Science Fiction for June 2010
By Henry Leon Lazarus
Spinrad is very familiar with both science fiction fandom television studios.
I think that his tale of Ralph, a comic whose shtick is that he comes from
a dead-end future and actually believes it, is designed as a satire. Ralph
is discovered by a Hollywood agent and sold as a talk show host to a minor
network. The guest are selected by a new age actress/writer and a one-time
big Science Fiction writer now writing gags and cartoon scripts. He
Walked Among Us (hard from Tor) draws heavily on a certain religious
fable with Ralph drawing adherent fans even though he barely gets enough
ratings to survive more than a year. Mr. Spinrad has an ear for crazy
characters, even including Ralph who may indeed be a time traveler. The
tale works only if you believe Ralph and truthfully, I wouldnít have watched
the show described here.
Jane Lindskold completes her trilogy about the magical Chinese world born of Smoke and Sacrifice two millennium ago. A century ago Thirteen Orphans (paper) were exiled here and kept their powers based on the Chinese horoscope. Their descendants have to pass through Nine Gates (paper) to return, but need representatives from all the families to return. They get five ghosts of the original orphans to fill the set and return to the land. However evil has taken over the land and the small group of spies sent by the group are soon captured and only Five Odd Honors (hard from Tor) from the game of Mah Jongg, the basis of the magic, are needed to contact them. Add in a visitor from another magical land to help and, of course, a big battle at the end. Fun and interesting with enough back story from Ms. Lindskold to return for more tales.
Charlaine Harrisís Sookie Stackhouse tales have different secondary characters from the HBO series True Blood, which makes it a bit confusing for the fan of both. The tenth tale has Sookie dealing with the Dead in the Family (hard from Ace which I bought from the used book store on the Penn Campus) left over from the fae war. Thereís also some vampire politics and catch up stuff.
Robin Hobb finishes the tale of the dragons who didnít develop completely in their cocoons and who have been traveling up the Rain wild river to a Dragon Haven (hard from Eos). Itís a tough road, with many dangers and with some of the travelers looking to kill the dragons for their valuable parts. But everything ends happily.
Laura Anne Gilman returns to her world of Retrievers with a new character, looking into the Hard Magic (trade from Luna which I bought electronically) of Forensics. Bonnie Torres is one of the seven people hired to start Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations. In this, their first case, they have to learn how to use the magic of current to tease out DNA and finger print type info. Fascinating magical C.S.I.. Iím looking forward to their next case.
In 1997 spirits rose from the Earth and went on a killing spree. Two decades later an obscure church of magic that could protect people runs the show. Chess Putnam lost her parents in the horror and, after numerous foster parents, went to work for the Church as a witch-ghost-buster. Her personal life is going to hell because of an increasing dependence on drugs. Then her dealer decides that she should pay off her debt by getting rid of the Unholy Ghosts (paper from Del Rey) in an abandoned airport so he can ship his drugs in safely. But what she finds is far more than she should be handling. Corrupt Church elders, dead bodies left in her apartment, and two gangs with different agendas wanting her services. Taut and exciting in a very dark alternate present, this is impossible-to-put-down. The sequel comes next month.
For the second time in twenty year Iím on the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society panel evaluating Hugo award winners (July 16) and that allowed me access to the Hugo nominees I would otherwise have missed. Catherynne M. Valente tells a tale that could easily have been sensual because it is the story of four people from around the world who come to Palimpsest (trade from Bantam Spectra). One can only visit the strange city in dreams after having sex with someone imprinted with a tattoo map of part of the city. Strangers are inked in their first visit, and if they manage to get together in the real world, they can stay in the city where trains mate and houses grow. So a bee keeper in San Francisco, a locksmith in new York, an Itallian man haunted by his dead sister, and a young Japanese girl have to find each other to immigrate there, a process which takes lots of mechanical sex with strangers.
The other two both take place a century or so after gasoline runs out.
Paolo Bacigalupi tells of a future Thailand with the bureaucracy of outside Trade living in uneasy peace with environmental protection which tries to keep the massive attack of outside diseases under control. Enter Anderson Lake, an executive from one of the huge agricultural concerns that sell seed around the world resistant to the man-made viruses killing the food supply. He is after Thailandís hidden seed stock of fruits and vegetable from our time. One of the white coats who keep the country safe ignores the bribes and burns a lot of need cargo. Then he is murdered by Trade and a small war errupts. Add in The Windup Girl (trade from Night Shade Books), a genetically-engineered new person brought in by a Japanese diplomat and abandoned. . Bribes from the pimp who owns her have kept her alive, but the war between government departments will make even that impossible. Add in a yellow card refugee from Malaya, the plant manager for Mr. Lake, also trying to survive. Tailand is always in revolt , and tomorrowís version is no different .
Robert Charles Wilson thinks that technology will disappear, dropping the world back to the 19th century. Add in an imperial Presidency for the US which is also at war with the Europeans using the North East passage opened up by global worming. Julian Comstock : A Story of 22nd-Century America (hard from Tor) is the nephew of the present President. The tale starts with Julian in hiding in a small town because his father had been shot for treason (or for being successful in war) There he and Adam Hazzard who chronicles the tale, first meet. And then flee from the draft to Labrador but are caught up instead. Afraid he would be sacrificed in any war, Julian takes the name Commongold and Adamís version of his adventures somehow make their way to the capital, New York. The new hero revealed, now as an aristocrat, is made general in a campaign doomed to fail, and would have except the President got deposed and Julian becomes President and immediately gets into a fight with the state religion, the church of the Dominion. As always Mr. Wilson writes with three-dimensional characters who seem very real. I just couldnít get over the assumption that all our wonderful technology would be complete tossed out.
Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge continue their tale of superheroes Iridium and Jet as they with the consequences of Corp-coís fall and the end of the brainwashing that had kept the superheroes in check. Shades of Gray (trade from Bantam Spectra) not only tells how the two, once friends then archenemies and now friends again, finally work together to bring the former members of the squadron back to sanity. We also meet the first generation of the super humans and learn where they came from. Lots of fun and a must for comic fans.
David Weber sends our heroine on a Mission of Honor (hard from Baen) as a personal representative of the Queen to make peace with Haven. The war with the huge Solarian Empire is heating up, pushed by Mesa which also launches a secret attack on Manticorís shipbuilding space stations. This is a middle book in a very long series and Honor Harrington has very little to actually do. A must, only for fans of the series.
Del Rey has reprinted China Mievilleís Hugo nominated mytery that takes place in The City and The City in trade. Baen has reprinted David Weberís last Honor Harrington tale, Storm from the Shadows and Robert Heinlienís classic The Rolling Stones in paper.
Collections this month include military sf from veterans, Citizens (trade from Baen and edited by John Ringo and Brian M. Thompson) and tales that are All About Eve ( trade from WolfSinger Publications and edited by Carol Hightshoe), Adamís wife.