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Science Fiction for February  2016
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    War is frequently a subject of Fantasy and Science Fiction because it brings out the intensity of human emotions.
Stephen Aryan writes of an unnecessary war. A Battlemage (trade from Orbit which I bought as an ebook) known as Warlock has given the Mad Emperor a device that heals him instantly and used him to create an alliance to attack the country of Seveldrom. Though out-numbered there are thousands of troops and eight battlemages to oppose the Warlock, who has created battlemage like splinters to oppose them. Balfruss leads the battlemages and can work with their combined powers. The Kings daughter, Talandra, manages a web of spies working to create revolution in the countries of the alliance. Behind the scenes are gods, who act as people, including one ordinary soldier whose mere presence builds morale. These are solid people under tremendous stress, striving to keep their very interesting world safe. I hope someone nominates this for an award.    
The third book of the second series of the Mistbourne sends Lord Waxillium Landrian; his friend, companion and thief Wayne; his fiancee Steris; and his fellow constable Marasi to the outlying city of New Seran where revolution is brewing. Getting their they have to face a train robbery, and merely going to a Ball, gets Wax accused of murder. At the heart of the evil is his uncle who may have captured Wax’s sister Terris. There’s his secret base with a captured flying boat from the South and it’s masked crew who have been tortured. But the journey takes them high in the mountains where The Bands of Mourning (hard from Tor)  of the Lord Ruler, killed before the world was remade, are hidden. This is a must for fans of Brandon Sanderson and his Mistborn tales.
J.A. Sutherland managed to put the flavor of C. S. Forrester’s Napoleonic War tales perfectly into the future by having starships that need sailsto move dark space . Technology doesn’t work as well in this dark space. Alexis Carew can’t inherit her grandfather’s  vast estate on her colony world without marrying. When Captain William Grantham come recruiting for the New London Navy she decides to go Into the Dark (ebook) by enlisting as a midshipman. In the core worlds, men and women are equal, so she becomes Mr. Carew and learns about sailing a ship as the Merlin fights pirates.
The second tale borrows from the tale of a Mutineer (ebook)  on the HMS Hermione in 1782. War has broken out and Captain Neals of the frigate Hermione, doesn’t like female officers and is determined to make Alexi quit. He also loves lashing his crew. Finally giving up he abandons her in a ships boat. She takes a Hanover cutter and sails it to New London territory. When she rejoins the Hermione her crew is lashed and the Captain finds an excuse to derate her and then lash her, causing the crew to mutiny. She, the other officers, and still loyal crew are surrendered to a Hanover Planet that several generations before had been French, The other officers give parole for freedom of the local town, she stays with the officers, and works with an officer to procure better conditions for her crew. When that officer and his ship are transferred out of system, she finds a way to steal a merchant ship and rescue her crew and the other officers, who can’t assist because they gave parole. Then there’s a court martial to face.
Now a lieutenant, her contacts suggest that the former French worlds might revolt against Hanover. That ends her up on the same world she had been imprisoned. That puts her in command of the Belial, a cutter and the only member of the fleet left war breaks out on the planet leaving New London troops facing overwhelming numbers. They are rescued by The Little Ships (ebook) ala Dunkirk and Lieutenant Carew has to fight overwhelming odds to save them. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.
I also really enjoyed Jamie McFarlane’s fun Rookie Privateer (ebook) series which comprise five novels and a small collection of shorter tales. Liam Hoffen, Nick James, and Tabitha Masters grew up together on Mining Colony 40 where Liam’s father barely makes a living as an asteroid miner. Pirates attack the colony soon after the three graduate school, and the three work together to capture the pirate ship. Piracy had been growing in the belt, partially because one of Earth’s nations is secretly financing it.  The Mars Protectorate Navy couldn’t protect all it’s territory so Letters of Marque have been issued, and with a bit of luck, Liam and Nick get the ship, which is in very poor condition, and a Letter of Marque and start a trading company. Tammy goes to the Mars Naval Academy. The next two novels, Parley (ebook) and  Smuggler's Dilemma (ebook) have them in position to not only survive but also help wipe out the Pirates. Tabby was injured when the Martian Naval ship she was assigned was destroyed and had to leave the Navy.
