Henry L Lazarus
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Science Fiction for March 2010
By Henry Leon Lazarus

    I like my fantasy and science fiction to be strange. Not for me the generic orcs and wizards that J. R. R. Tolkein invented. Been there, read that. I love original ideas and backgrounds.
Adrian Tchaikovsky imagines a world originally dominated by giant insects in which humans have adapted by taking on insect characteristics, adapting to their environment through genetic adaption and psionic talents. So that you have telepathic ant cities of warriors, industrious beetles, and flying people modeled after flies, dragonflies, moths, wasps, and butterflies. Five centuries before the industrious beetles invented technology which has overturned the world order. The heart of this industriousness in the lowlands where weapon manufacture supplies wars all over the planet. The wasps have united into an Empire in Black and Gold (trade from Pyr) and have decided to bring the world under their domination. The city states of the lowlands are oblivious to their danger, despite the continuous railing by Stenwald Maker, a rich man who has established a spy network to help safeguard his home region. Four college students, Salme Dien dragonfly whose commonwealt had already suffered under wasp attack, Stenwald’s ward Tynesia a spider kin strong in sword; Stenwald’s niece Cheerwell Maker a beetle who hasn’t mastered her art, and Torho, a mixed race artificer. Sent to the manufacturing city of Helleron, they are attacked by wasp soldiers and barely escape from their dirigible with a stolen airplane. Wasps capture two of them in Helleron and the rest, along with Stenwald, have to break them out of a wasp imperial prison in one of the wasp captured cities. The action never lets up as the deadly Wasp plan to capture the lowlands has to be foiled. This is the first part of a trilogy which the sequels are arriving in the next two months. With sword fights in three dimensions (since some of the people fly),  flying machines of all sorts, and schemes from an empire modeled from the worst of human history, this is real fun. Wow!
I loved Elizabeth Moon’s first books, The Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy, which I read twice and is still in print in omnibus volume from Baen. Oath of Fealty (hard from Del Rey) starts almost from the ending of the first series and tells how Keiri Phelan adapts to being the King of the Elf/ human land of Lyonya, Jasndelir Arcolin finds his way as the new head of Duke Phelan’s mercenary company, and Dorrin Verakai has to return to her family, that rejected her when she wouldn’t take up their evil ways, and clean them out as their new Duke. The fun tale is complete but leaves plenty of hooks for the two volumes to follow. All fans of the first trilogy will be very happy at this new edition.
Cory Doctorow’s tale of Makers (hard from Tor which I downloaded for free) and shakers takes place during the coming second depression, a place of abandoned strip malls and shanty towns. The tale starts with an imbedded reporter  Suzanne Church in a company-financed, entrepreneurial startup. Her blogs on Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks introduce them to the world and things go well enough for competitors to copy the result until the company folds. Perry and Lester then build a ride commemorating their history with the ability of riders to add and subtract to the mix. 3-D printers allow the ride to be copied and eventually and evil executive at Disney gets involved when some copywriten items appear in the ever popular rides. This is a tale of crazy genius mixed with a hatred of corporations. It’s a variation of the prototypical American story with impossible to forget characters. I expect this to be nominated for awards.
Joel Shepherd’s latest series promises as much depth as The Deed of Paksenarrion. The Elf-like Serrin live longer than humans and have a different look on life. Centuries before they conquered two human provinces, and tried to maintain the peace by creating human trading partners. Indirectly they have made Petrodor (trade from Pyr) quite wealthy. Sasha (paper), a member of the royal family who was exiled from Lenayin for leading a sort of revolution, has followed her sword master Kessligh, to the city in the hope of convincing the Merchant Princes not to get involved with a war pushed by the religious hierarchy to regain those lost provinces. Between them and the Serrin living in the city, the stability that keeps peace in the city is broken. The result is a civil war like Beirut  faced in the 80's, though with arrows, and swords not guns. Caught in the middle are two of Sasha’s sisters, married into different merchant families. There are two more books in this tetrology. If Mr. Shepherd keeps the high level of writing, this series will prove to be a real keeper.
Steven Englehart, who writes action movies scripts, finally has a sequel to his 80's tale of an ex-Vietnam soldier turned DJ who was involved with a magickal plot and became The Point Man (paper) in stopping a demon. Max August has learned to magically stop aging and stays hidden  When Dr, Pamela Blackwell discovered a cure for puffer fish poison, she didn’t realized she had discovered a cure for zombis until the bad guys go after her. Then Max, acting as a James Bond type with magick instead of gadgets, has save her as The Long Man (trade from Tor) and stop an evil plot using zombis to conquer a small South American country as a first step to conquering the world. The tale is full of death-defying feats, and impossible to survive adventures. There’s enough of a hook for the sequel. Fun.
