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Science Fiction for July 2019
    Endings are important Fantasy and Science Fiction. A strong ending, with pulse pounding action and a sense the journey was worth the effort, solidifies the tale in the mind.  Game of Thrones may have ended with a whimper, but there are many such excellent series available, some even with exceptional entries that stand on their own.  
The Great War, World War I,  with its poison gas and trench warfare might have been far worse in The Philosopher’s War (hard from Simon and Schuster). Some members of the Women’s Sigilry Corps can fly at speed of hundreds of miles an hour, others teleport, and still others weave vast clouds that can be filled with poison gas. Poison gas was used in the Civil War. The only man in the Corps, Robert Canderelli, is a rookie Rescue and Evacuation flier in 1918. In a heavily understaffed fifth division, he discovers that General Blandings is convinced that losing Germans will break a treaty against using Philosophy in war. Soon Robert is assisting in night time raids, attacking the primitive planes with grenades, and watching friends blown to bits by hidden bombs. This far better than the first tale, The Philosophers’s Flight (paper) and can be read independently. Tom Miller captures the essence of war with all its horrors. I hope this is nominated for an award.
In the Grove, a village of witches and Warlocks, there lived two sisters Hazel and Holly (trade from Double Beast Publishing) with a problem.  Their father, Ash, trapped their mother’s spirit and then went off to the neighboring town of Sarnum where Necromancy is legal. Hazel feels it’s important to find him. So with the help of two brother warlocks Hemlock and Hawthorn, who own a nice carriage, and a cellar gnome name Tun they set out on their journey to find Ash. There are of course great difficulties, not the least of which is that Hazel seems to have a knack for Necromancy. Along the way they face difficulties and horrors. This whimsical tale is difficult to put down and lots of fun.
Laura Strickland has a must read for those who like adult versions classic fairy tales. Rum Paul Stillskin ( ebook from The Wild Rose Press, Inc) was found abandoned under a cabbage leaf by the Stillskins, the father earning a living with a still.  As he grows, it is obvious he is not quite human and the locals don’t react well. But he falls in love with Mallie Goodman, a farmers daughter. When she dies young, she promises to return. Rum is devastated, but, being half-fairy he doesn’t age. Two centuries later, and more magically powerful,  he is convinced that a local girl is his love returned because she is singing a song that was personal. What follows, of course, is the classic tale pushed mainly by Rum’s attempt to bring back her memory.  The tale is dark, romantic, and bring a tear to the eye.
Trudie Skies has a solid, fun tale of a desert country where some people have fire magic and are despised for it. Teramina’s father had stopped teaching her sword play when her first period came. Very aggressive, she decides to goad the local butcher into using the fire she suspects he has, only to discover that she has fire magic, and so does her father who is killed in front of her.  Running, she somehow finds Lord Talin, the head of a small clan, and the king’s protector. Talin takes to her and adopts her, letting her masquerade as a boy. He and his sister train her as a Sand Dancer (paper from Uproar Books), a special type of fighter. When he is called to court, he thinks he can get special training for her if she maintains her disguise, and eventually get her into the Academy for nobility that trains male nobility as fighters. At court, one thing leads to another, ending with her in the Academy. The heir to the throne is at the Academy, training for the tournament in a few months. He is also quite evil, and was the one who killed her father. This is quite enjoyable, with lots of twists as Mina learns how her magic and politics work. While there is enough threads for a sequel, it isn’t necessary. Lots of fun.
Republic of Cinnabar exploration vessel The Far Traveler is exploring badly charted human star systems. Dr. Veil, Director of Science on board the ship, has requested newly graduated Harry Hopper from an aristocratic family on Cinnabar in the hopes that his noble rank would open doors to secrets museums of the local aristocrats. On this voyage To Clear Away the Shadows (hard from Baen) Lord Harry makes friends with Lieutenant Rick Grenville. Each of them helping the other out of scrapes at the ships several landings. David Drake tells a fun tale of friendship and scientific exploration in a far future echo of the nineteenth century.