In the background to this series is the Gates to four other systems. The Tipperary solar system wants immigrants and Big Pete, Liam’s Father wants to start mining there. So the whole group including friends found along the way, their new ship the Hotspur, and their tug head out into folded space. But there is corruption in the system reaching all the way to the Belirand Corporation that controls the gates and a group of Buccaneers (ebook) running a protection racket. That brings them to the attention of Phillippe Anino, descendent ot the inventor of folded space technology.  The Belirand corporation had started colonies centuries ago, but the discovery of alien civilizations got them scared and now their ships will attack anyone who tries to use the technology. That gets Phillippe Anino’s new ship destroyed but leaves them with the Hotspur outfitted with a folded space drive. The Yishuv colony is barely surviving after three centuries because of native attacks and the technology they need to defend themselves is badly breaking down as the natives are getting more aggressive. . It’s A Matter of Honor (ebook) for the crew to save them.  I’ve really enjoyed this series, especially the details of the hard work to get these ship flying, even to cleaning very dirty bilges.
Patricia A. McKillip, author of my favorite Riddle-Master (paper) trilogy that should be in every fan’s collection, has a tale of a King who sends his knights out to seek the pot that restored health to their river god. At the same time Pierce Oliver, son of a sorceress, drives to the capital city to find the father and brother he’s never met and gets caught up with the quest. The knights set off in motorcycles, limousines, and personal cars and stay in touch with cell phones, or, in the case of Pierce, with talking birds. The Fae have also gotten involved using their connection to the King’s bastard son. They are looking for their missing cauldron that can feed everyone, and their lost King.  It all ends up at the Kingfisher (hard from Ace) Inn located in an abandoned hotel. I haven’t decided whether this is a work of genius or not, but it might make its way to an award nomination.
Dan Koboldt has a fun tale of a Las Vegas magician recruited to help in The Rogue Retrieval (ebook from Harper Voyager Impulse). It seems that a major corporation has found a gate to a generic fantasy world. One of their scientists has gone missing and they need Quinn Bradley, an entertainer ready to move from the side show to one of the main casinos. They want him to pose as a magician, not realizing that pretending to work magic is a death sentence from the real magicians. There’s a lot of action, as another corporation from our world wants in, and the standard fun of matching hidden high tech with local mediaeval weapons.  I couldn’t put it down.
Gin Blanco faces a Bitter Bite (paper from Pocket Books) as HER  foster brother Finnegan Lane’s mother, thought dead, Deirdre Shaw comes back to town to organize a charity jewelry exhibit. This is Jennifer Estep’s fourteenth exciting tale of an assassin who can wield both stone and ice magic. Deirdre has strong ice magic, no morals, and is planning a massive heist that relies on getting information from Finn who works at one of the major banks. For a series that killed off its major villain a few books back, Gin’s adventures have been floundering. Introducing a new big bad in this tale promises new life for this long running series. I wouldn’t miss a word.        
Finally we get a postscript to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. Gentleman Jole and The Red Queen is a romance about people over fifty. It’s been three years since Aral Vorkosigan died and Cordelia is Vicereine of Sergyer, the planet where she and Aral first met when it was uninhabited. It has a small, but growing population. Oliver Jole is an old family friend and admiral of the fleet that protects Sergyer. Stored eggs and Aral’s sperm somehow bring the two together. Eventually Emperor Gregor sends Miles, his wife, and his six kids to visit. It’s a good visit. This is a must for fans of the series who want to know what’s happened to their favorite characters.
    Baen collections include fantasy tales of Shattered Shields (paper edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt) and volume 1 of The Best of Ben Bova (trade)
    Baen reprints include Marl. L. Van Name’s Jon and Lobo tale, No Going Back (paper) and the second tale of two cultures fighting across alternate universes, Hell Hath no Fury (trade) by David Weber and Linda Evans. I’d love to see a third tale.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on, February 12th  2016 at 8 p.m.  at International House on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. Kyle Cassidy, an  American photographer and videographer, who also photographs sf writers, 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). Check out his unified field theory at henrylazarus.com/utf.html where six formulas define our universe.