Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Home
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Science Fiction for August and September 2015
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    Apocalypse. Ever since J. R. R. Tolkein’s massive tale, epic fantasy frequently uses a fight against evil to prevent an Apocalypse. That’s why George R. R. Martin’s massive series will turn to zombie attacks in the last two books, and the next two seasons of the HBO series as winter arrives. All the internal struggle will be gone.
Anthony Ryan’s apocalypse is caused by a spirit already dead, the Ally, who is preparing for his return with other dead who have take over the minds of the living. They rule the Volarian Empire built on slavery. In the last tale, The Tower Lord (paper), the Volarians used treachery to conquer the United Realm. But Lyrna, the Queen of Fire (hard from TOR) wants not only to recover her country, she also wants to conquer Volarian and put an end to the Ally. A whole fleet has to be built, along with an army, but the whole world is at stake. The new Empress of Volaria is a body shifter and willing to kill her own citizens if they displease her. Battles, individual and group make for an exciting adventure. Add in the minor talents that can shift a battle and you have in interesting background. This is a solid ending to a fun series.
With George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones on hiatus till next year when hopefully the next volume will appear before the HBO series reveals spoilers, readers might be looking for similar tales. Robin Hobb began her tale of  FitzChivalry a year before Mr. Martin, and works in sets of trilogies. In the latest trilogy  Fitz looks thirty, but is double that age. His youngest daughter Bee is strangely like the Fool who was revealed in the Tawny Man trilogy to be able to predict futures and manipulate them. Bee has the same abilities. In Fools’s Assassin (hard) the Fool returns near death after being tortured Fitz returned him to Buckkeep Castle, not knowing that the same people who tortured the Fool were after Bee. Fool's Quest (hard from Del Rey) tells us how Bee is kidnaped and how Fitz almost stops them. He is also brought by from anonymity as a Prince. His older daughter is pregnant with is first grandchild, but that doesn’t stop him from planning his revenge when he thinks that Bee is dead. Obviously the third tale will take him and the Fool to the White Island far to the south. Very intense and fill with tropes that are similar to Mr. Martins.  
Max Gladstone has a world where craftsmen of magic act like lawyers and mundane matters like gentrification can take odd forms with powerful magic. Last First Snow (hard from TOR) tells of a former temple slave section, the Skittersill, in the rebuilt city of Dresediel Lex. Forty years after the wars that killed the Gods, the area is a slum, partially because of failing wards created by the old Gods. There’s protests against changing the wards because the poor inhabitants don’t want to be forced out. Craftswoman Elayne Kevarian is hired to broker a compromise. Temoc, a former warrior priest who lives in the district with his wife and son, preaches compromise. The King in Red, an old craftsman turned skeleton, who rules the city wants development. Negotiations fail and a horrible riot ensues. I suspect that this or another of Mr. Gladstone’s tales will get nominated for an award.
David Duncan, one a major force in fantasy, has a new tale about an Island empire, the island of Benign with a truly unique governing system. The seventy are randomly chosen by the Priests of the goddess Caprice. One of the sixteen-year olds of that year who become citizens become one of the rulers, supported in luxury till they die. They can leave nothing to their heirs. Irona 700 (paper from Open Road Media) faces a time of great danger to Benign as an evil grows out of the main continent in the form of shapeless beings and lizard people. Over and over Erona has to command the navy and marines to fight not only their enemies, but their allies. Along the way she has a son, losing his father on the day of conception. Another lover is a major artist who paints her portrait when she becomes one of the ruling seven. I found myself fascinated by the picture of a woman driven by duty, even at the expense of mothering her son. Excellant.
Chloe Neill has a tale set in New Orleans after the Fae invaded our world.  Claire Connolly is the last generation to run  Royal Mercantile, a antique store in the French Quarter  that now mainly sells dehydrated food to the few people still living in the city. She is also a sensitive, able to move things with her mind, and she hides this ability from Containment, both because they would send her to Devil’s Isle where the Fae and sensitives live, and because using too much magic would turn her into a mindless wraith. But Wraiths are popping and when two of them attack a stranger, she decides to help using her magic. Liam Quinn is a bounty hunter whose sister had been murdered by wraiths who discovers her and helps her control her magic. The problem is that someone is trying to unlock The Veil (paper from DAW) that separates our world from the world of the Fae, and they are turning sensitives into wraiths to restart the war. Very exciting and a fun beginning to a near series.
Imagine if the Avengers had to fill out after-action reports and deal with committees Charles Stross’s fun Laundry files series started with the odd mixture of an early Len Deighton spy, Bob Howard facing not only British bureaucracy, but Lovecraftian monsters.  In the latest there’s a plague of Superheroes. Bob’s wife, Dr. Dominique O’Brien (Mo) has to deal with them. She was facing down a nutty super-powered villain with her evil violin, Lector, when she was caught on tape by news crews. Her fifteen minutes of fame leads to her heading a new division of Scotland Yard with a team of superheroes. But the evil Professor Freudstein wants her and lector to play The Annihilation Score (trade  from Ace) broadcast on BBC to warp the minds of the British public. She and Bob are separated so he goes on dates with one of her heroes, Captain Friendly, who in real life is a senior bureaucrat in Scotland Yard. I eagerly await each new addition to the Laundry Files and was glad to have more background on Mo who usually just a minor character.