In Gods of Jade and Shadow (hard from Del Rey)Silvia Moreno-Garcia invokes a Mayan myth and sets it in 1927. When Casiopea Tun’s father died, she and her mother went to live with her dying grandfather and were treated as servants. Left behind on a family trip, Casiopea opens a chest and finds the bones of Hun-Kamé, one of the two gods of death.  His brother, Vucub-Kamé, had killed him to continue his plan to bring back the Gods worship and power. Soon Casiopea and Hun-Kamé are heading towards Mexico City, El Paso,  and Baja California to recover Hun-Kamé’s missing parts and restore his rule of the underworld. Vucub-Kamé recruits Martín, Casiopea’s cousin, in an effort to stop them. This is a fun tale mixing realism with the fantasy.
Anthony Ryan finished his Raven's Shadow trilogy with a solid, exciting ending.  To continue, he adds to his world a version of China menaced by Genghis Khan who can conquer the world. Vaelin Al Sorna has settled down as Tower Lord, when he hears The Wolf's Call (hard from Ace),  an omen of the conquerer. He had sent Sherin away in a previous book to the lands of the Merchant Kings, so it he decides to find and protect her. His journey takes him face-to-face with the leader of the Steel Horde to rescue the woman he once loved, and then escape and help defend the city blocking the Horde. Very exciting and I’m eagerly waiting for the second book in this trilogy.
Peter McLean continues his tale of gangsters in a Medieval world with Priest of Lies (paper from ACE). Tomas Piety’s wife is a Queen’s Man and she has orders to return to the capital. Tomas, who became a priest when the priest assigned to their battalion died, had been a gangster before being drafted, and controls half of his city, when he has to leave.He and his wife are willing to kill anybody in their way and work together even though their marriage was arranged and never consummated.  This is a fascinating series, impossible to put down.     
I’ve been enjoying  Jeff Wheeler’s fun Harbinger series following two women. Cettie Pratt who was rescued from an orphanage where food was optional by Lord Fitzroy. Sera Fitzempress once almost disinherited by her father, has become Empress on one of the two connected worlds. Cettie was captured by her real mother and put in a school for Poisoners, the assassins of both worlds. Sera, on the world of floating cities, is kidnaped because she is destined to release an ancient evil. There’s fun as the two women escape their bonds, across the Broken Veil (paper from 47North) and come together to face impossible odds. Then God-like wizards appear and reshape the odds to allow the heroines a chance at winning.  While the full tale is fun, I’m never happy with Deus-ex-Machina endings.
S. L. Huang continues his tale of Cas Russell, a math wizard who can do near impossible things by calculating vectors. In Null Set(trade from Tor) she has to deal with the command to remember from the telepath villain of the last tale. Apparently her mind had been wiped to save her life.   She also decides to do something about human behavior to confront gang wars in LA. Fixing technology designed to end mob minds sets, she and her friends blanket the city with the sound frequency. Unfortunately the side effects are worse than expected. Very exciting with a third tale coming in February.
Marko Kloos tells a tale set in the Aftershocks (hard from 47North) of the Gaia system war in which the planet Gretia tried to conquer the rest of the system and lost. Aden Robertson, who had joined the military to escape his father and worked in intelligence, is finally released from five years in military prison. Solveig, his sister, is being groomed to be the head of their father’s Arm’s corporation which the father is not legally able to control. There are constant protests in front of her building and then a terrorist attack. The Gretian mothballed fleet is scuttled by people who may have stolen one of the ships, and Occupation forces on the planet are attacked with advanced warfare. The second half of this is due out next year.
    Baen has trade versions of the fifth volume of  The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF (edited by David Afsharirad) and the fourth volume of Liaden Universe Constellation with more tales by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.  They also have reprinted Tim Powers’ Expiration Date in paper.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on July 26th. This is the annual Hugo Review Panel for the 2019 awards to be awarded the weekend of  August 18 in Dublin. The meeting starts  at  8 p.m. at International House  on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. As usual guests are welcome.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a retired Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords).Check out his unified field theory at henrylazarus.com/utf.html that suggests fusion generation requires less energy because only one frequency is needed rather than a full spectrum.  It also explains dark matter, the proliferation of subatomic particles, and the limit of light speed for matter.