Henry L Lazarus
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
 
Science Fiction for June 2011
By Henry Leon Lazarus
    In the real world there is little violence especially if you live in a first world country like the U. S. Fiction, however, is filled with violence. Murder, rape, and break-ins are far more common than in reality. Science fiction and Fantasy raise the ante on violence, with war and strange weapons. Itís definitely fun to read, but I wouldnít want to live through it.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck) is a book that I think should be nominated next year for the Hugo (see below for this yearís nominees) Set at a time when humanity is spread throughout the solar system, and Earth, Mars, and the belters (who mine the Asteroid Belt) live in uneasy alliance. No one wants a war, but flair-ups are common. At its heart the villains of this tale are truly evil. They practice mass murder for science. One of our characters, Miller, is a burnt-out cop who has been asked to find a rich girl hiding from her extremely rich parents. When things go really bad, and he loses his job on Ceres, he follows his leads on the girl into the heart of danger. Holden is an officer on the Canterbury, an ice-hauler,  who commands the shuttle sent to investigate an SOS. When the Canterbury is torpedoed with nukes, he and his five crew members have to find a safe place to survive. Soon a war breaks out because Mars is blamed. But what happens on the colony inside Eros is horrifying and makes war seem calm. Over and over Miller and Holden, who eventually get together, are placed in impossible situations and barely survive. The background is so well limned that you can hear the bulkheads creak and feel the extra weight as the engines fire. Great.
I love tales of super heroes. In After the Golden Age (hard from Tor which I bought from my kindle app) Carrie Vaughn tells the tale of Celia West, born without superpowers despite being the child of Captain Olympus and Spark. When their secret identities are broken, she is kidnaped so often, she actually gets used to it. But the cities greatest villain is on trial for income tax fraud. Celiaís abilities as a forensic CPA brings her into the trial as a witness, but also reveals that she ran away to join the villain as a teenager; which costs her her job. But other villains are out there, and the mayor is determined to stop the crime-fighting vigilantes and bring order to the streets. So Celia has to rise to the occasion and use her skills to find the real villains without superpowers. I couldnít put it down.
In Larry Correiaís new universe, superpowers started showing up in the nineteenth century. They may call it Hard Magic (trade from Baen) but most people who are affected have only one psionic ability; teleportation; manipulating gravity, gadget building, telepathy, healing, etc. This led to a really horrendous world war I which ended with the discovery of death rays. Jake Sullivan, who can play with gravity, is an ex-con used by the FBI to help catch super villains. But he is dragged into a fight between the Grimnoir knights who are trying to save our world and ĎThe Chairmaní, the real ruler of Japan, who is trying to conquer it. Intense action scenes follow in this fun universe that easily could have a comic book adaption. Itís also impossible to put down. It has a solid ending, despite two sequels promised.
A. Lee Martinez has an odd view of magic and the universe. Our universe has holes in it because the Fenris wolf is trying to escape from Chasing the Moon (hard from Orbit). Diana finds out the hard way when looking for a cheap apartment. Once she closes the door, it disappears and the only way to get out is to open the closet which has Vom the Hungering who apologies that he will eat her if she opens his closet. She manages to escape, actually making friends with Vom. With one foot in an alternate reality, she has the ability to manipulate magically our universe and to see the strangeness kept from most of us. She makes friends with the other people in the apartment, especially the landlord who resets our universe occasionally by fixing the furnace. But the Fenris wolf is due to escape our universe soon, and if he does, heíll destroy it
Simon Morden concludes his tale of Samuil Petrovitch, a genius who starts this tale by inventing a perpetual motion device. But in the free zone, that is still recovering from the outzone attack, things are never so complicated. But the number of his Degrees of Freedom (paper from Orbit) are reduced when the body of an ancient terrorist is found with an atomic bomb that somehow never went off. His also has the problem that his wife, Maddy, has separated from him, and his artificial intelligence, Michael, is buried under tons of rock and the CIA would readily nuke it, if he tries to dig up the computer holding him. Then someone steals the bomb, breaking Samuilís arm in the process. Of course he manages to save the day, work out the plots, and even yell at the American President while blocking his attempts to start a nuclear holocaust. Fun ending to an exciting series.
Jason Starr is a suspense writer who decided to add werewolves to his latest tale, but keeps the fantastic to a minimum to avoid confusing his regular readers. Simon Burns becomes a house husband after losing his job at a Manhattan Ad Agency. He runs into, of all things, a group of single fathers who seem strangely bonded. Then after being given a strange beer by the leader of The Pack(hard from Ace) he awaken up nude in the middle of New Jersey near the house where his former boss is murdered the same night by a wolf. At the same time he develops a hunger for meat and much greater stamina. For urban fantasy readers the real tale starts near the end, but the characters are fun.
Allen Steele tells of an expedition to the unusual world of Hex( hart from Ace). Hex is a Dyson sphere, surrounding a star, composed of habitats in a hexagonal pattern. The settlers on Coyote (this is the eighth tale about the human settlement there) has been offered space there and is given very little information about this living world. As a result adventures happen and a mother and son are reconciled. The main point here is show of a fantastic engineering concept. I enjoyed it.
Terminal World (paper from Ace by Alastair Reynolds) suffered a major disaster five thousand years ago, breaking the world into zones with varying levels of technology.  As Alastair Reynolds tells us the story starts in Spearpoint, a giant tower of a city starts with a high technology of Angels. The Angels adapted Quillon to survive at the lower levels. Heís been in hiding, working as a pathologist on a level that allows electronics since his mission went sour,. He learns he is in danger from Angels trying to discover how his adaption has been so successful. Friends help him escape down through the steam level, through the horse powered level and out on the main world which has varying zones, including one that doesnít allow life at all. Raiders have been trying to wipe out the swarm, a group living in dirigibles and moving always to avoid deadly zone changes. Then thereís the woman and child who may have the ability to manipulate the zones. The tale is non-stop action, and impossible to put down. But I found the whole concept of zones of technology confusing.
Jon Sprunk continues the tale of Caim, an assassin who can use shadows because of a talent he inherited from his mother, a full fae. Caim has decided to go north following a Shadowís Lure (trade from Pyr) to the country where his father had died and he had barely escaped. His aunt, with full shadow powers, opposes him and his attempts to help the rebels to her harsh autocracy. Not only that, but his ghost helper has somehow gotten lost, and he is mauled by a bear before ever arriving. Not only that, but the girl he left behind, Josey, now empress, is under attack by a church that hates her policies (stopping an endless religious war) and magical assassins. This is the second book of a series and Iím still enjoying the heavy action.
Darren Shan concludes his tale of a City of Snakes (hard from Grand Central Publishing) about ten years after the first Cardinal, who had the ability to create people using Aztec magic. Capek, the new Cardinal, who was made immortal, has major problems controlling the city, and then is kidnaped. Al Jeery has been imitating Paucer Wami, one of those created by the first cardinal who killed for fun. Al only kills those who need killing, but now he is chasing down Capek, and trying to stop the Aztec priests who intend to conquer the city and then the world. Iíve enjoyed this series, which is a bit weird, but donít think Iím keeping the series for my collection.
Steven Brustís latest tale of Vlad Taltos in his Dragaera fantasy series is really three tales about a piece of jewelry, a silver Tiassa (hard from Tor which I bought for my Kindle App) with sapphire eyes that may have been made by the gods.  Early in Vladís career he uses it as part of a scam against a government tax. Then his enemies use it to make the empress reveal his location and his wife and another friend figure out the plot. Finally The Phoenix Guard captain, Khaavren, gets involved when Vlad is found floating in the river practically dead. He also is searching for the silver Tiassa. Fun addition to a very long series.
 Francesca Marinelli, a vampire who hates the taste of blood and can tolerate more sunlight than most vampires has become more aggressive in hunting evil since having a solid relationship with a vampire slayer (rogue vampires only), and found an old friend Triton, who turns into a dolphin once a month. She has a friendís wedding to help plan, and something called the void that is sapping the energies of all the local vampires but her. With two wizards to help hunt down the evil wizard who created the void, and making sure all the tables and chairs are delivered for the various pre-parties, she has her hands so full, she lacks to the time to go surfing, but does manage to get to her bridge club, and also give her famous ghost tours of St Augustin. I love this series.
The Deadliest Bite (paper from Orbit) is the late Jennifer Rardinís final tale of Jaz Parks, government assassin with a vampire partner, has her literally going to hell. It starts with a visit from someone trying to slay Vayl because the manís fatherís ghost told him to. Then they have to rescue the ghost from a part of hell where he was trapped. Then itís off to the gates of hell to remove a ghost trapped in Jazís head. Lots of fights and fun, and oh yes, Jaz says sheíll retire at the end of this tale. A good ending to a series.
John Ringo dearly loves his war. The premise of Live Free or Die (paper) in which aliens have opened up a gate to the rest of the galactic culture, and Earth can only survive by creating trade has been overshadowed by bad aliens who have decided they have to wipe out humanity through The Hot Gate (hard from Baen). The best parts come before the massive battle. Dana Parker finds herself in charge of a group of South American engineers whose culture gets in the way of actually working and who resent working for a woman. This bit of American gung-ho, is fun (at least for us from the good old US of A). Thereís also an AI with psychological problems. The space battle, when it comes, is up to Mr. Ringoís high standards, but still feels wedged  into the plot.
As Jenna Black tells it, anybody of Dark Descent (paper from pocket) can kill an immortal descendent of the Gods and steal their immortality. Nikki Glass didnít know she was the descendent of Artemis until a client (far older than he looked) decided to suicide by having her run him over. That put Nikki between two groups of feuding immortals with the bad guys thinking might makes right. If she can get her new talents working, she can find the missing lover of her new boss, a woman trapped under ground for a decade. A fun beginning to a light adventure series.
     Baen has reprinted two classic collections in paper.  Robert Heinleinís The Green Hills of Earth/ The Menace from Earth (a collection and a novel in one) and a collection of Christopher Anvil tales, Rx for Chaos. The have also reprinted two weak Liaden (from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) tales in an omnibus called Korvalís Game (trade)
    The Hugo nominations for awards for this year are: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra); Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen); The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr); Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit); and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit). My own favorite is the last, but I doubt it has a chance.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on June 10th, 2011 at 8 pm atInternational House on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus. Arika Okrent, a local author and author of  In the Land of Invented Languages, a non-fiction look at invented languages, will speak. Guests are welcome.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods from Wolfsinger Publications which can be bought on Amazon.com.