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Science Fiction for February 2017
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    Science Fiction and Fantasy can present very unique backgrounds and stories because of the very different personalities of the writers.
Becky Chambers, an author to watch, likes tales about ordinary people (humans and aliens) in a universe filled with strange beings. Her first introduced us to the crew of a ship that punches worm holes through space and the complications they faced on  The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (paper) Her second is about an artificial intelligence downloaded to a human seeming body, and also about a girl, one of many clones, who escapes from a factory at age ten and is then raised by an artificial intelligence in an abandoned ship. How these tales in A Closed and Common Orbit (hard from Harper Voyager) come together with fascinating characters is wonderful. I hope this second tale makes it to award nomination.
Seanan McGuire has an odd ghost tale, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day (ebook from Forge) about Jenna who’s been dead for four decades and works at a suicide hot line. Apparently the dead can look very much alive, and her landlady has been dead for decades. They can give and take time from real people, and witches hunt them out in their effort to remain young. Someone has been trapping the ghosts of Manhattan. Jenna has to have the help of her witch friend Brenda to return to her home in the small town of Mill Hollow and face the witch imprisoning the ghosts in mirrors. Lots of fun in an eerie way.
Dave Duncan tells a tale of an alternate ancient, and very corrupt  China with a Portal of a Thousand Worlds (ebook from Open Road Integrated Media) that only opens every millennia. It is always a time of great change with Earthquakes and rebellion and usually a change of imperial dynasty. There’s an interesting set of characters including one who has been reincarnated for centuries; a man who is asked to impersonate the emperor who was brain damaged as a child, numerous members of the gray guild of assassins, and a few of the people who join the bamboo revolution whose fighters are given addictive stimulants and believe they cannot be hurt by guns. Neat.
iBen Aaronovitch has the sixth book about magic in London and Constable Peter Grant who has become an apprentice to the last wizard in the Metropolitan Police. The Hanging Tree (paper from DAW) starts with  the OD of a young woman whose friends and she had somehow snuck into an empty, highly secured apartment. Eventually it leads to the identity of the Faceless man who had been responsible for the horrors limned in previous books in the series. As usual this is a police procedural with magic and loads of fun.
I devoured Jonathan Moeller’s Cloak games series which takes place three centuries after the Elf Queen was thrown out of her world and crossed the shadow lands to Earth. Humans are the shock troops used against the troops of the Archons who follow the dark lord as do some humans. Nadia Moran is the latest of shadow thieves used by the very powerful elf Morvilind who is curing her brother of Frost fever, the same fever which killed her parents and to which she is naturally immune.  Morvilind had her trained and taught her illegal magic to accomplish her impossible tasks. Thief Trap (paper) has her work with a shadow mage, who calls himself Corvus to steal an object from a rich man who is a dark cultist and uses dark magic. Frost Fever (paper) has her stealing a jewel from the ambassador of the Frost Giants.  Rebel Fist (paper) traps Nadia in a local mall when the rebels, now working with the dark, and a bunch of Orcs attack. Shadow Jump (paper) starts with another thief stealing her prize and she has to excape and then somehow reclaim it from a thief who can teleport. And finally Shatter Stone (ebook) sends her with friends into the Shadow lands to capture a special stone. Lots of fun and I’m waiting eagerly for the next.
Michael-Scott Earle tells of a floating city with potentia’s with magical cloaks that serve as wings as required serving as the top police. Anelia Orba is a fledging who just received her cloak when she is thrown into an investigation of multiple murders and drugs new to the city. So in serving as Wings of Justice (paper) she is soon hunted by those who hate the Priestesses who rule the city. Raised as an orphan, she knows the lower sides of the city and that allows her to get deeper into the conspiracy than other pontentia’s even though that puts her constantlly at risk. Very exciting and hard to put down. I look forward to Anelia’s next case.
In a world of super-heroes and super-villains Darius Brasher imagines a private detective and registered hero, Truman Lord who has the ability to manipulate water, including the water in a human body. He is brash and egocentric and, yet, somehow grew on me. He works with Shadow, a superstrong  meta thief who can evade electronic detection.  Superhero Detective For Hire(ebook) starts with blackmail of the head of a College which leads to a villain who can put his memories on film. Then that character is murdered.  The Missing Exploding Girl (ebook) is about a meta teenage girl who has been taken by the Pied Piper, a meta who can mind control children. She explodes and then reforms and the Pied Piper is using her as a terror device for is Pro-Meta group. In the next he and Shadow are after Killshot (ebook) an assassin who murdered his client. Finally Hunted (ebook) has him on the run for murdering the most loved superhero who was thought to be invulnerable.  An anti-meta wealthy tycoon is behind the attack. I can only hope for more cases.
Charles Stross’s Merchant Princes series ended with the clan of people, who can walk from one alternate Earth to another, setting a nuke in the White House of the world closest to us in background, in 2003. That Earth has increased its surveillance on everybody and improved its paratime technology.  The main character Miriam Bergeson had discovered the clan when she found she could travel to one of their Earths. Since 2003 she’s been bringing another Earth’s technology from 19th to 21st century level, stealing it if necessary. The two other major powers of that world have nukes and that world is on the edge of Nuclear war. Empire Games (hard from Tor) introduces us to Rita Douglas, Miriam’s daughter she gave to a childless couple. Rita’s talent to walk the worlds is recessive, but her world can activate that talent. Once activated she is sent out spy on a world that turns out to be Miriam’s.  This first book of the new series sets up the story but makes no attempt at resolution. More to come.
The testimony that Captain Ronaldo Aldo gives about his treason at The Fortress at the End of Time (paper from TOR) starts with his duplicate’s arrival at an old space ship serving as a base in case the alien enemy returns. The original remained in the Solar System working as a pilot. Disliked by his fellow officers, the main problem is one of boredom, and the troops frequently suicide. A near planet is being terraformed and has a population of retired soldiers and monks. The tale is sometimes fascinating, and sometimes depressing with a taste of Catch 22 that doesn/’t quite rise to satire.
    Tor has a collection of L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Recluce Tales in hard cover.
    Baen has two collections of older stories in paper: Mission:Tomorrow edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and If This Goes Wrong... edited by Hank Davis. Baen has reprinted Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s classic Borders of Infinity in trade
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on February 10th  2017
The meeting starts  at  8 p.m.  at the Rotunda on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus.  Siobhan Carroll, an English Professor at the University of Delaware who specializes in Fantasy and Science Fiction of the romantic period.    
    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 that suggests a simpler way to achieve fusion generation.