Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    HOME
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Science Fiction for May 2014
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    One thing I like about fantasy and science fiction is the way an idea, like reliving the same life over and over, can be reshaped in the hands of individual authors into something wild and very different.
Claire North shows us a present constantly changed by the few people who relive their life over and over. They are in sync so that one life for each corresponds, though they move through different time periods. This allows for information to passed through time to the various Cronus clubs that can be found for thousands of years. Their policy is to avoid major changes to the time stream since one of their members made enough changes to lead to a nuclear war that wiped out humanity. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August    (hard from Hachette Book Group). Another person who relives his lives, Vincent is so fascinated with the idea of a Quantum Mirror that he wants to speed up technological progress to do it. He also attacks the members of the  Cronus clubs- either causing them to forget their past lives so that they begin again in the next, or to abort them so they never appear. Harry, born in 1919 and who usually dies in the eighties from cancer,  is in a unique position to stop him and risks everything to do so. Very exciting and fun.
Daryl Gregory imagines a near future in which designer drugs are printed to order. Afterparty (hard from Tor) is the tale of Lyda Rose, a biochemist, the inventor of Numinous. Shye and the other developers were fed massive doses of the drug at a party celebrating the beginning of human trials, a party at which her wife was murdered, and which her child still in her womb was infected. Ten years later she is being treated in a psychiatric institute talking to Dr. Gloria, an angel only she can see. Then a new patient dies of Numinous withdrawal after being given it in a new age church. That sends her out of the institute on a hunt. Helping her is Ollie, an assassin when she’s off her drugs, and Rovil who was their lab tech and now works for established drug manufacturers The trail to Edo, the billionaire who subsidized their original research, leads to Texas and, amazingly to Lyda Rose’s ten-year-old daughter who communicates without speaking and has tons of imaginary friends. Hunting them is another assassin who leaves dead bodies on their trail. There’s a sort of drug- infused illogic to the whole tale, but a realistic base that grounds the narrative. At the heart of the tale is really a murder mystery but the quest getting there is true fun. Highly recommended.. 
In another world the Emperor of the Elves and most of his family is killed in an Airship crash leaving half-goblin, nineteen-year-old Maia, fourth in line to the throne, to become The Goblin Emperor (hard from Tor). Maia had been exiled since the death of his queen mother a decade before and raised by a disgraced courtier who took it out on him. Now, a Katherine Addison tells us, he has to return to huge palace and somehow navigate the court intrigues, alienating as few people as he can. Everyone, including the emperors widows, his nephew and two nieces all younger than him, and the Lord Chancellor who resents him. There’s the problem of picking a potential Empress who resents the choice, a few attempts on his life and, of all things, a bridge that the ruling council wants swept under a rug. This is a fascinating look at a Chinese-based empire that was impossible to put down. I only wish the tale had kept going, even though the ending was satisfactory.
Sarah Cawkwell anchors a standard fantasy to an alternate 1559 in which Richard the Lionhearted brought back the secret of Magic from his crusade in Jerusalem. Richard III (the oner who killed his nephews in our world) makes a deal with a demon to win at Bosworth Field. Richard V is the present king.  But his son will be able to hold the demon’s soul and allow her presence on this Earth. To stop in Richard has made magic treasonous and sent the King’s Inquisitor to kill all practitioners, a man unknowingly using magic to find them. Mathias Eynon and his betrothed Tagan have lived in a village protected from the Inquisitor until their protector grows old. Their protector Wynn sends them through the Earth to Bavaria to find a powerful shape shifter, and hence to the King of the Pirates. And then a seeress. Together four,  and Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising (paper from Abaddon)  are needed to stop the evil demon. This is alight  tale, with quirky characters and who are always on the verge of destruction with the  Inquisitor constantly on their tail, even leading an English Army to conquer France to clear the way. Lots of fun.
An old man in a bar tells of his first years, the first five spent in a Dungeon. Edward M. Knight starts his adventures of Dagan in a medieval world in which unwanted children are thrown into a gladiatorial arena for wagers like the wagers in a cock fight. Dagan manages to escape with A Thirst for Vengence (paper from Edwards Publishing which I bought electronically). He learns to live on the streets, and eventually to get some training in magic before his new benefactor helps him rob the arena. Fun, dark and gritty. I can’t wait for the next adventure.
When a Shadye  necromancer decides to sacrifice a child of Destiny with magical abilities, he gets Emily from our world who’s mother name is Destiny. Saved by Mage  named Void she is sent to be Schooled in Magic (ebook from  Twilight Times Books which I bought electronically. At Whitehall she meets the usual bullies, makes friends with her roommates and others and in enrolled in the equivalent of ROTC. Emily is a fascinating young woman who works hard to overcome her unfamiliarity with this strange mediaeval world and bringing concepts from our world.  Christopher Nuttall, as usual, tells a fun tale with a solid ending. Sequels are planned, thank goodness.
