Henry L Lazarus
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Science Fiction for March 2012
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    There are three major differences in people that can be exploited for fiction,. While culture is the meat of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and age merely a defining characteristic of the character, gender is the most fun to play with. Putting men in women’s roles, and visa-versa, especially if the culture doesn’t allow it, can be great fun.
With the movie John Carter coming out, it is especially fun to think of a woman having to face the same travails as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s famous character. Jane Carver of Waar (trade from Night Shade books) is well up to the task as an-ex fighting marine and biker chick, she isn’t pleased  when, on the run from the police, she wanders into a strange cave and exits on another world with the same lower gravity of John Carter’s Mars. Soon she is trudging across this world with its dirigibles, cat-like centaurs, and bird-like beasts of burden. Convinced to help a nobleman recover his stolen bride, she is captured as a slave, fights her way to freedom and then captured by pirates  and made gladiator. The villain keeps stealing the girl back and the scene where Jane free jumps from the top of one dirigible to land in another is exhilarating and worth the read. I couldn’t put this down and wouldn’t mind a sequel.
Tony Daniels shows us an Earth besieged by alien Sceeve who eat with their feet and literally talk with smells. They’ve pulled back because of a small civil war, but have an armada on the way. Luckily for Earth the Sceeve vessel, Guardian of Night (trade from Baen) has decided to defect and it has a super weapon on board originally intended to wipe out Earth. There’s only one of it since the device had been stolen from another species wiped out by the Sceeve. Fun Characters and very weird science make this variation of a oft-told tale fun and hard-to-put-down.
Hidden in dark corners of our world is a society that can work magic. Alex Versus owns a store selling magical items and has to ability to know what is Fated (paper from Ace). Actually he just knows the most probable things and that allows him to sneak into guarded places without being seen. A magical statue, sitting in the British Museum, is a relic from an ancient war of magic, locked magically. It has attracted the attention of very powerful wight and black magicians. Alex is the only seer who hasn’t gone into hiding, and thus is sucked into the middle of a conflict that is a lose/lose situation. Tied to him is a young woman cursed by her ancestors to give bad luck to any she touches. As Benedict Jacka tells it, Alex has only a small chance of navigating between the egocentric magicians to actually survive. Lots of fun and the first of a series.Ari Marmell has a new series about a young woman in a world with many actual gods. The major church worships a covenant of them. Andrienne Satti was a thief who was adopted by a rich nobleman. Her friends lead her to the worship of a very obscure god, Olgun who has brought riches to them. But at one of the rituals, all the others are murdered and Adrienne blamed. But Olgun has adopted her and helps her with advice, watching her back, and occasionally causing guns fired at her to misfire.  Now a thief known as Widdershins, she is brazen in her thefts, bending only to the Thief’s Covenant (hard from Pyr). But not only is a ranking member of the thieves guild angry at her and has sent an enforcer after her for underpayment of dues.. A Bishop has come to town and to protect him, the city guards want her in jail. The people who killed her friends have also come out of hiding and want her killed. This is a nice action fantasy that is lots of fun. There’s a bit too much coincidence, but I’m looking forward for Widdershin’s next adventure.
The Department of Magic (trade from  Curiosity Quills Press by Rod Kierkegaard, Jr ) which was established by Abraham Lincoln, gets two new hires; a rich girl and one-time beauty queen Jasmine Farah, and an ex-gi who went through college on the G. I. bill Rocco di Angelo. Both are mystified at their new job, especially when their boss is murdered on their first day. But Jefferson Davis Crawley has been murdered before and somehow came back to life. But the nation is in peril from a Mayan God who wants to take the U. S. away from the goddess America. The only way to stop it is to steal George Washington’s paraphernalia from various museums. Jasmine has a wedding planned, and has been living with her best friend Bobbi. But Bobbi gets been turned into a vampire and starts working with Aaron Burr, aiding the Mayan God. The police are after our two heroes and only resurrecting George Washington during a July 4th celebration can save the day. I loved the very funny monster descriptions at the beginning of each chapter. Very hard to put down and lots of fun. I hope there’s a sequel.
Homo Felis is a variation of human that as a baby can change to a cat, and as an adult can grow claws and extra fur. They’ve been hiding themselves near Toronto. Rebecca Desjardin was ejected from the Pack when she lost her ability to transform at fifteen. Now she is working as a private investigator when one member, a teacher living off the farm, is murdered. Not only that but a tabloid reporter has published a photo of the woman half-changed. The reporter, Brandon Hanover, insisted on coming along on the investigation for providing his sources. Yes, he does become a love interest, but the main tale is about a felis teenager who was raised human and doesn’t know why he can change. Sheryl Nantus’s Blood of the Pride (electronic from Carina Press) is a nice intro to a fun urban-fantasy/ mystery series.
