on politics without good or evil, only grayness.
Robert V. S. Redick series about the final voyage of the centuries-old ship. Chathrand, one of the few that can cross the ruling sea that divides the human north from the south where a mind plague has wiped out all humans, comes to an exciting end as our heroes try to prevent The Night of the Swarm (hard from Del Rey). The tale starts with the death of the sorcerer Arunis who still could become a god if the swarm he released destroys this world. They have the Nile stone, but canít use it. Chased by allies of Arunisís mad sister, they have to cross a continent and then somehow rejoin the Chathrand which already decided to abandon them, and then cross the Ruling sea north and move safely between two warring empires with armadaís of ships to save their world. This is a good solid ending to a solid, epic tale.S
Marie Brennan sets her fictional memoir of Isobella, Lady Trent, who has become the foremost expert on Dragons, in a Victorian age in which women, especially noble women, are protected from the rigors of the world. In her world dragons are part of the natural and range from the tiny sparklings that grace Scirland lawns to the massive and rare true dragons that only can be found in remote areas. Isobella is so fascinated by dragons that she attempts a dissection of a sparkling at a young age. She also sneaks her fatherís book, A Natural History of Dragons (hard from Tor). Somehow she also manages to find a husband also fascinated by dragons and talks her way onto an expedition to Vystrana led by the explorer and dragon hunter Lord Hilford. Though she is along only as secretary and illustrator, she gets involved hunting a half-dragon monster attacking the village in which they are staying. And at one point is kidnaped by smugglers. While there is a purely mundane explanation for the monster and for the problems that beset them, the dragons are quite real. The tale is wonderful and I wouldnít be shocked to find it on an award nomination.
Linda Stasi has an exciting thriller created out of an idea that religious folk might find upsetting, but seculars might find silly. In 1982 a cult cloned Jesus. In 2015 Demiel ben Yusef is on trial in New York City for blowing up religious buildings a round the world. Alessandra Russo, one of the last print reporters, manages to get close to the route the heavily chained Christ and, like The Sixth Station (hard from Tor) of the cross, Demiel steps over to Alessandra and gives her a kiss. Soon Alessandra is on the run, accused of killing a priest, and caught between the cult trying to kill this new Jesus, and those descended from the Cathers who are trying to provide proof that he is indeed the returned Jesus. She visits famous places like Maryís House in Turkey where the boy was raised, and works with the man who married his mother and protected him. Iím not a Christian and it was still hard to put down. It was so well researched that I found myself going again and again to Wikipedia for further information about famous events and places  I was totally unaware of. Lots of fun.
Grace Delarua works in the biotechnical office on Cygnus Beta, a world so newly settled that most people are homesteading. Then, according to Karen Lord, the Sadiri came after the destruction of their planet. They were looking for members of their group who had settled on this planet. Some of them had retained their Sadari heritage, and even their telepathic gifts that had forced them to think very logically. Soon Grace is part of their expedition looking at various settlements with strange customs. People searching for strange versions of The Best of All Possible Worlds (hard from Del Rey) Along the way they find a society based on Tolkein elves, another based on caste, and others including one gone completely underground. Grace grows to understand the aloof Sadiri and even, eventually, to fall in love with one of them. I was completely caught up in her adventures and think that this tale also could easily find itís way to an award nomination.
Neal Asher is a British author who shines with dark adventure tales set in the far future. For The Departure (trade from Night Shade books) he sets his tale only two centuries hence when Earthís Central government is so overwhelmed by a population eighteen billions that they have abandoned the Mars colony and are planning to use the functioning lasers on satellites to murder two thirds of the population. Enter super-genius Alan Saul who had created a mind/computer interface and fallen afoul of Earth leaders. Tortured till his memory was lost, he was sent to be cremated and managed to escape. His plan is to get to Argus, an asteroid moved to Earthís orbit, and get control of those satellites, to stop the genocide. He also plans to kill anyone who gets in his way. An ex-girl friend, Varalia Delex who has designed more complicated mind/machine interfaces comes along to help. The violence is extreme and the tale is impossible to put down. Luckily it reaches a stable stopping point. Part two has already appeared in England and will be available here next fall. I canít wait.
Jeff Somers tells us that magic is quite real, and requires blood. Powerful magicians sacrifice many for powerful workings. Lem has never risen above the level of Trickster (paper from Pocket) because he cannot bring himself to use any blood but his own. He and his not-so-bright friend Mags survive by using small magic to steal from normals and cheat at cards. Then an accident leads them to Claire bound and gagged and covered in runes. She is apparently part of a whole set of women who are part of a grand working that has the potential to kill everyone in the world. That sets Lem, Mags, and Claire on the run and looking for help from powerful magicians, This modern, noir fantasy is impossible to put down. Hopefully there will be a sequel.
Chrysoula Tzavelas tells us about a young slacker woman in Los Angeles who has a friend raising twin pre-school girls. When the girls call her frantic because their uncle has disappeared, it seems he left Marley Claviger as the girls emergency contact before he literally disappeared into his den. She gets the girls and finds one of them has the ability to magically open locks. Then a lawyer accuses her of kidnaping the Matchbox Girls (trade from Candlemark & Gleam). Then someone shoots her and a man with raven pets helps her get away. Soon it seems as is she is caught between competing groups of Nephelium, one of which is working for an Angel trying to kill the girls. There are fairies in her dreams and she discovers she too has magical powers that may possibly keep her and her small charges alive. Lots of fun and I hope thereís a sequel
Peter V. Brett continues his tale of a future world beset by demons that rise every night from the Earthís core. The Warded Man (paper) and Ahmann Jardir both faced a demon prince in the  The Desert Spear (paper) . In the third tale Ahmann Jardir is planning The Daylight War (hard from Del Rey) in which he will prove he  is the deliverer. But first he and Arlan have to each face three demon princes. Mr. Brett reviews the first two books by telling the tale of how Jardirís wife, Inevera, pulled him to power. The tale is intense and impossible to put down. Alas, it ends in a cliff hanger leaving the reader to wait a year for what is probably the final book in this well done series.
