Henry L Lazarus
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Science Fiction for March 2016
For most of my life, the readable Fantasy and
Science Fiction were published by the major houses. Self-published
works were not worth considering. In the last few years that has all
changed. The volume of books from small presses and self-published
authors has reached a level that fun and very readable works can be
found. This is a golden age of reading.
by Henry Leon Lazarus
Lee Kelly tells of A Criminal Magic
(trade from Saga Press) in an alternate Depression era. The hottest
illegal drug on the market is shine, created by sorcerers from
water. It’s major problem is that it only lasts twenty-four hours,
like all sorcery. When Harrison Gunn, a rising star in the Sterling
Gang, recruits sorcerers for his shine parlor, He thinks that seven
of them working together will create far more powerful shine. Joan
Kendrick, one of the sorcerers he recruits, has a secret from her
mother, a way to seal shine with blood so it stored. Joan works for
him because she wants her family safe. Sorcerer Alex Danfrey saw his
father arrested for illegal magical work, and decides to join
the Federal Prohibition Unit where he is sent under cover into
the Shaw Gang. Gangland schemes and murder trap Alex and Joan
in a web of conspiracy and danger. I hope this finds its way to an
Michael Patrick Hicks sets his Convergence
(paper) of loyalty in a future California conquered by the Chinese
with resistence bands fighting not only the Chinese, but also
themselves. Before the invasion, most people had chips inserted in
the brain to store memory, and the chips can be read by others.
Former artist and refugee Jonah Everitt is an assassin and snuff
memory addict. He survives in a refugee camp with his daughter, and
kills for extra money. Then he becomes a pawn trapped between two
rival resistence groups, one of who has captured his daughter. To me
it was as if the Syrian Civil War had come to America. This is very
intense and highly recommended.
Marshall Ryan Maresca has a fun series
set in a world with both magic and beginning science that take place
in the city-state of Maradain. Veranix Calbert is a university
student in Magic by day and the The Thorn of Dentonhill (paper).
Things have gotten a bit complicated. There’s someone doing
impossible pranks at the University. The Red Rabbits, one of the
gangs in the city, has found a way to make effitte, the drug that
took his mother’s mind when she was overdosed with it. To make
things worse, Fenmere has hired a gang of female assassins to
take out the Thorn in the most public way. The Alchemy of Chaos
(paper from DAW). The prankster wants revenge for being kicked
out of the University and is mixing magic and technology to wreck
havoc. What’s worse, every time he gets close to catching the
prankster, the assassins show. Lots of over-the-top fun. Marshall
Ryan Maresca is an author to watch.
The Linesman (paper) Ean Lambert
who sings to the lines of star ship technology has become the secret
weapon of the New Alliance (paper from Ace by S. K. Dunstall) of
Worlds which is in a cold war with the Gate Union that controls the
jumping slots for all the planets. Selma Kari Wang, captain and only
survivor of the ship destroyed in a sneak attack, is asked to
captain the newly discovered alien ship, Eleven. What follows is a
complex tale of spies and politics and the possibility that other
factors may be instigating the war. This is becoming solid series
and I can’t wait for the third tale.
Victor Gischler has a satisfying trilogy
where wizards can tattoo powers into ink mages skin. Rina becomes an
Ink Mage (paper from 47North) when her parents, The Duke and
Dutchess of Klaar, are killed by an invading force
from the Parranese Empire takes their city with treachery. The only
wizard, who is dying, in the Dutchy tattoo’s the young Duchess
and sends her to Talbun another wizard across the continent. Helped
by Alem, a stable boy, and Brasley, a Baron’s son the are aided by
Gypsies. One of the Gypsies, Maurizan, comes along for adventure.
Brasley goes to petition the king for aid, while the others continue
their trek. In the city the head of a whore house aided by a
soldier, Tosh, hiding in their midst who trains the young women.
Rina, with her new powers, aided by this rebellion is able to take
back her Dutchy.
The Tattooed Duchess
(paper from 47North) has more problems than the Parrranese Empire
because the Kings wants her to marry his son. But with their initial
invasions thwarted, they launch thousands of ships at a major
port. In addition, Gods are manifesting. The second tale has a
With the God of War sending a zombie army
after the stragglers from the port city, only Rina and her friends,
along with A Painted Goddess (paper from 47North) can face the
manifested gods and save the world. While the title, unfortunately,
gives the ending away, I still really enjoyed the whole series.
The Courier (hard from DAW
) works in a California built seven layers high and controlled by
corporate power. Kris Ballard is a sixteen -year-old run-away
earning a living delivering packages on her electric motor bike and
living in the poor level 2 area. She has never seen the sun. When
she tries to deliver a package given at end of shift, she finds her
recipient being tortured. She manages to get away. She manages to
get away, but assassins keep coming, mainly because she is chipped,
like all citizens, and they are tracking her. Her only hope is ACE,
a group opposed to corporate control, but is also under attack. The
macguffin, the information she is carrying is very hot. Gerald
Brandt tells an impossible-to-put-down tale and introduces us to an
exciting heroine I’d love to see more of.