I’ve loved the concept of Grim Reapers since the tv show Dead like Me. Gina Damico believes that Grim Reapers are born not made, and most of them act up enough as teenagers to be thrown out of their families. They end up in Croak (trade from Graphia) in upper New York state. Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby uncle runs the town and he gets her parents to send her there for a summer job. There she learns the tricks of reaping, makes good friends, and tries to discover who is reaper using their talents to kill bad people before their time.  It’s a giggle of a tale and the beginning of a fun series.
Elizabeth Moon started her career with The Deed of Paksenarrion (paper from Baen) which a must for any fantasy library. Recently she has been following secondary characters from that trilogy. While the main plot concerns King Kieri’s wedding and the end of the invasion of Lyonia, a dragon enters the play by asking for land in neighboring Tsian, forcing out the goblins who had been protecting its eggs. But there are Echoes of Betrayal (hard from Del Rey)  in everything. At the end one of the main enemies of Lynonia finally reveals himself. This is the third book on a long running series and a must for fans.
Return with us now to the excitement and danger of the Napoleonic Wars when Dragons flew on both sides. In their seventh adventure Naomi Novik sends a reinstated Captain Laurence and his dragon Temeraire to the Inca Empire and its Crucible of Gold (hard from Del Rey). Alas, crossing the Pacific ends early when drunken sailors destroy their dragon-carrier. Barely surviving to reach the Americas, they discover a land depopulated by European diseases and basically run by Dragons. The human Empress needs a consort and our travelers have to work against Napoleon’s envoys and attempt to offer one of their Dragon captains on the throne, something he doesn’t want because he is Gay. The first three books of this series were awesome. This tale comes close. I’m still looking forward to new adventures.
Robin Hobb’s dragons must fly or die. The dragons whose metamorphosis was incomplete have completed their journey to the ancient City of Dragons (hard from Harper Voyager) but, except for the one who learned to fly, are trapped by heavy river waters on the other side. The Chaced king is desperate for a cure using dragon blood and his agents will use any means possible to save him. When Captain Leftrin returns to Cassarick for resupply, the trader’s council doesn’t believe the dragons have finished their journey and refuse to pay. The next tale will continue the tale and hopefully resolve some of the plot threads.
Five thousand years before Kristine Kathryn Rush’s series about the implications of ancient science, a human fleet set up colonies. In the previous book in the series ‘Boss’ discovered one of the ships of that fleet that was released from stasis, its crew trapped far from their home. Cooper, the captain of that ship start searching from hits of the ruins of ancient Boneyards (trade from Pyr) while ‘Squishy’, really upset at the way the empire is killing their scientists in an effort to discover how the ancient technology worked, decides to destroy their main lab. She succeeds, but is hunted by the Empire and an ex-husband working with security. This is a nice continuation of a fun series. Hopefully the next book in the series will resolved more of the mystery.
Jon Sprunk concludes his heroic fantasy tale of Caim who has Kim, a ghost friend, to help him scout ahead, and can call shadows to help him fight. He’s been heading north to find his mother, heading deep into the cold wastes where night never ends. At the end of his journey he must face Shadow’s Master (trade from Pyr) and other people who also can use shadows. Apparently his enemy is also his grandfather, but that won’t stop the evil man from trying to kill Caim. It takes a lot of luck and coincidence to get him through. I enjoyed this, but found the ending a bit far-fetched.
Alan Dean foster continues his tale of the modified street kid, the sexy Doctor and the strange thread that is related to nano-sized implants the Doctor has been finding in kids. The two of them have made their way to South Africa where the research labs of Body, Inc  (trade from Del Rey) are hidden. N ot only is finding the locations of the labs difficult, by they have to avoid the assassin Mole, who attacks them in a nature park filled with genetically modified animals. In the next tale they have to invade the actual lab and find out what is going on.
C.E. Murphy has been writing about a female shaman/cop, Joanne Walker, in Seattle for six previous adventures. In Raven Calls (trade from Luna) she goes to Ireland to seek help for the werewolf bite she received in the last adventure. She leaves modern Ireland for the past as ancient ancestors draw her into their problems. Her dead mother has somehow become a banshee and somehow she adds on the problem of releasing her spirit. The old cabdriver Gary has joined the fight and he gets lost in an attack on the ancient master who has been the villain of previous tales. It’s a bit confusing to keep track of the time line as she slides backwards  and forwards in time I also found the absence of people including other tourists at the historic sites she visits a bit disconcerting. I’m still enjoying the series.
    Baen Books have reprinted the following in paper: The fifth Worlds of Honor, In fire Forged; Earthblood and other stories which has Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown’s novel plus other Kieth Laumer tales that relate to it; Sharon Lee’s tale of a magic Carnival and The Carousal Tides moving it; and Eric Flint and K. D. Wentworth continuation of The Crucible of Empire about an alien prince and the humans helping him.
     The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on March 9th at 8p.m. at International House on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus. Billee Stallings, author of Murray Leinster: The Life and Works (also written by Jo-an J. Evans, hard from Mcfarland ) ,her father. Local author, Michael Swanwick will interview her.
     Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords)