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Science Fiction for August and September 2014
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    I got my start in Science Fiction and Fantasy, as many people do, reading comic books so I always have a soft spot for super heroes. Written fiction can get inside of the head of these people far better than graphic novels, or even movies and also can have complicated and nuanced plots.     
 I discovered Marion G. Harmon’s tales and immediately was enthralled. He tells  of a world of super powered people after a wave hit the earth knocking everyone out. Some heroes emerged immediately and others when faced with a stimulus to cause a breakout. Hope Corrigan had a bridge fall on her car and became super-strong, got super senses, and was able to fly. She was recruited by the Sentinels, the best known of the Chicago Super groups with their own comic books and movies. There she has to do her first semester  of college on-line so she can learn to  master her new powers. In this world, supers help with national disasters and are far more concerned with the safety of citizens than fighting insane superheroes. Her father, she finds, is a retired super hero who is worried about the dangers facing her.  Wearing the Cape (paper from Amazon) even as a sidekick code-named Astra, has it’s problems, especially when  Teatime Anarchist , time traveler who is apposed to another version of himself in trying to make the future better, gets involved.
The mob has supers who work for them. Sometimes the mob loses control over their henchmen and they form a version of Villains Inc. (Paper). Astra doesn’t manage to attend too many classes when they start killing people, but luckily she gets to work with a strange cop who may have literally dropped out of a book series. It doesn’t help that reporters are convinced she is under-age and may have had an affair with the older Atlas who died in the first tale.
There are bigger villains waiting, including one who can amp up powers or temporarily take them away. The Green man, who works for him for instance can cause huge forests to grow, threatening the Chicago Airports. Astra picks and is put in charge of a group of Young Sentinels (paper from Amazon) Then reporters out her and she can’t hide as Hope anymore. Then her powers are taken, she is kidnapped. When rescued she only has her team to help save the city as the rest of the Sentinels are putting down a prison break. I love the series and eagerly await more tales.
Jewish mysticism is filled with tales of wise rebbes who work magic to save their people and of Angels like the Angel of Losses (hard from ecco) who brought the Sabbath Light and the missing letter of the Hebrew language to the White Rebbe. Marjorie never knew that her Grandfather Eli was not only Jewish, but  a holocaust survivor, and  a descendent of the White Rebbe. As Stephanie Feldman tells the tale, Marjorie, a literature grad student who was brought up with a secular background and her thesis is about the Wandering Jew. Her sister Hanna has married a very religious Jew and converted to his strange Hasidic Sect. Then their new-born son gets sick and Marjorie comes into possession of one of four tales about the White Rebbe written by her grandfather. Somehow, she discovers there is a relationship to these tales and saving her nephew. This is tale that will be nominated for awards.
Megan Lindholm has been very successful since she started writing as Robin Hobb  with her tales of a medieval land with psionic magic like the skill that can be used like telepathy or actually influence people and the ability to link minds to animals. The best books are about FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard trained as an assassin. Fitz, now in his fifties has been living a comfortable life as a landholder as Tom Badgerlock.  Molly, his wife and too old to be pregnent keeps telling everyone she is pregnant for two years until, amazing enough, she delivers Bee, a wonderful little girl. Like fine wine, the description of Bee growing up and Fitz’s reaction to his wife’s death seem both fascinating and almost entirely ordinary. Fool (also known as the Tawny Man) is a strange type of person who can sometimes see the future. His warnings of trouble go astray and it is only at the end that Fitz has to become the The Fool’s Assassin (hard from Del Rey). This is a wonderful tale, even if it is only the first third of the full tale.
Carol Berg starts another of her intense tales of Dust and Light (trade from Roc) Lucian de Remeni-Masson is a pure-blood magician in disgrace for a youthful discretion  allowed only to use is gift for portraiture in the Registry. Then he paints portraits of the curators and within a week his family is wiped out by harrowers, except for his younger sister, and his contract sold to one of the King’s coroners. There, while drawing the dead, he learns that his pictures show more than what is present, they also show a real truth. Politics, especially that of the two princes dueling for the Kingdom, and the politics of the Registry soon haunt his life and the coroner turns  out to be an ally he never expected. This is the first of two, and much is explained while leaving enough waiting to leave me eager for the second part.