People who really enjoy David Weber’s
Honor Harrington series will also enjoy Christopher Nuttall’s tales
of Captain Kat Falcone’s adventures in the galactic war between the
Theocracy and the royal Commonwealth. Falcone Strike (paper
from 47North) sends Kat deep into unmapped Theocracy territory
commanding her ship, Lightning and a bunch of obsolete cruisers to
harass the enemy until the Commonwealth can build enough ships to
follow through. Lots of fun.
Gene Doucette has a strange tale of The
Spaceship Next Door (paper from Amazon). Sorrow Falls, a small
mill town in Massachusetts, has been infamous for three years as the
place where an alien starship landed and simply sat. People who get
too close find themselves running away. So the Army guards it. Real
scientists study it. Outside the gates, UFO crazies also study it
while the townspeople go about their business. Then Edgar
Somerville, an analyst comes to town because something has changed.
He recruits Sixteen-year old Annie Collins, the girl who knows
everyone in town and what everybody is doing, to help him measure
the effects of this new change on the local population. But soon
dead bodies are rising, and people are controlled when they go to
sleep. It doesn’t help that Annie’s mother, who is dying of cancer,
has to leave town for treatment and Annie gets to strange friend
Vivian who may have zombies as parents. Impressive.
Scotland, in a world much like our own,
is divided in two. The southern half are run by the Sidhe clans with
magical abilities. Integrity, the only surviving member of one
of those clans has been a Gifted Thief (paper from Amazon)
living among the clanless and, with a crew, stealing from the rich.
She doesn’t know why her father murdered all the other members of
her clan and she doesn’t care. Then the council of clans forces her
confront her background, because she is the only one who can open
one of the gates that guard the source of magic, and that source is
breaking down. Helen Harper tells of a feisty heroine who can’t
trust the sidhe she is forced to work with. Lots of fun for the
first in a series.
H. Jonas Rhynedahll has a pleasant light
fantasy series on a world where the disembodied spirits influence
action, and sometimes become embodied. Magicians have specific
spells that are frequently useless, and wizards can have thirteen.
Everett can make bad wine from water, but his main spell is
Potatoes, Come Forth! (Paper from Rhynedahll Software). A new
spell, Beautiful Woman, come forth! Sends him Sarah. It also
sends him towards a war in which Technology (embodied as a
technician) has created tanks and bombs. Magic wants him to stop
this war and keeps giving him more spells. Two years later he and
Sarah have an adorable baby who is a manifested version of Magic.
Then Destiny takes a hand literally and his powerful spells are all
messed up. Not only that, but he has to rescue Sarah who has been
trapped in an ancient city and needs to complete thirteen great
deeds before she will be let go. Magic, Unfettered? (Paper
from Rhynedahll Software). Is just as much as a giggle as the
first and remind me of Piers Anthony without puns.
Christopher J. Valin tells of a
Sidekick (paper from CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Platform) to a Batman like hero, The Black Harrier – a billionaire
by day and crime-fighter at night. Age sixteen, Red Raptor has the
ability to memorize fighting moves from just watching them, and
hides his ability to his alcoholic single mom, and from his
classmates Then the evil crown Pierrot kidnaps his boss, another
young heroine, Osprey, starts helping him. And his arch-nemesis in
school, Logan, attacks him where he can’t show his abilities, in
school. There’s a solid ending. I can’t wait for the next adventure.
Randy Henderson’s sequel to Finn Fancy
Necromancy (paper) about Phineas Gramayare wrongly sentenced
to twenty-five years to the other realm where the Fey ate at his
memories and who discovered that his grandfather was at the heart of
evil, has Finn trying to make up for his grandfather’s evil by doing
good deeds, like finding true love for a Sasquatch. Unfortunately
his Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free (hard from Tor) gets
him in the middle of a potential war between two demesnes in the
other realm and has already led to the murder while a feyblood
rights group was protesting. Finding the truth of a murder of a
nymph shot-in-the-back and then stopping the war finds Finn, and the
fey who shares his mind, Alynon, into fights with authority and
facing a return to the Other Realm. Like its predecessor, the tale
mixes silly bits with tense dangerous, and leaves plenty open for
the next tale in the series.
Baen has reprinted in paper By Tooth and Claw
about a world in which dinosaurs never died out with four linked
tales by S.m. Sterling, Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Jody Lynee
Nye,. They have also reprinted David Drake and John Lambshead’s tale
of a future George Washington who goes Into the Maelstrom.
The Science Fiction Society will have its next
meeting on, March 11th 2016 at 8 p.m. at International
House on the University of Pennsylvania Campus. 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