Mike Harmon makes James Bond look like a wimp. As told by John Ringo and Ryan Sear, his sixth adventure has him with a Tiger by the Tail(hard from Baen). It starts simply enough with Mike deciding to get his newly trained seals blooded by attacking pirates in the South China Sea. Easy enough for his Keldara, but the pirates have captured a box of computer chips for a nuclear reactor stolen from China. The President wants him to follow up. The trail leads to Hong Kong where he is attacked trying to sell the chips. Which is  not a good idea, because of his trained crew. Then the trail leads to Shanghai, and Bangkok, and eventually to Burma where a rogue Chinese General thinks they will make good mine slaves. The sex scenes are for adults only, but anyone who likes his action well limned and any gun lover will really appreciated any of the books in this series.
K. J. Taylor had a nice trilogy about a fantasy world in which the Noble class bonded with Gryphons. The protagonist of the Fallen moon series was Arenadd, a man who was brought back to life by the moon goddess as part of her war against the Sun. He left a daughter behind in the Sun lands, Laela who a mix of the dark  northerners and the light southerners. When her step father dies, she makes her way to the capital of the North where a chance encounter with itís ruler Arenadd, leads her into her confidence and eventually, after helping him in a voyage to the far south, becomes The Shadowís heir (paper from Ace). While the dance between father and daughter goes on for most of the tale, Laela is a fun character and Iím look forward to the next book in this second trilogy.
Sarah A. Hoyt continues her tale of Athena who didnít know was a female clone of one of the mules who ruled Earth in secret. Modified humans live on the space colony of Eden, stealing power pods from a giant space tree that canít be duplicated. In Dark Ship Thieves (paper) she met Kim and eventually had to go to Earth to save his life after a serious accident. They may not have leaked the location of Eden in escaping, but no one wants them back. The only hope of a small group of Dark Ship Renegades (trade from Baen) is to return to Earth and find the papers that Jarl, the creator of the Powertrees might have left. What Athena doesnít know is that Kim is Jarlís clone and, when he is shot on Eden, manages somehow to have Jarlís mind show up in his. Somehow Jarl has to be convinced to die again while the group is running around Earth chases by varies enemies. Itís a bit convoluted, but still I enjoyed it.
Itís hard to believe but Barb and J. C. Hendee started their Noble Dead series with a stand alone tale about a half-elf and a dhampir faking vampire attacks on small villages, only to encounter a very real vampire. Then they started a long quest and five books later they discovered a magical orb. Apparently there are five of these orbs and together they form a magical weapon.  In the latest tale Magiere, Leesil and Chap have vivid memories of taking one orb north and somehow finding another. Brotíäní duivè (The Dog in the Dark (hard from ROC)) remembers his involvement in starting a war with the Most aged father, an ancient elf who had sent assassins after Magiere and Leesil. The next tale will continue the journey south or join Osha and Wynn as they search for the other orb. I suspect the tale will take several books to complete and the authors are in no hurry. Iím still enjoying the journey.
Trey Garrison has the first part of his tale of Nazis of the Black Sun Reich (electronic from Harper Voyager) searching for the Spear of Destiny. Itís only 1928 but Hitler has been in power since 1922. They are worried in the Texas Freehold, the libertarian nation that is  of six North American nations, especially when Dr. Deitel smuggles out word that the Germans are working on a way to created unkillable vampiric soldiers. Soon he is paired with a pilot, Sean Rocker and have to face Nazi agents in the Union States of America. This is only the first third and sets a rollicking pace that is both fun. Howard Hughes and Nicolas Tesla and cameoís along with several other famous people of the time, but the fun is in the Raiders of the Lost Arc shtick that makes the tale irresistible. Alas this is only the first third of the tale.
In Count to a Trillion (paper) John C. Wright introduced us to  Menelaus Illation Montrose, a genius who tried to really improve his intelligence just before undergoing cryonics as part of a star ship crew. Cured of his insanity, he overthrows his world. Then, just after their wedding, his wife steals the star ship and heads out, on a trip that will take her seventy thousand years to return. Aliens are heading to Earth to invade in only eight thousand years. So Menelaus goes back into Cryonic suspension, waking every so often when there are problems. In the year 10515 , The Hermetic Millennia (hard from Tor) his casket is broken into by tomb raiders/ possible archaeologists interested in the truths and legends that have evolved in the various cultural epoches that have passed. Even though he hides who he actually is, Menelaus ends up translating for people from the ages of giants, witches, chimera, etc that have reshaped Earth over and over again. Will he survive when his captors discover his true identity. We find out next book.
    Morrow has in interesting historical hard cover  NINJA: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior by acclaimed historian John Man.
    Baen has reprinted in papar P. C. Hodgellís Honorís Paradox the sixth book in a great series; two classic Andre Norton tales in Moonsingerís Quest; a novel and other tales by Kieth Laumer, Future Imperfect; and Larry Correiaís fun Spellbound the second in a pre-world War II pulp series in an alternate America with magic.S
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on February 1st at 8 p.m. at International House  on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus.  Tom Doyle humorous writer will speak.. As usual guests are welcome.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and S(Smashwords)