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Science Fiction for June 2013
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    Ever since  J. K. Rowling blew the world away with her Harry Potter series, a lot of very good writers have tried their hand at Juvenile fantasy and Science Fiction. Good writers frequently manage to write interesting and exciting tales.
Brandon Sanderson imagines a world where chalk drawings can come to life. Joel is fascinated by the science of The Rithmiatist (hard from Tor) even though he failed the inception ceremony that only picks one out of thousand. He has a free scholarship to the Armedius Academy which trains children of rich families as well as Rithmatists. He frequently skips his classes to listen into to the Rithmatist ones. Then someone starts kidnaping Rithmatist students and Joel manages to get to work with Professor Flint who is helping with the investigation as well as giving remedial training to Melody who has problems drawing defensive forms but is a wizard at creating chalklings. The tale is absorbing, fun and created in an interesting world that will stretch the mind of teenagers enjoying it. This might make it on an award list.
If Victor Hugo was writing fantasy today, the result might look like Stella Gemmell’s tale of The City (hard from Ace). While the city has been imposing its authority on its neighbors since its founding ten thousand years ago, its been at continual war with them for centuries. Its population has dwindled since it began drafting its women. Deep in the city a group of sewer dwellers finds a dead man with an S shaped tattoo. One of them, an ex-general, who escaped prison after being declared traitor, decides its time to hide in plain sight as a glass maker, living with a young orphan he adopted from his time in the sewers. On the field of battle, Indaro, a fierce fighting woman is captured by the enemy and enlisted in an impossible quest. The only way to stop the war that is destroying both sides is to assassinate  the Immortal Emperor, who has been alive for longer than anyone can remember. It doesn’t help that the vast sewer system is flooding along with sections of the city. I expect this will find its way to some award nominations.
Robert J. Sawyer tells of Alex Lomax, the only detective in New Klondike, Mars with the Red Planet Blues (hard from Ace which I got from the library). New Klondike was settled to dig up Martian fossils which are worth enough to draw treasure seekers. This is a future in which people can be downloaded into humanoid bodies, gaining immortality at the cost of their biological self. The first explorers found the alpha cache of the fossils and died returning on their third mission so nobody knows where the cache. Alex’s three cases all involve the alpha cache and murderous transfers. Lots of light fun in a well thought out background. I hope Alex returns for more cases.
A. A. Aguirre (Husband and wife Ann and Andres) have a nice police procedural set in a world of magic. The Fey world was invaded by humans centuries before and interbreeding has left most magic in one of the high houses who live only human spans. They create the magical steam engines that power the cars of this odd world And, By the Bronze Gods (paper from Ace), there are a few pure bloods around with much long life spans. As you might guess, in that world the rituals of a serial killer might have real magical implacations. CID inspectors Janus Mikani, who cans sense things in both people and objects, and Celeste Ritsuko, the only female inspector are hunting someone who captures young women with magical heritages and killing them ritually to take their power. This is a great beginning to a new series that promises a fun mixture of the two genres.
In M. L. Brennan’s present, vampires are born not made, a complicated process involving transfer of human blood with vampire blood so that the transformed being can engender a new vampire. Fortitude Scott is a member of Generation V (paper from Roc) who works at odd jobs to avoid his centuries old vampire mother. He’s still mostly human and can only drink his mother’s blood (once a month)  Then an Italian vampire arrives who  trying to transform a human so he can have a child. Unfortunately he thinks that killing the parents of a human family so he can grab their daughter is ok. Fort is outraged and his brother and sister can’t help him because have promised this Luca hospitality. He does have the help of his guardian Kitsune (foxes who can turn into women) and without vampire strength he has to go rescue the surviving girl. This is a very impressive first novel and I found it impossible to put down.
