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Science Fiction for April  2016
by Henry Leon Lazarus
    In Fantasy and Science Fiction, the true value of any long tale lies in its final chapter. Great final tales resonate with an emotional ending that gives the reader catharses. I hate series that the author can’t seem to finish his tale.
Brian Staveley has a solid trilogy set in a world in which gods created mortals from undying Csestriim. The effect of these gods can be removed if people with  part of the god residing inside them. One of the Csestriim, Ran Il Tornja, set up the Annurian empire centuries before and now, as its general , is defending the empire against a barbarian invasion. However his main object is really the two people housing Ciena, goddess of Pleasure, and Meshkent. The god of Pain. Ciena has be embodied in a young woman Trieste locked up in an Annur dungeon high up in a tower. Meshkent is embodied in Long Fist, the leader of the barbarian army. Caught in the middle are the three children of the assassinated emperor of Annur. To protect humanity Adare, now Empress, Kaden the one-time monk, and now-blinded Valyn who once fought on the huge Kestrels must discover what is actually happening and protect The Last Mortal Bound (hard from TOR) This is a tale filled with pulse-pounding energy with an impossible-to put-down ending.
K.C. Finn adds shades to a list of supernatural beings. Shades have power over the elements, live for centuries,  and can breed with humans. Lily Coltrane’s mother never told her that her father was a shade, so her first year at the college at Piketon in England brings some surprises. Outside the college is the Theatre Imaginique where very strange acts are performed once a month. The owner, Lemarick Novel, is centuries old and a shade. He is the one to realize Lily’s background, train her, and to protect her against anti-shade humans and the shades working with them, including Lily’s father. He also gives her  The Book Of Shade (paper from Starstorm) whose pages show only what is needed. This is a fascinating first book in a series.
Zombies have been rising and killing people since the ancient Egyptians but they don’t make new zombies. Only The Reburialists (paper from Ace) can destroy them. Things have gotten worse since Brynner Carson’s mother stole the heart of a four-thousand-year-old Egyptian princess, Ra-Ame and woke her from her slumber. The knives she also stole have made Brynner one of the best agents at the Bureau of Special Investigations. Grace Roberts is a translator brought in to help, and taken with Brynner to visit the Aunt and Uncle who raised him after his father died hunting his Mother.  Ra-Ame wants not only her heart, but also Brynner’s and then, as Grace gets involved, Grace’s too. Bureau headquarters in Seattle and Las Vegas come under attack as J. C. Nelson raises the tension. The tale is impossible to put down. I also started buying Mr. Nelson’s previous works.
Moving freight can be boring, but not in the hands of Nathan Lowell who tells a simple tale of  Ishmael Horatio Wang. His mother taught University level classics until a flitter accident left Ishmael an orphan who has to leave the company planet in three months. He gets a job as a Quarter Share (paper) cook’s helper and starts learning about the ship, and taking tests to advance to a higher rank. He makes good friends like Pip, who understands trading.  He soon makes Half Share (paper) working in environmental, but after the ship is almost destroyed from a puzzling accident, he is moved to systems as a Full Share (paper) His wise captain maneuvers him to apply to the Academy that graduates merchant ship officers. His first tour as a Double Share (paper) first mate has him on a ship with a Captain who won’t leave his cabin, and with a bully and sexual predator first mate running the ship. After a couple of ports the CEO of the firm that owns the ship, and others, has enough excuse to remove both the captain and first mate, leaving a happy ship. Seven years later, when Ishmael is first mate, his ship finds another freighter so sloppy that carbon Monoxide killed the crew. After serving as Salvage captain to get the ship back into port, he is offered the master’s exam and, after passing, is given the worst ship is the fleet for his Captain’s Share (paper), The Agamemnon. Of course he turns the ship around. The CEO dies suddenly and leaves a codicil in his will that his daughter, his only heir, can only inherit if she works a year at quarter share. With insurance money coming in from the salvaged ship, the company helps Ishmael buy a small ship to give him Owner’s Share (paper from Amazon) with all the headaches and joys of ownership. They not only have to earn a profit, but also deal with reporters interested in his new riches from the insurance and also the daughter. This fun tale has not war, and very little violence. This is a really fun series that I couldn’t put down. This is award level writing.
After giving up his final ship, Ishmael heads back to the Academy where he meets his old  friend Pip, and decides to buy the ship he help salvage to go into the dark areas of the galaxy. In Ashes Born (ebook) details the fun of meeting old friends, together with the problems of buying the abandoned ship. I’m hooked.     
Allen Steele considers what would happen if a rich SF author from the golden age, Nathan Arkwright (hard from TOR) left all his money to a foundation to send human eggs and sperm to a distant star where an artificial uterus and robot teachers would plant humans on another world. Several generations get involved with the grand push that sends the star ship to a world twenty-two light years. The foundation first rides high on the research results needed to create the starship. But after it is launched, it falls on hard times while it monitors transmissions from voyage with little ability to affect disaster. Then an asterid aimed at Earth brings back the need for their expertise. Mr. Steele concentrates mainly on the engineering aspects for building and launching this interesting experiment, and I think that the biologic problems are potentially  more difficult. Also the future described is very straight forward. I enjoyed the tale, but suspect that the next century will bring far more interesting changes.
Seanan McGuire, whose books can’t be categorized, has very odd, eerie mystery. Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children was created for children who, like Alice in Wonderland, somehow found doors to strange worlds and will do anything to return. Every Heart a Doorway (hard from Tor) begins with Nancy being sent there after living in the land of Death. Then, the day after arriving, her new roommate is murdered and her hands cut off. The serial killer has a logic to the murders that matches the strange background and is, of course, caught. This is a creepy, yet hard-to-put-down tale.
I’ve been enjoying Benedict Jacka’s tales of Alex Verus, a mage who uses his ability to see multiple futures to survive attacks against other mages. In the latest, Alex is Burned (Paper from Ace) out of his house by a fire mage, and the Light Council has literally condemned him to death, with only a week to get protection for his friends and associates. Everything points to the next tale in which motives will be revealed. I can’t wait.
Patricia Briggs notes that living in a world with Fae, werewolves, and vampires might have a traffic jam caused by a troll throwing cars off a major bridge. The problem is a Fire Touched (hard from Ace) human boy who lived for centuries in the magical, living Underhill who wants him back. Mercy Thompson and her werewolf husband Adam along with the rest of his pack are the only ones able to protect the boy from vary dangerous Fae. This is the ninth tale of auto-mechanic/coyote Mercy and just as much fun as the rest.
David Weber, working this time with Joelle Presby continues his tale of conflict between two multi-world empires. Centuries before portals had opened up other Earths. One culture used steam engines and guns, and links their world with talented telepaths. The other has dragons and magic, developed enough to allow computers. At a world they both call Hell’s Gate (paper and recently reprinted) where diplomacy failed because of treachery and war began that led to the magic users crossing five worlds before they were stopped. The steam empire needs to run a  Road to Hell (hard from Baen) from Portal to Portal to out-maneuver the magic users. At the same time political prisoners, a husband and wife, and transported go the heart of the Magic empire protected by the officer who saved them and them they have to testify at his court marshal. The Emperor, his daughter-heir, and his new son-in-law are under attack from local enemies. It’s easy to get lost in this morass of characters and worlds, but somehow the authors keep the plot ticking. There’s at least another book coming and I can’t wait.

    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on, March 8th  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 that suggests a simpler way to achieve fusion generation.