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Science Fiction for February 2018

    Adding fantasy, and sometimes Science Fiction to real history provides a special way to look at known events.
David Mack takes a look at the The Midnight Front (paper from Tor) of World War II. Cade Martin had a special talent for Magick, though he had been kept from it. When the war began, his parents took him from his studies in Oxford, only to have a uboat torpedo his ship and magical vortex try to swamp his lifeboat, Soon he is apprenticed to a British demonologist Adair. Chaining demons gives an operator special powers and Cade has only months to master them so Adair and his apprentices can face the demonologist Kein working for the Nazis. The tale wonders through the horrors to the war like the holocaust where blood is used to gather power, the Normandy invasion, where a demon traps waits for the allies, and the fire bombing of Dresden for the final confrontation. Kein wants to end science and bring humanity back to a simpler time and wants war’s true horrors to disgust humanity. This is an exciting beginning to a fun series. I recommend it highly.
Tom Miller sets his wonderful The Philosopher's Flight (hard from Simon & Schuster)  in an alternate America where drawing sigils on sand can magically allow a person to teleport, fly, send messages, and create poison gas clouds. The latter has been outlawed by all the nations involved in the great war (a version of our World War I). Women make the best sigilists and they are being killed rescuing the wounded. There are also the Trenchers, who like the KKK hate everyone, especially women sigilists. The are politically strong, eager to murder women and to pass laws prohibiting Practical Philosophy. Robert Weekes has been his mother’s assistent rescuing people in Montana when America enters the war. He wants to join the US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service, a corps that has never had a male member. So he goes to Rutgers for a year of education in Practical Philosophy where he suffers reverse discrimination, finds a girl friend, and enters the America’s cup competition hoping to prove himself. The tale is impossible to put down. It’s a solid coming-of-age tale in a world made believable. I hope it garners some awards.
Girton is a club-foot assassin’s apprentice to Merela Barn who bought him out of slavery. They have been summoned to Castle Maniyadoc by Queen Adran to do qhat is forbidden to assaqssins, protect her son Prince Aydor, the only heir. In this Age of Assassins (paper) The Queen has history with Merela. Girton is in disguise as noble hostage new to the squires, while his master becomes a jester. The two discover potential plots and counter plot revolving around Three potential future kings, including one who becomes a friend, Rufra. The Queen is also slowly poisoning the King. Five years later Girton returns with his poisoned master. Three kings vie for the local throne including his friend  Rufra.  There’s a traitor in Rufra’s camp and Griton needs the Blood of Assassins (ebook from Orbit) no protect his friend. Unfortunately, has sorcerer powers that threaten to kill the land around him if unleashed, and if discovered he will be killed. RJ Barker is an exciting writer and one destined for awards.
Alastair Reynolds returns to the Glitter Band, Ten thousand city-state habitats that orbit the planet Yellowstone, Tom Dreyfus,  The Prefect (paper) who solved an earlier case is dealing with a disease that could become  a disaster. Except for the police, a citizens have brain implants that allow for a pure democracy. People are dying when their implants overheat and the number is increasing. Unfortunately  this Elysium Fire (paper from Orbit) isn’t a disease, but the work of an insane individual with special access to the voting computers because his family set up the system. I felt disappointed without a sane explanation for the villain, but this is still an excellent tale that will probably find itself on some award nominations.
Kylara Vatta returns from her Cold Welcome (paper) on her home world of Slotter Key to face new problems. She had discovered that the supposed unhabitable continent of Miksland was actually being mined for two centuries. To keep it a secret, elements of the Slotter Key armed forces have drugged the survivors and put them into quarantine for a fake disease. Three of the soldiers escaped and found their way to Ky alerting to her danger. Soon she is accused to murder, and lost her citizenship because she’d been away too long, Her great aunt Grace, the Rector in charge of Slotter Key’s military is poisoned and luckily gets the specialized care necessary to survive. That send Ky and her friends Into the Fire (hard from Del Rey) first to rescue the other survivors and get their story out. Then finding herself in a place of command, she has to save the President and other elected officials from an attack on the Capitol city. I don’t like red tape which made it more difficult to read the first half, but the second half was all action and lots of fun. Elizabeth Moon shows her military background well in this tale.         