The sea serpents in Robin Hobb’s previous live ship tales made it up the Rain Wilds river to cocoon into dragons. But, alas they didn’t develop properly, either too old or not in their cocoon long enough. The Bingtowner traders are supporting them because of their agreement with the dragon Tintaglia who saved them in the last war, but she has disappeared and the traders are tired of the expense. So when the dragons decide to migrate to a lost city from their ancestral memory, the traders decide it is expedient to provide hunters and a Dragon Keeper (hard from Eos) for each dragon. We are introduced to several of the dragon keepers, a live ship captain, and a woman whose hobby is dragon lore and the expedition starts out. Alas, it will take two more books before the ending comes in sight. Robin Hobb is an excellent writer and I feel sure this beginning will eventually lead to an ending worth the tale.
I thought vampire detectives were overcooked until Mario Acevedo came along with his Felix Gomex tales. This time the leader of the werewolves of Charleston died (maybe murdered) and Felix has found himself in the middle of a Werewolf Smackdown (trade from Eos) that takes all of his vampire talents to unravel the plots and counter-plots between the two potential replacements for leadership of the local clan. Usual fun.
Jenefer Estep starts a new series about a deadly assassin in a present with vampires (many of them hookers as they get off on both blood and sex) and people with elemental powers. Gin has a standard contract to kill a blabby accountant when she discovers was double-crossed with an assassin after her so she can be take the blame for the accountant’s death. Surviving that she finds her mentor ripped apart by a woman with air talents. Ashland is a very corrupt city essentially ruled by a vicious woman with strong fire ability. There’s a clean cop mixed in the middle and on the run from the bad cops. The bad guys don’t know about Spider’s Bite (paper from Pocket), her abilities with stone and ice. Gin (Spider) is one of deadliest fictional females I’ve seen since Modesty Blaise and prefers her knives to her magical abilities. I couldn’t put this one down and am eagerly awaiting the next.
Rachael Morgan’s demon abilities have been discovered by the Coven of Ethical and Moral standards who had her shunned before. Now they want her locked up in Alcatraz, preferably lobotomized . They have no hesitation of using a demon summons to draw her out of a moving car (which she was driving). With only a ghost and an ex-boyfriend thief to help her, Rachael needs to get out of this Black Magic Sanction (hard from Eos by Kim Harrison) before the coven catches her, kills her friends, burns down the church she lives in, or worse. This is the eighth book in a complicated series that still is so much fun that I put every episode to the top of the pile.
Edward Drood, also known as Shamus Bond is back in his third adventure. Alexander King, agent extra-ordinaire, is The Spy who Haunted Me (hard from Ace which I bought electronically). He has secrets he wants to leave to the best replacement he can find and so six agents, including Eddie, are sent to uncover the world’s most dangerous secrets like the Loch Ness monster.  Simon R. Green has tied this tale to his Night side tales by bringing in Walker, a fixture in that series. The other agents include Alexander king’s nephew, a deadly CIA spook Honey Lake with an unlimited credit card, the Blue Fairy from a previous book, and Lethal Harmony who uses her sexuality as her main asset. Each new deadly puzzle gets another of the agents killed as they teleport from Siberia, to Scotland, to New Mexico, etc.; Lots of silly fun with some nice twists.
    Paperback reprints include: The first two novels of P.C. Hodgell’s The God Stalker Chronicles (Baen) which 20 years later I still hold my original copies; John Ringo and Julie Chchrane’s Honor of the Clan (Baen) a new addition to the Aldenata series; Lois McMaster Bujold’s conclusion to her Sharing Knife tetrology, Horizon (Eos); and Dennis Danver’s Wilderness (Eos) a fun tale of werewolves written before this stuff became generic.
    Collections this month include: Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things (paper from Harper). Full Moon City (trade from Gallery Books and edited by Darrell Schweitzer and Martin H. Greenberg) with new tales about urban werewolves; Muse and Reverie tales from Charles De Lint’s strange city of Newford (hard from TOR); and new tales of Warriors (hard from Tor and edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois) written by some of the best writers in the field.
    Classic Reprints include Andre norton’s Search for the Star Stones (paper from Baen) with two novels; David Drake’s The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, volume 2 (trade from Baen); more of Pou Anderson’s spy of the future, Captain Flandry (trade from Baen); and Isaac Asimov’s classic time travel tale, The End of Eternity (hard from Tor) which has been optioned for the movies a number of times.
    On the odd front there is a guide on How to Defeat your own Clone(trade by Bantam books) by Kyle Kurpinski and Terry D. Johnson which is a primer on the upcoming revolution in personal biology.