Christina Farley absorbed Korean Myths when she taught there. Gilded (paper from  Skyscape which I bought electronically)  is the tale of Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee who come to Korea when her mother dies and her father takes a job in his homeland. She doesn’t know her family is cursed and that the eldest in every generation has their soul stolen by a demi-god Haemosu. Haemosu is so creepy he makes child molesters seem normal. But Jae Hwa has trained her whole life at Archery and Karate. She has a new friend , Marc to help her and, it seems other gods are providing weapons and advice. This is a wonderful look into Korean Myth through teen age eyes and a tale impossible to put down.
Ollie Bourque tells an interesting time travel tale in Ad Astra: Beginnings (ebook from Publish Green) Humanity died out leaving only nanobots who eventually send a group of themselves back in time to prevent the great disaster that destroyed humanity. Jacob Riley, an irish lush, saved the life of the person who would eventually destroy civilization, so he was a good pick to infest. The raise his intelligence, stop any effect of alcohol, and that sends him back to school to become an expert in the growing field of nano-technology. Hired by  Stratos Corporation, a company earning money from lunar mining, he marries his boss and has a child. Then he is picked to become the pilot to guide an asteroid to near-Earth orbit so it can easily be mined. There are other players, either alien or from the future, who may have had something to do with the original desctruction. But all Jake has to do is live in a box on the Asteroid for eight years so insure the right orbital path is followed. I found it fascinating and hope there is a sequel.
Elizabeth Moon concludes her fifth and final volume of Legend of Paksenarrion with Crown of Renewal (hard from Del Ray) which ends the tale not with a bang, but instead a whimper of character arcs being finished. I’ve read Sheepfarmer's Daughter (paper), which essentially started the series in 1988, a number of times. While the background is somewhat generic, the characterization made Ms. Moon an author to watch. However even she recommends that the latest is for readers of the earlier books. I enjoyed it,  relishing the quiet working out of the previous problems. It’s a sold end to fun series.
iDavid Drake has another Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy tale. Sent in a far future that somehow feels like the Napoleonic Era, the tales always take their truths from ancient battles. The Sea Without a Shore (hard from Baen) takes place during a truce between the Allience and Cinnabar. However Cinnabar’s spymaster has a son who has gotten involved with a religious group caught between two forces trying to take their planet. He hopes that a treasure he may have located may provide the funds for his sect to buy weapons to protect themselves. However his mother make sure that Daniel and Adele escort him. Their best bet to go treasure hunting is to end the war with some skulking, some skulduggery, and a dash of blackmail. The usual fun ensues.
Jennifer Estep concludes her final tale of Gwen Frost, Nike’s guardian and student at Mithos Academy. Killer Frost (paper from Kensington Books) takes place after the reapers free Loki from his prison. They need a special object and will stop at nothing, including kidnaping Gwen’s grandmother. But, mysteriously, Nike has predicted that Gwen will kill Loki. How do you kill an immortal god?. This has been a fun series and I recommend it highly for people looking for a fun, light read with a dash of romance.
Both Larry and Niven and Gregory Benford have written about huge objects in space like Larry Niven’s Ringworld. This time their Bowl of Heaven (paper) is literally bowl shaped with a huge living area and a sun that forces this Shipstar (hard from Tor) to move from star system to starsystem. Lots of intelligent beings have settled there. Alas for the human crew of a star ship Sunseeker and the still sleeping colonists intended for another world, the rules of the bowl want the humans to settle there instead of continuing to a world that has sent back threatening signals. These two grand masters of science fiction don’t disappoint even though the plot is mainly an excuse to show off the wonders. Wow!
iKarl Shroeder has an interesting idea for his fun juvenile tale. Toby McGonigal’s family colonized an Oort world and he ended up spending fourteen thousand years in deep sleep. His brother and sister are still alive because, after his loss in space, they created a Lockstep (hard from Tor) Empire of worlds where people are awake for thirty days and then sleep for thirty years. On Earth Empires have come and gone but the lockstep worlds are stable. Because his name is on the ownership, he is very valuable. He goes underground and hides, but soon is found, but only he can make the changes necessary for the empire’s survival. Light fun and forgettable except for the really neat idea.
    Kij Johnson has edited the Nebula Award Showcase 2014 (trade from Py) with the winners and a selection from the novel winner.     
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on, May 9th  2014 at 8 p.m. at International house on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus,.  Jon McGoran (author of Drift).  will speak . As usual Guests are Welcome.
    Correction: Last month I wrote that Ramona White wrote Three Princes. It was Ramona Wheeler.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords).