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Science Fiction for May 2015
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    After this review of Fantasy and Science Fiction books  is printed, I post individual reviews on line at Amazon and Goodreads. Most books I read get a three star rating. While that might be considered low, I have a different scale.  To me a three is average. They’re fun and enjoyable and the reason I keep reading. A four star book is noted here by suggesting that it should be considered for award nomination.  Usually less than ten books a year make that qualification. I see a book deserving five stars once a decade.
I found myself jumping in on Christopher Nuttall’s latest Schooled in Magic (ebook) tale, moving it to the top of the pile.. Emily was kidnaped from our world to the no-named lands by a necromancer looking for a child of destiny (Emily’s mother was named Destiny) and rescued by Void, a powerful mage, who sends her to Whitehall for training. In the previous book she finished her third year.  She also, with the help of the industrious family of a friend, has been introducing Earth technology like the printing press, steam power, and dynamite to this world and it is making massive changes.   She has neglected the Duchy of Cockatrice she was given because she saved the princess heir to the local kingdom and unfortunately agreed to host the Magical Faire this year, leaving her steward in charge. He invited all the magical families, including Ashworth and Ashfall, families who have been feuding for generations and who are never invited to the same event. It’s a case of Love's Labor's Won (ebook from Twilight Times Books) when the heir of one family falls for the heir of the other. Mr. Nuttall is very aware of Romeo and Juliet, so that a far better result occurs. The stage is set for the fourth year in which she has to work on a project with another student. I don’t know where this mixture of Connecticut Yankee and Harry Potter. Is going, but I’ve been enjoying the ride and glad that each book has a solid ending.
Harry Connolly has a nice, exciting trilogy with magic coming from portals in The Great Way. Many intelligent species have made their way to that world, including humans. One portal opens in the Palace of Song and Morning every twenty-three years bring the Evening People, humanoid aliens who gift one spell if they are properly regaled. This time giant purple apes come pouring out of the portal. The Way Into Chaos (ebook from  Radar Avenue Press which I bought) starts with the destruction of the capital by these monsters Tyr Tejohn Treygar, the only landless Tyr watches the king and Queen killed, but gets the prince and his entourage onto a flying cart. Lar, the prince wants them to head to his uncle’s tower where the magician has a spell that could win the day. Alas, the prince is bitten and, like all those bitten, becomes a monster himself.  Cazia Freewell, royal hostage whose been taught magic is along. They run into Giant Eagles and their cart is destroyed. Tejohn decides to continue Lar’s quest and sends Cazia with Ivy, Lar’s future wife to Ivy’s home. But Cazia decides instead to investigate the Eagles home, which may be another portal. She, Ivy, and another girl head toward the mountains.  Cazia has to tunnel through the mountains with magic and finds herself hollowed out by the excess use. In the valley between the mountains the girls discover intelligent insects with a anti-magic stone that removes Cazia’s magic and restores her to herself. This is The Way into Magic (ebook) but first the girls have to escape the insect Queen. Tejohn on foot, finds the empire in ruins     with petty Tyr’s running things and not offering much of a defense to their people. Turned into a slave, he has to escape and save several communities. The Cazia and Tejohn reunite to go to Lar’s uncle’s tower only to discover that Lar’s uncle had gone hollow and was killing everyone that got close to him. The Way into Darkness (ebook) is an exciting conclusion that first send Cazia to the land she was born in, only to find her father has been horrible to his people. Then the two face the aliens who were responsible for the curse. This tale is pulse-pounding and impossible to put down.    
The physics at the atomic level are weird with electrons in multiple places at the same time. My simplified theory at henrylazarus.com/utf.html explains why. These effects like Superposition (trade from Tor) and the possibility that someone might be alive and dead at the same time are explored, and explained well by David Walton and attributed, somehow, to a super collider built in New Jersey in the future. Jacob Kelly used to work at that collider until he quit to teach Physics at Swathmore.  Then an old colleague, Brain Vanderhall shows up and tries to shoot Jacobs wife to prove he wouldn’t hurt her. When Jacobs goes to Brian’s office and then to his hidden lab, he finds Brian’s dead body and a monster he calls a Verolac, Back at his house the Verolac murders his family in front of him and he escapes. Another version of him is put on trial for Brian’s murder, while the version who escaped tries to find the actual murderer. The Physics of the strange situation are well-explained and who the murderer is, is a nice twist and makes sense too. Fun.
John Birmingham cautions that drilling deep into the ocean floor can have monestrous consequences. BP’s  Longreach rig is setting records in depth. Divorced  Safety Engineer Dave Hooper is coming off a weekend toot when his rig is attacked by orc-like monsters. Centuries ago something separated their lair from the surface and the rig broke the capstone that kept them apart. Somehow Dave kills one of the leaders and that gives him super strength and a fast metabolism. Emergence (paper from Del Rey),has Dave fighting the monsters in New Orleans with the help of the Navy, the local authorities and the gangs. It’s filled with comic book action and a good start to a fun trilogy.
