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Science Fiction for February 2014
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    The volume of books, especially fantasy and science fiction has grown un believable proportions. In my teen years there were only a few publishers and most books could be found in, of all places, the local drug store. I got a lot of my early reading from a used book store in Akron where I grew up. Over the decades the number of SF publishers ebbed and flowed. Today, ebooks on the internet represent a flood and not all the best reads are found at major publishers.
Drew Hayes looks at a world with super heroes, supers who haven’t been certified to fight super villains, and the powered who can’t control their super abilities like a man who teleports only  when he sneezes. Powered people are despised. Lander University is one of five in the country with a Hero Certification Program run by Dean Blaine Jefferies, a former hero, and one of the Class of Legends, not only for the heroes it produced but because one of them murdered another and had to be destroyed. Super Powereds:Year 1 (ebook which I bought from Amazon) is the tale of five powered teens who have had special treatment to control their abilities. They join the fifty or so freshman class members, hiding their secret. Over the year they make friends, form relationships, do a lot of drinking, and, have two of their members kidnaped during final exam week. With unforgettable characters like Nick who is the brightest of them with the weakest power, the ability to control luck; Vince who lived on the road until his ability to absorb energy wiped out the energy grid of a small town; Alice the only daughter of a super billionaire with the ability to fly; Hershel who turns into super Roy; and the most powerful,  Mary a telepath and telekenitic who spent most of her life living in the woods well away from people. Super Powereds: Year 2  (ebook which I bought from Amazon)  is their sophomore year where their powers are refined and honed so that they can get one of the twenty-seven slots for the third year. One of them is kicked out and a member of the Class of Legends appears who was thought long dead. Two more years to come until only ten graduate. This series is as addicting as the Harry Potter tales with five, three-dimensional main viewpoint characters and tons of interesting  secondary ones. There’s a solid puzzle that keeps growing with each chapter. I cannot recommend these more highly. The only problem I can see for someone getting addicted now is the wait for the final two years growing chapter by chapter on Mr. Hayes website.
Equally absorbing but more adult is Daniel Price’s tale of people who are given silver wrist bands just before our world is destroyed. They are sent to an alternate version of our America where tempis technology allows flying cars;  rooms that slow time so that you can watch a two hour movie in ten minutes real time; and time viewers that allow the police to see crime scenes as the crime occurred. For a few weeks six of them are sheltered and discover they can manipulate tempus without machines. Amanda creates solid time. David produces images of past events; Mia gets messages from her future selves; and Hannah can move at super speed. Eden never joins their group but he can undo the present retaining memories of what has happened. He is the only one of them who knows this world will be destroyed in five years. Then They are attacked and sent running. The Flight of the Silvers (hard from Blue Rider Press) takes them from Los Angeles to New York where they find allies. They are also chased by the Feds but have the time to refine their abilities. This is pure adrenaline  excitement with plenty of unanswered questions. I suspect this might get an award nomination despite needing more books to finish the tale.
Watching sf movies, going to convention, buying associated doodads, that’s the fun of being involved with fantasy. Imagine if there were a type of magic like Geekomancy (ebook from Pocket Star which I bought electronically) in which watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would give you her strength and speed for a few minutes or having a light saber that worked like the real things. Ree Reyes was a twenty-something working at a graphic art,  coffee shop and trying to sell a movie script, when she sees a man fighting a troll. A magic spell called Doubt erases mundane minds. Soon she’s investigating suicides and trying to stop a deal with a demon. Then she sell a script for a speculative tv show (that sounds neat) and ends up working for the star of a television show she grew up with. Unfortunately there’s a mogul out there using Celebromancy  (ebook from Pocket Star which I bought electronically) to attack the set with monsters from old movies. It might be neat to fight actual dragons, but, as Michael R. Underwood informs us, it could also get you killed. Lots of fun.
An Accident throws Jack Fargo, ex-military turned  history professor after his wife’s death, from our universe to an alternate 1880 where anti-gravity wood allows giant zeppelins. In this James Bond inspired steam punk universe, Nikola Tesla is the villain and he has used the wood to make The Forever Engine (trade from Baen) deep in Bosnia. He’s using the energy created from this sort of perpetual motion machine that steals momentum from the Earth to penetrate other universes. A French spy provides the fun love interest and the details of problems with that attacking force show Franl Chadwick’s familiarity with real war and the historical period. Lots of fun, though a bit predictable.
Jaye Wells has a fun cop tale taking place in the rust belt city of Babylon where drugs are created by alchemy. Big industry make the good stuff, but the gang Covens provide the Dirty Magic (paper from Orbit) provides for the habits of the addicts living in the Crucible of the city. Kate Prospero is a beat cop, raising her brother after her’s mothers death. As an adept she had been a rising star in one of the covens, but gave it all up. A new drug turns people into man-eating  wolfmen brings the MEA (think DEA with magic) to town and Kate gets into the task force only to come face-to-face with her unwillingness to use magic. The tale shows a lot research into the way real cops think and act. And the world feels real. I’m looking forward to the second tale.
I wish it was summer and I could visit the magical Archers Beach where fae folk work the carnival. Sharon Lee provides a taste of that wonderful visit with Carousel Sun (hard from Baen) in which Kate Archer has to handle the details of running the Carrousel in which magical beings from the six other worlds are imprisoned. In the first tale one escaped and replacing the missing horse is her first problem As Guardian of the land she there are always problems that have to be fixed. Theyn their’s the local sea guardian who has disappeared for weeks, the away mundane who came to run the midway and proves to be a good friend. This will be a wonderful beach read and a good sequel.
To Sail a Darkling Sea (hard from Baen) continues John Ringo’s tale of a Zombie Apocalypse from the point in which the Wolf Squadron become part of the remaining U. S. Navy which includes submarines that don’t dare to breathe unfiltered air. The work of rescuing survivors and cleaning out ships of their Zombies continues. Though the ability of anyone, crazy or otherwise, to create a Zombie plague is improbable at best, Mr. Ringo has fun with the concept by showing how survivors might start winning back first the boats on the sea, and then eventually the land. One character, a thirteen-year-old marine calls certain guns Barbie guns because they take seven shots to put a Zombie down. The next book will have the attempt to take back Gitmo and created a vaccine for the Zombie plague, and I’m still reading. BTW I find most Zombie Apocalypse tales unreadable.   
Carrie Vaughn is one of the writers I look for new works on Amazon when I run low on reading. Her latest continues the attempt at super-hero realism that she started with After the Golden Age (paper) in which Celia, the daughter of two of Commerce City’s superheroes, had to use her smarts to survive being constantly kidnapped. Decades later there are Dreams of the golden Age (hard from Tor) as Celia’s daughter and friends develop super powers and want to become super protectors like their grandparents. All the super powered people had parents and grandparents who were present when a crazy experiment went awry and Celia has maneuvered the kids with scholarships into the same private school. So we have the complications of adult/teenage interactions; wannabe heroes learning their trade; and Celia’s illness. There’s also, at the end a super villain to bring everyone together. I don’t think the attempt at mixing real problems with super powers work well together, but I enjoyed the attempt.  
I was pleasantly captivated in B. R. Maul’s tale of Portals, Passages, & Pathways (In the Land of Magnanthia) in which two teenagers cross into the magical land. One, the nerdy kid who’s in the school choir has, without his knowledge, been groomed to bear one of the guardian rings of affinity Simon was supposed to trained for two years, but a cracked portal meant things had to be moved up and so he was rushed through an underwater portal to avoid the evil enemy and has to come to term with well-meaning advisors who wish him wel, and home-sickness. Jak, a rich bratty kid taught by tutors and ignored by his family, is kidnaped into the same world and has to survive a dangerous maze. Only one of the seven entering the maze will survive to be given magic. In spite of being generic, and a bit awkward in spots, I found the tale fun.S
    Open Road Integrated Media has put out Samuel R. Delany’s classic and fascinating   Dhalgren as an ebook. Like a lot of people, I never finished it, but it was very popular at the time. They also have a collection from the late  Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild And Other Stories.
    Baen has reprinted Sarah A. Hoyt’s fun A few Good Men in paper and the  fou- volume fun  series Empire of Man by David Weber and John Ringo in a binding-breaking, trade paperback.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on February 1, 2014 at 8 p.m. at International House on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus, Tom Doyle, a  Writers of the Future and Small Press Award winner,  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 Unnaturally Female (Smashwords).