 Andrew Vaillencourt sets is fun tale of a retired cyborg who is technically “defunct military Ordnance (paper from Amazon). Roland Tankowicz was the only survivor of the Golem project which produced unstoppable warriors. Unfortunately corrupt brass had a way of turning their brains off  when the job required. The rest of the group suicided, but  Don Ribiero, one of his designers fixes that. Roland works as a fixer in a crime ridden neighborhood of future Boston. Then Don’s daughter, Lucia,  asks for his help after her father was kidnaped. Lucia was enhanced for speed, and the two of them have to evade bounty hunters to rescue Don and destroy his kidnapers. I’ve started the first sequel and it’s just as much fun.
The second half of Adam Burch’s fractured worlds solves a lot of the mystery of how Earth was disconnected from the space that allows quick movement from star to star.  Edmon Leontes left the world of Tao a decade before to become a physician on a freighter with a small crew. Their communication’s officer, Ari is being hunted by several groups. The trail to saving her leads to an artificial intelligence with its own space station, to Miral that was the center of Human civilization after the loss of Earth, and is now a ruin, and finally to a very changed solar system run by artificial intelligence. Finally, in the Roar of the Storm (paper from 47North), he has to face the emperor of Tao who has started conquering other worlds. Exciting.  
John Gwynne writes of A Time of Dread (hard from Orbit) a century after a portal opened sending Kadoshim demons to conquer the world. The winged Ben-Elim followed with their giant allies riding bears. The Kadoshim went into hiding when Asroth, their leader was frozen in starstone metal. The Ben-Elim have been conquering human tribes to gain soldiers to fight the hidden Kadoshim who they fear will return. Bleda,  the only surviving child of the leader of one of the horse clans has been trained for war while living in the Ben-Elim capital as a hostage. Rive is a training to be a White-Wing soldier but her temper has caused her to fail her tests. Drem is the son of a trapper who finds starstone in an Elk trap and whose father, Olin had left one of the allies of the Ben-Elim when Drem was young. Olin forges the metal into a sword of starmetal. But evil is rising. This is a very exciting beginning to a solid trilogy. 
Jordanna Max Brodsky completes her Olympus Bound (hard from Orbit) trilogy with a bang that sends the our heroes to confront the evil Saturn in tunnels below the Vatican in our present. Then with all the surviving Greek Gods open a gate to another world from Mount Olympus. At that point, the true manipulating God is revealed, and he has to be faced in New York. The gate to another world is opened by playing the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m trying not to give too much away here. The whole series, especially the affair of Selene (once Artemis) and her human lover Classics Professor Theodore Schultz is a lot of fun.
T.S. Nichols looks at an alternated present in which it is possible to retrieve memories from someone dead only a few days. The technology has been around for two decades and usually used by family members. Cole has taken fifteen memories to solved murders. The press calls him The Memory Detective (ebook from Random House LLC) and he’s an expert in recall, So when some bodies arrive stripped of memory and other ways to identify the people. What he doesn’t know is that there is an illegal company paying people to live a good life and create memories. Their memories are harvested and sold and the bodies dumped. Cole follows one of their clients only to learn that the company is very dangerous. I wasn’t happy with the ending, but presumably there will be sequels.
After the war described in the Angel in the Whirlwind trilogy, With the intrersteller economy on the rebound, the interstellar cruise liner Supreme is launched with it’s owner and family on board. The Supreme boasts the height of luxury for it’s first class passengers and enough firepower to maybe fight off one pirate. Her  captain is ex-military an Her crew well trained.  Unfortunately in trying to avoid three pirates, they fall into The Hyperspace Trap (paper from 47North ) that has captured human and alien craft for centuries.  Christopher G. Nuttall tells an exciting tale of people rising to the occasion, and dealing with madness, not only outside the vessel, but also inside. The ending promises a sequel and I can’t wait for it.
With Of Gods and Men (ebook from Orbit)  Stephen Aryan tells a tale of Vargus, an immortal man, and Lanny,  a boyish man who sometimes speaks with the voice of the Maker. Together they roam the kingdoms, sometimes facing ancient monsters and sometimes just finding work. It’s a very pleasant read that I wish were longer.
    Baen Books has reprinted Daved Weber’s Honorverse tale  Shadow of Victory in paper and a collection of Susan R. Matthews’ tales of Fleet Insurgent (trade) characters.. They also have humorous horror tales in The Cackle of Cthulhu (trade) edited by Alex Shvartsman.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on Februry 9th The meeting starts  at  8 p.m. at the Rotunda  on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus .Ian Randal Strock, editor of Fantastic Books will speak. As usual guests are welcome.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a retired 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.