Humanity is at war with a machine intelligence. Their main weapon are the psi-marines who can mentally disrupt the connection between the spiders and their fighting drones. Caitlin’s twin brother was reported dead, but her psionic connection to him is still broken. Then he contacts her telepathically to assassinate the fleet admiral, but someone else shoots the admiral before she can. Special Agent Von Kodiak is pulled off a case against a crime syndicate after the first assassination, and the case gets complicated when the Admiral’s replacement is also murdered. Humanoid robots, things not seen before, seem part of a complicated plot. Adam Christopher takes his exciting plot to the mining machine of Jupiter where someone is building a spider machine they hope to control. If The Machine Awakes (hard from Tor) it could be a disaster for humanity.  Very exciting.
Kal Spriggs tells a fun tale, albeit a bit predictable, about a robot warship on course to destroy a human starship and the small group of ex-prisoners set to reprogram it. Fenris Unchained (paper from Henchman Press) Melanie Armstrong is the merchant owner trying to make a living with her parents ship with the help of her brother with missed repairs cause it to crash. She and her brother are co-opted into the expedition. The Fenris’s mission was set a century before when the system it’s attacking was controlled by aliens. It’s been out of touch while repairing itself. The mission is complicated by pirates, including one in the Melainie’s group. This is light fun, and promises some sequels. Jennifer Estep starts a tale set in "the most magical place in America."  Cloudburst Falls where monsters exist and gangs with magical talents control the town. Lila Merriweather pretends to be a normal teen despite a magical talent in sight and the ability to absorb temporarily the talent of any attacker if their attack is used against her. Since her mother, a bodyguard was murdered she’s had a hiding place in the Library, and a fence, Mo, who finds things for her to burgle. She also goes to a normal school during the day. Then Devon, heir to the Sinclair family is attacked in Mo’s shop and she makes the mistake of saving him. She’s made his bodyguard to replace the one killed in the attack. Cold Burn of Magic (paper from Kensington -Teen) has a lot of similarities to other Estep tales.  I read everything she writes.
Jack Campbell has a world in which both technology and magic are controlled by strong guilds that care nothing for the commons and despise each other. Mari is the youngest master mechanic who left the Guild Halls,. She has been  sent to Ringhmon to repair a computer (like from the sixties). Alain is the youngest mage, and has been hired by the caravan to help protect it from bandits with his fireballs. The Caravan is destroyed by bandits with far more weapons than should have been expected, drawing Mage, who has been taught to hold emotions in check, and Mechanic who has been taught that all the Mage effects are fraudulent. They escape the bandits and make their way to Ringhmon where she fixes the computer and is thrown in a dungeon. He helps her excape, and they both end up in another city menaced by monsters, and they both have to work together, despite the disapproval of both their Guilds to fight  The Dragons of Dorcastle (ebook from Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc. ) . There’s of course a prophecy that will be explored in later episodes of this fun series.   
Kelley Grant shows us a medieval world in which Gods are quite real and provide the magical powers. The One, worshiped by the desert people created four other deities. Potential priests are selected by Felis, giant cats who bond with the priests and allow bonding to the one and to the other deities. The problem is that the deities not only don’t agree, but are frequently in conflict. The deity of war has been pushing to expand his armies to attack the people of the desert and has turn more people into Forsaken, a class frequently treated as slaves with no rights at all. Into this comes a set of twins, born of a woman who left the priesthood. Sulis knows herself called and has a knack of befriending all the felis. She goes the Temple at Illian to be trained. Her brother, Kadar, is apprenticed into his family’s merchant business and falls for one of the Forsaken, Farrah, who his family pays full wages to. This is the beginning of a tale of Desert Rising (ebook from Harper Voyager Impulse) and a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the next part of the tale.
    Baen has reprinted Robert Buettner’s fun Balance Point (paper) set in his Orphan’s Legacy series; and two of James P, Hogan’s tales, Cyber Rogues (paper). Open Road Media has reprinted Greg Keyes’s first novel The Waterborn as an ebook. It’s still one of his best.
    Hugo Award nominations included: Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK); The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books); The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books); Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North); Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc Books). I’ve read an enjoyed all but The Dark Between the Stars which continues his The Saga of Seven Suns series which I didn’t like and Skin Game which is part of the Dresden files.  There's a controversy going on now about this year's awards. People have to pay to nominate and vote, and apparently the deck might have been stacked this time.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on May 15th at 2015 at 8 p.m. at the International House  on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus . Writer and editor Michael A. Ventrella will speak 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 non-formula unified field theory at henrylazarus.com/utf.html