Christina Henry takes a nightmarish look at Louis Carroll’s classic tale. Alice (trade from Ace) and her ax-murdering Hatcher have been in an insane asylum for a decade when a fire lets them escape. Unfortunately the Jabberwock is also set free. In an area of the city run by gangs like the Walrus, the Carpenter and the Caterpillar, all of whom trade in girls and to whom  life worth nothing. The ‘eat me’ cakes and ‘drink me’ are needed to get into the Caterpiller’s lair with girls tattooed with butterflies available to the male clients. Alice and Hatcher are on the hunt for the Vorpal blade to go snicker-snack before the Jabberwalk can get its magic back and both don’t hastate to kill enemies in their way. Dark, but somehow fascinating.    
E. C. Blake concludes his trilogy about Mara, a sixteen-year-old who has the rare power to see all the colors of magic and to take magic from living creatures. Only two others share her powers; the Autarch who has been stealing magic from his people to keep himself from aging; and the Lady of Pain and Fire who was exiled from Aygrima.   With the surviving troops of the army of the unmasked, takes refuge with the Lady and helps her cross the magical barrier to confront the Autarch. Corruption of power, magical power in this case. As Mara grows older will she use her power to make people slaves like the Autarch?  Faces (hard from DAW) makes that choice something to care about. Mr. Blake has a short answer at the end, leaving room for a second trilogy    Fun.
Phyllis Ames walks the path between were and human with a sure step. Frozen in Amber (paper from DAW). Amber Treganis is a were-cougar who was raised by her grandfather, a very expensive lawyer. His law firm is filled with werewolf and werecougar associates, and right now is defending a wealthy industrialist, Jonatghon Bergman accused of murdering his wife. The were council wants Bergman’s gene therapy treatment to reverse the effects of a were bite. Amber only turns cougar when she has to because of a horrible incident at college, but something happened during her last hunting trip in the mountains. The problem is that evidence is disappearing, but she is sick for the first time in her life. There’s also a werewolf illegally turning others. Then her Grandfather is sick for the first time in a century and she is falling for a were Eagle. Fun, but the ending is a bit too convenient.
Drew Hayes writes his tales of a modern world with supers, heroes and villains and those who use their talents to earn a living, There are also ordinary people and powered’s who can’t control their talents. Lander College in California has one of the few Hero Certification programs, and impossibly difficult program that only graduates ten students each year. Super Powereds Year 3 (ebook which I bought) continues the tale of the special group of five students, who had been treated with an experimental treatment.   Nicholas, who had been kicked out of the program and had his memories wiped, returns to Landers as an ordinary student. An enemy from another crime family, Nathaniel, comes there to confront him. The first semester is mostly about Nicholas regaining his memories There’s also the usual training in the HCP program where each of the students learns better how to use their talents, and the ordinary parties and fun. In the second semester Nathaniel uses extra funding to enable an attack on Lander College. Mr. Hays writes two or three chapters a week and post them on his web site. It will, alas, take several years for year 4 to reveal the answers to all the puzzles that makes this tale so fascinating. I can’t wait.
Jean Johnson begins a new tetrology set two centuries before her last amazing tetrology about Ia who can predict the future so well that she manipulates the present to assure survival in a war a thousand years in the future. This is the tale of the first Salik war. The Saliks are really bad and  love to eat sapients alive. Earth is now a Utopia, a republic modified to keep greed and politics separated. The Terrans (paper from Ace) have explored near star systems but have not met aliens. Psychic powers have appeared and precogs have seen Jacaranda MacKenzie, a psychic with telepathic and telekinetic powers, rescuing other humans, V’Dan, from aliens who turn out to be the Salik. The V’Dan were taken from Earth 10,000 years ago and have stripes on their faces. Jacaranda uses her abilities to rescue the five V’day survivors and bring them to Earth.  This tale introduces to some of the V’Dan including a prince, and ends with an embassy being sent to the V’dan home planet. I’m waiting eagerly to the next tale in January to continue the fun story.
Jennifer Estep returns to Ashland for another tale of a Spider's Trap (paper from Pocket) . In this 13th tale  Gin Blanc, assassin with ice and stone powers and owner of a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit In her part time she is the head of Ashland’s gangs, after killing all the previous heads and pretenders. It is not a role she wants, and it brings with it lots of danger. When a man bent on revenge,  with powerful metal abilities, comes town and sets off bombs near her, it gets her involved and, as usual, almost killed. For a series that ended about six books ago, its still a lot of fun.
Wolfcop  is a horrible, over-the-top movie about a cop turned werewolf available on  netflix.  Andrew Klavan, winner of mystery’s Edgar Award, decides to tell that tale in a very different way. Zach Adams is a super cop working for a federal agency hot on the trail of Dominic Abend, a European criminal come to America and killing everyone who gets in his way to reclaim a dagger made in the middle ages, that theoretically killed the first werewolf. Of course he is bitten and turned Werewolf in Germany where he goes researching the dagger.  Werewolf Cop (hard from Pegasus) is a dark and twisted as the HBO series True Detective. Fun.
Carl was sent to  Phoenix Island (paper) as a troubled teenager which turned out to not only murder the inmates that didn’t measure up, but was testing a program that would improve fighting skills with a computer chip, Carl not only survived, but he managed to integrate the chip. Now its on to the ultimate street fighting competition in the Devil’s Pocket (paper from Gallery Books) of a volcano and sponsored by extremely rich and powerful people with ulterior motives. Many of the fighters die because of the deliberate lack of safety rules. Helping him discover the secrets of this awful place is Octavia, the girl he thought dead. Her chip allows her to approximate faces behind masks and hidden passages in the walls. In the end Carl faces an opponent he cannot survive. Fun and exciting.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on August 14th with Don Riggs,a professor of English Literature at Drexel who teaches Science Fiction  and September 11th 2015 with Dena Heilik from the Free Library of Philadelphia ; both  at 8 p.m. at the International House  on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. 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