Henry L Lazarus
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Science Fiction for June 2015
The best science fiction and fantasy books create
worlds that not only differ from our own, but feel as though they
have a life of their own. In them characters live and breathe with
concerns unrelated to our own, and yet somehow very important to
both them and the reader.
by Henry Leon Lazarus
K. M. McKinley starts an epic tale set on
an ancient world, Ruthnia, that has seen numerous civilizations rise
and fall. It is a world of two moons, of the Tyn, enslaved magical
beings; and of steam power generated from magical sands. It is a
world where horses are extinct and dogs, some of whom speak, have
replaced them It is also a world where ghosts walk unless released
by Guiders. Most of the Gods were killed two centuries before
leaving only the God of Drink. A lot of technology has been
rediscovered from ancient cities, and the discovery of an untouched
city in the far, frozen South sets off a race among the hundred
kingdoms. We follow six Kressind siblings. One designed The
Iron Ship (paper from Rebellion), one is a playwright who
suppresses his magical powers after he blinded one eye of his
brother who has become a Guider. One bought rank in the army and
because he slept with someone’s wife, finds himself exiled to the
Gates of the world. And one takes over her husband’s factory, not
approved for women in this Victorian age, and routs out corruption.
This first part of the tale follows the construction of the first
ship made of iron despite efforts to stop it. This is a marvelous
and complicated world and I hope the sequels follow soon.
Marc Turner has a fun tale set in a
complicated world. When the Heavens Fall (hard from Tor). A
mage, Mayot, steals the Book of Lost Souls with the unknowing help
of one of the Gods, Spider. Spider sends her high priestess, Romany
to unlock the book and help the mage protect himself as part of a
play against the death god, Shroud. Mayot uses the book to
cause the dead to rise in the uninhabited Forest of Sighs, and they
attack the city of Majack. This brings Galita’s king, Ebon
into the fray, trying desperately to stop the magic of the book. A
Guardian, think psychic warrior, Lurker is part of an expedition
from the Empire from which the book was stolen. Add into the mix
Parolla, strong in death magic and looking for a way to get even
with Shroud for killing her mother who has crossed the world.
Everything culminates in a massive battle against ancient dead, some
of who have magical powers. This is very intense introduction to a
complicated world. More tales are promised.
Naomi Novik, known for her talking
dragons during an alternate Napoleonic era, has a wonderful fairy
tale about an evil forest that needs to be Uprooted (hard
from Del Rey). The forest grabs people and turns them evil, if it
lets them return. A wizard named Dragon tries to keep the forest at
bay. His demand on the local villagers is one woman every decade.
They don’t want to stay in their village after the decade, but none
want to return to their village. This has been going on for
centuries since wizards don’t age. What he doesn’t expect is his
current selection, Agnieszka, who has magical powers. The tale does
have a tinge of Beauty and the Beast, but it is far, far more. First
she thinks he is tormenting her by making her learn minor spells
that exhaust her. When she discovers her magic, it turns out to work
differently than his. Then her best friend Kasia is corrupted by the
forest and when recovered is very corrupt. It takes her months, but
eventually Agnieszka,, with the help of Dragon, cures her friend.
Rumors of that brings a Prince to their door, a prince who wants his
mother, captured twenty years before, rescued. This is a marvelous
tale full of adventure and puzzle. The spirit of the evil forest is
not killable, and Agnieszka, has to delve to its heart to find a way
to calm it. This should be nominated for an award.
Open Road Integrated Media has found Greg
Keyes first novel. Footsteps in the Sky (paper) is a solid
tale of Hopi settlers on a wold first modified by aliens to almost
human standards. Earth is on edge because revolts have broken out on
other colonies, so that when three huge, alien starships
arrive, they send a small expedition to investigate. Twenty years
later, when the earth ship arrives, one of the aliens drops off a
cloned human with the downloaded brain of one of the ships. On the
planet, the two factions – one traditonal, and one embracing
technology are at odds. There are also the more, technologically-
advanced Earth expedition with it’s own agenda and the three ships
above that have the ability to destroy the colony. Two of them have
gone mad from the millions of years they have been at their task.
Caught in the middle is Sand, whose dead mother was cloned, and who
will do anything to save the clone who looks like a younger version
of her mother and to save her culture. Fascinating. I don’t
know why this never got the acclaim it deserved when first appeared.