A Data Runner (electron from Diversion Books) according to Sam A. Patel, is like a bike messenger except he carries electronic info in his arm. The New York suburb of Brentwood is in poor shape because its water supply has been contaminated with flammable liquids. Jack Nill should have been working on advanced courses on his way to college, but his father lost his job and Jack is going to the local highschool and learning parkour (the Jackie Chan stuff) on the side. Then his father goes deeply into debt at the same time Arcadian Transports makes Jack an offer. Unfortunately there is data out there so damaging that someone is cutting off data runner arms.A leak of corruption of one of the major corporations that control the U. S.  is out and that corporation has a truly evil plan that will hurt Brentwood and other towns around the country. Very exciting and pulse pounding.
Eric Flint and Ryk R. Spoor have a nice trilogy about ancient beings with a base on Mars and other parts of the Solar System. In Boundry (paper) our hero’s discover and explor the base, finding new technology and the possibility of a base on Ceres. In Threshold (paper) the value of a base on one of Jupitor’s moons leads to a race. Alas someone one put weapons on one of the ships and in a race to the new base attacks the other ship. So we open up in Portal (hard from Baen with one ship and the few  survivors from the other in a lander on Europa, the moon of Jupitor with a water filled center. Only by working together can they survive and put the pieces of their ships the the remains of a third in orbit together. Of course they’re scientists so, when survival is assured, they decide to look at a bubble in the ice, which leads them to make a small expedition with a rover. Alas a Europa quake traps the rover and at the same time allows a view into Europa’s inner ocean. The authors’s really know their science, and create a well -grounded and fun tale about exploration of the solar system. Fun.
G.P. Ching tells of a Grounded (trade from Carpe Luna, Ltd) girl genetically engineered to manipulate electricty. Lydia Troyer has no idea of her power because she has been brought up Amish in Hemlock Hollow. Then her adopted  father has a stroke and she thinks it’s a good time to go rumspringa, a period when the Amish youth like in the outside world and make their decision whether to return to their primitive life style. Everything is fine until someone turns on the light. The corrupt Green Republic that rules the outside has limited energy generation to natural sources and polices any disruption. Her power has caused a surge and that sends her to be tested. There she finds boy with similar powers who she helps rescue, which puts her on the run and working with a rebellion against the Green Republic. Teenagers of all ages will lap this fun tale up.
Ari Marmell disproves the rule that all books based on games are horrible. The War Machines: Iron Kingdoms only provides the background for an exciting tale of spying and fighting. In Thunder Forged (trade from Pyr) is an exciting adventure.Dignity is a spy from Cygnar in allied Llael hunting for a stolen alchemichal formula and avoiding Khador spies. The city is under attack from Khador, and to help Dignity escape one she has found the formula, the Cygnarians send a Knight, Katherine Laddermore whose lance shoots electric bolts, and a squad of warjacks commanded by Sergeant Berwynne pulled off the front. The squad loses half their men fighting their way to the city of Leryn and the knight has one of her squires murdered in his bead. That’s only the prelude because the forumla is in the hands of an alchemist who wants both sides to bid for the formula and both side cheat.
Harambee K. Grey-Sun tells of a future where the few survivors of the White Fire Virus. gain the ability to manipulate E-M radiatio by turning themselves invisible and shooting bright light and infrared radiation. . Robert Goldner and Darryl Ridley are such Broken Angels who work for the Isaac-Abraham institution that works with the authorities  hunting for missing angels. Then they come afoul of a small group of angels who wish to disrupt civilization and create a better one.  There’s a psychic world called Xyncroma that cqan be visited while in a coma, that forms the basis of the beliefs of this group. The tale is quite exciting, but Xynchroma adds a weirdness that many readers won’t be expecting in a teen action tale.
Claire Chilton has the tale of Dora Carradine, a normal teenager who gets into witchcraft as a rebellion against her preacher father. When one of her spells draws a demon her own age to the church, her father and the other townspeople think it’s a good idea to burn her at a stake (yes in modern times – the sect is quit nutty) and she accepts the invitation of Kieron Lascher to come live with him in hell. Demonic Dora ( paper from Ragz Books) tells of Dora’s adventures in a hell where soul chips are used as money, To survive she needs to pass Judgement day and she can’t do that if her soul is darkened. She and Kieron train with Kieron’s father and she gets help from a demon she won in a demonic arcade. A bit silly, but fun enough to keep me reading.