I’m starting to look forward to D. B. Jackson’s tales of Ethan Kaille, thief taker and conjurer in a very well researched Revolutionary War Boston. An old enemy has come to town to snatch the bodies of the  recently buried to create A Plunder of Souls (Hard from Tor). Nathan Ramsey may have a magical way to bring his father back from death, but it also causes Ethan’s and the other conjurer’s spells to fail.  The tale follows the mystery style as Ethan is first hired by one of the cemeteries, and then follows clues to find out what is happening. There’s also a smallpox outbreak effecting Ethan’s ex and complicating matters. Fun, especially for those who like their history tales with a dash of magic.
Charles E. Gannon concludes his tale of interstellar diplomat and intelligence operative Caine Riordan. Caine had discovered an Alliance of aliens watching Earth and his discovery let to a convention that possibly could have lead to Earth and it’s colonies joining the alliance. Earth’s technology is slight below that of some of the aliens and that gives two of them license to attack Earth taking the Island of Java as a base. With control of Earth’s orbit and a willingness to sink any ships that come near, it seems that the World confederation will have to put up with fake legality that the Aliens were invited by large corporations. But wheels with wheels allow a Trial by Fire (hard from Baen) that involves armed resistance locally as well as deep space battles. Caine finds himself in the heat of action from a module from a destroyed cruiser to the heart of enemy territory the action never ceases. Fun, but a bit too long.
The only Zombie apocalypse series I can tolerate is John Ringo’s exciting tale of the rebuilding after someone created a disease to turn most of the human population. Islands of Rage and Hope (hard from Baen) has the six thousand or so survivors starting to clear some islands like Gitmo and Saint Barthélemy. There’s also a prince and a princess rescued, as the hunt for materials needed to make a vaccine pushed them harder. As usual very exciting. I really love seeing civilization slowly being reestablished.
Ilona Andrews tells how Kate Daniels meets her father as Magic Breaks (hard from Ace) in the seventh tale sent in Atlanta after magic returned in waves allowing technology to operate only when magic is absent. New readers of this fun action series get a short summery of the previous books. Kate is the daughter of a five-thousand- year -old sorcerer who has been in hibernation since the end of the last magical age. She and her boyfriend, the beast king head of the packs of animal shifters, usually have only to deal with The People, a group of vampire pilots (vampires are mindless). Then Hugh d’Ambray, Roland’s warlord, comes to town to start a war between Pack and the People and to capture Kate and get her to her father. This is the usual, hard-to-put-down fun.
Jane Lindskold likes tales of people who bond to animals. So her tale of a rediscovered vacation planet located centuries after the empire fell hard, has Adara and her intelligent Puma. Griffin Dane has enough family money afford his own star ship and not smart enough to know that you don’t explore a strange Planet on your own. Artemis Awakening (hard from Tor) tells of his exploration of the communities surviving with low technology, but having some with genetic modifications  on the planet. The villain is a man who doesn’t age and who has begun to see normal people as experimental subjects. It’s a fun start to a light series.
Mist, a  Valkyrie who survived Ragnorak till our time only to discover that she has to face Loki, returns with new allies in Black Ice (trade from Tor) Loki has a son he is protecting, Denny who seems autistic, but has more magic potential. At the same time Mist finds  some of the lost Valkyries and other allies. The Alfar Dainn has to deal with his dark curse that turns him into an animal. I like this series by Susan Krinard  far better than the comic based Thor movies.
Peter Watts is an author worth mining for ideas and he throws everything into a crazy future only a century from now. Echopraxia (hard from Tor) is mainly the tale of Daniel Brüks, a biologist collecting samples of native species modified with artificial genes. The local monastery of bicameral monks (people who modify their brains to better understand the universe) is then attacked by zombified people (brain dead killing machines)  led by Vampire escaped from a testing center.  Daniel seeks refuge at the monastery and then is brought along on a expedition to Icarus (a nearby asteroid). Icarus generates power for Earth, but its staff may have been killed by an alien invasion. After than the tale gets stranger. There were points even  I couldn’t follow.  I liked Mr. Watt’s earlier books better.
    Prime books has issued The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 Edition (edited by Rich Horton in paper)
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on, August 8th 2014 at 8 p.m. at International house on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. Artist Dominick Saponaro  will speak.. The September 12th  guest will be Myke Cole, author of fun, military-based fantasy. 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).