Michael Alan Johnson continues his
graphic novel Hexed (which I haven’t read) with a real novel
about The Sisters of Witchdown (Trade from Pyr ), witches
trapped in the Shade. There’s a book wrapped in human skin that, if
read, will allow the witches to trap a young woman to eventually
hold one of their souls. Gina, who they trap, fortunately has a cop
for a father. He has the connections to contact Lucifer (named for
her two grandmothers who saved her life). She is a
seventeen-year-old illegal alien who earns a living stealing
dangerous magical items. With the help of Gina’s boyfriend David and
the cop, she not only has to steal a painting from an art gallery
and face an ancient witch for answers. Then she has to break into
the magically warded Graeae with its protective demons. Finally she
has to get into the Shade without dying. She doesn’t have magic
herself, but does have magical tools and a willingness to take
risks. Lots of fun.
Michael Z. Williamson has a solid tale of
a US patrol in Afghanistan, eight men and two women, sent back in
time to a warm period of the last ice age, A Long Time Until Now
(hard from Baen) This is a tale mainly about using hidden
talents to survive and improve the basics. Not only do they build
their fort, capture goats, and harvest local fruits and vegetables;
but they also deal with locals and other time travelers. Of course
there’s Romans but there’s also two from the far future. Cooperation
is the order of the day except for the Romans who are culturally
evil and need proof of the American technical superiority. I didn’t
approve of the of one of the women always expecting to be raped. The
future time traveler’s people eventually get them home where they
have to prove their story. Fun, but everything comes too easy.
Robert B Marcus, Jr and Ryan B Marcus
tell a tale of Richard Johnson, a college student, ex-marine who’s
drifting. He’s taken set theory because he really likes the teacher,
but won’t try to talk to her. He’s got a strange neighbor,
frequently away, that turns out to have a time portal in his living
room. It goes to two locations. In one human population has
massively dropped, and the other, about sixteen thousand years
ahead, there is the House of the Last Man on Earth (paper
from Mockingbird Lane Press). Dr. Rumpkin, the neighbor, is a
genealogist, and in his lab he meets Sam Robinson who can explain
how mankind might have been wiped out. His sister turns out to be
Richard’s math teacher. They end up in the far future and are picked
up by a star ship to go to the final battle between invaders of our
Galaxy and it’s defenders. Yes, there’s a touch of Hitchhikers Guide
to the Galaxy, but this tale stays a bit more serious. A lot of fun.
P. N. Elrod introduces us to Alexdrina
Victoria Pentleburry of Her Majesty’s Psychic Service. Set during an
alternate Victorian England. Alex is called in to
professionally read feelings in the room of The Hanged Man
(hard from Tor). It’s immediately obvious that the man had been
put to sleep with ether before being hanged, but the murderer left
no psychic imprint. Then she discovers the victim is her father, who
she hasn’t seen in a decade. That brings in the head of the service,
who is attack with air rifles. Add in a mad seeress at headquarters
who warns them just before and attack; an occult group that may be
more than it seems, and the political England for the English group
and you have a complication that may also involve Alex’s family.
Fun. I’m looking forward to her next case.
Diana Pharaoh Francis returns us to
Diamond City where magic works and where Riley Hollis, a tracer who
can even trace the dead has had her powers exposed. Now she has
bodyguards she didn’t ask for. She thinks she knows who hired them,
but she is wrong. There’s a magical drug trade in Diamond City and
the designer of the drug that brings people to the Edge of
Dreams (paper from Bell Bridge Books) before turning them to
waifs, wants her talents and lures her deep into the caves below
Diamond City before exposing her to the drug and hopefully making
her an addict who would work for him. Luckily she has friends and
talents he doesn’t know about. This is a magical version of a drug
war tale, but still lots of fun.
Mike Shepherd’s of Kris Longknife take
place in a future where two human empires are in conflict. Vicky
Peterwald is the daughter of one of the Emperors and has become
Kris’s friend/enemy. In Vicky Peterwald: Survivor (paper
from Ace) she has run from the palace after her step-mother tried to
kill her. Her stepmother’s family has destroying the empire’s
economy while Vicky’s new mother keeps her father occupied. So it’s
up to Vicky with the help of the Navy and a developed planet working
with her. Crystal is at the heart of the future economy. The
executives on the mining world have choked off production leaving
starving miners. Other planets have had complete collapse of
civilization as the loss of tools to repair the base structures have
disappeared. Vicky, as Grand Duchess might have to avoid being
kidnaped an risk her life many times, but it is possible to bring
the economy back in at least a small section of the Empire. Fun.