Stacey Wallace Benefiel tells of a small group of people with the ability to rewind time. As the tale starts they’ve finally Found( electronic from Amazon Digital Services, Inc.) Penny Black, a teenager on the run who is very powerful, but thinks her memories of changing time are just dreams. She has to be integrated into the group and help the group survive when it is attacked by someone who wants to hurt them. The tale is fun, but the ability to undo all problems gives the tale a deus-ex-machina quality to it.
Patricia Briggs’ latest tale about the coyote shape-shifter/ auto mechanic Mercy Thompson starts with an accident near midnight while shopping for Black Friday sales. That’s why she’s out of touch when someone kidnaps her husband, Adam, and the rest of the werewolf pack. A federal agency gone rogue is responsible and they’ve drugged the wolves to keep them complient. Then they send assassins after Mercy and her friends. If that weren’t enough, vampire politics play a strong role. Frost Burned (Hard from Ace which I bought electronically)is an exciting addition to a fun series
Barb Hendee tells a light tale of The Mist-torn Witches (paper from Roc), two sisters who work as apothecaries and follow in their Mother’s footsteps by pretending to read futures. Then at the wrong time Céline gets a real vision and warns a woman who she had been bribed to tell differently. That sends she and Amelie to another castle where they are hired to discover who, or what is killing young women and drinking all the life out of their bodies.
Ciardis is an orphan raised in a village that resents her. She works washing clothes until one of the powerful companions decides she might have potential. To join the Guild. As Terah Edun tells it in Sworn to Raise (electronic from All Night Reads) Ciardis is the last of a line of peopel with the  magical ability to enhance others magical abilities. This makes her a highly desirable catch and draws her into a royal plot to destroy the kingdom through its connection to the Land Wight that protects the country. Light fun.
Andy Straka starts a tale of  Dragonflies: Shadow of Drones (ebook from LLW Media–representation and distribution by Trident Media Group) about insect sized drones used by two government agencies who are in conflict. Caught in the middle is Former Army helicopter pilot Raina Sanchez who lost a foot in Afghanistan and is hired by one group to investigate a drug/date rape by the son of a famous media personality. The other group kidnaps her to pilot a dragonfly drone that can kill America’s enemies. Tye Palmer, the ex-gi who rescued her in Afghanistan and is working with her on the first case and trying to help save her on the second. This, alas, is only the first half of an exciting tale and stops with a cliffhanger.
    I read very few of the short story collections I report on because most of the shorter fiction doesn’t work for me.  The first issue of Fantasy Times Magazine (electronic and edited by Mona Lisa Castillo) has tales reminiscent of John Campbell’s classic Unknown which died of paper shortage during WWII and has been  avidly collected ever since.
    Roc has collected Robert Silverberg’s latest Tales of Majipoor (trade) which take place in the same world as his Hugo nominated Lord Valentine's Castle.  Open Road has published an electronic collection of Ian R. MacLeod tales Snodgrass and Other Illusions. The title tale has been adopted for British television and may show up here. They’ve also republished David Feintuch’s The Still, which I still have a hard cover copy, electronically
    Baen has four of the late A. Bertram Chandler tales of John Grimes in Galactic Courier(paper) ; Robert’s Heinlein’s fun tale of The Star Beast (paper) ; a number of classic A. E. Van Vogt tales in Transgalactic (paper); two Andre Norton tales Children of the Gates (trade); and David Weber’s House of Steel (trade) which has a short novel plus mounds of date about the Honorverse.
     The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on June 14th at 8 p.m.at  International House  on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus. Horror author Michael Cisco  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)