The barrier between Faerie and the human
world was sealed by Brianna’s human mother Helena. That led to The
Exile ( trade from Tor by C. T. Adams). Brianna makes a nice
living selling magical implements in our world, happy to stay out of
Faerie politics since her father is the King. Then the Fates tell
King Leu that he will shortly be murdered by a traitor.
Brianna knowing nothing of this is bringing home a painting helped
by her assistant Dave and his cop brother Nick on suspension after
being caught in a gun fight that got his partner injured. Then
doxies attack the shop and kill Pug’s cat and steal her kittens. Pug
is a Gargoyle. Brianna, Pug, Nick and Dave chase the doxies into
Faerie and end up in court where politics rules and where a civil
war is on the verge. This is only the first part of a longer series
and I’m waiting for part two.
Suzanne Johnson returns to a New Orleans
in which gates to other worlds were eased by Hurricane Katrina.
Drusilla J. Jaco, wizard sentinal of the city, faces a Pirate’s
Alley (hard from Tor) of complications arising from the events
in the previous tale, Elysian Fields (paper) Jean Lafitte , the
undead historical figure, is after revenge on the vampire who used
to be his partner. The Elf prince Quince Randolph has discovered
that he has sired a boy on Eugenia, D. J.’s best friend and wants
the baby. There’s a number of trials, each of which ends with a
building falling down or burning up. New Orleans in in the middle of
a snow storm and D.. J. finds that being one fifth elf makes
her prone to hibernation in the worst of times. This is a fun romp,
and alas, the tale is not over.
Mary Robinette Kowal has the fifth and
final tale of Jane and Vincent, Professional Glamourists Of
Noble Family (hard from Tor)in the early nineteenth century.
With the exception of the magic of Glamour, the world is
historically correct. When his father, Earl and traitor to the
crown, is reported dead in the family plantation in Antigua.
Vincent’s older brother has died in a crash and the second eldest
injured, so it falls on Vincent to restore his family name of
Hamilton and sail to Antigua where slavery is still legal. Jane
discovers her pregnancy on the trip and arriving at the plantation,
discover that not only is Vincent’s father still living, but there
are half-brothers and children and grandchildren all slaves.
Add in a corrupt manager and mistreated slaves. Vincent and Jane
caught in the middle and Jane finds that the only doctor she can
trust is a black woman. This is a good historical look at slavery in
the West Indies where the slaves couldn’t escape.
\Samantha Bryant realizes that women Going
Through the Change (paper from Curiosity Quills Press)
are open to using alternate medicines to relieve symptoms. But what
a Chinese doctor, Cindy Liu, comes up with, drastically changes four
women. Linda’s soap turns her into a very strong man;
Jessica’s tea allows her to become light enough to float,
Patricia’s skin cream turns her into a dragon creature with bullet
proof skin, and Helen’s pills allow her to throw fire. Cindy,
herself, is growing young too fast and willing to experiment
on the others which creates the conflicts as each of the women
accustoms themselves to the changes and learn to control their
power. Alas the tale is unfinished. Lots of fun.
C. Wright has been mapping the far future in which complications
come from interstellar civilizations that move at light speed. In
the first tale Count to a Trillion (paper) an expedition to a
near star finds a monument and a signal sent to powerful aliens.
Menelaus Montrose’s girl friend takes a 60,000 year round trip to
argue for humanity while Montrose and his enemy Ximen del Azarchel
fight and survive the milleniums. They fled Earth when the first
huge, alien vessel arrived in the 111th century and return to find
the Earth moved in its orbit and most of it’s population taken to
create colonies on other worlds. They can only survive if a massive
brain is created in Jupiter, a brain that would control humanity.
The colonies fail and that leads to a second confrontation with
aliens in the 221th century. In the 515th century Montrose and Ximen
are in conflict again with Jupiter which leads to an unusual duel. The
Architect of Aeons (hard from Tor) is the fourth of six books
and is either a work of genius or a mess. Some parts work well and
the historical span is fascinating.
Baen paper books include Gateway to Never
(trade), the sixth book A. Bertram Chandler’s tales of John Grimes,
starship captain; Man-Kzin Wars XIV (paper) a collection of
tales set in Larry Niven’s universe; and the paperback reprint of Shadow
of Freedom set in the Honorverse.
The Science Fiction Society will have its next
meeting on June 12th at 2015 at 8 p.m. at the Rotunda on
the University of Pennsylvania Campus. Dr. Charles E. Gannon, a
nebula- nominated author for Fire With Fire 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