Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                        HOME
4715 Osage Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Science Fiction for August and September 2018

    Imagine if our world were different because of differences in historical events, or major alterations in science. Both Fantasy and Science Fiction use this to sometimes create great tales.
In 1952 a Meteorite hit the Eastern Seaboard of the US, with the Tsunami wiping out New York, Washington D. C. and, of course, our own Philadelphia. Mary Robinette Kowal tells of The Calculating Stars (trade from TOR), the women computers of the new space age who did the calculations now done by electronic computers. Apparently enough water vapor was thrown into the air, that a run-away greenhouse effect will eventually boil the oceans. So the rush is to get off the planet. This is a prequel to her Hugo winning novella "Lady Astronaut of Mars." and is the tale of Elma York, former WASP pilot in the war and brilliant calculator attached to the International Space Coalition space program where her husband is chief engineer. The tale follows her from surviving the meteorite strike to the first launch for the Moon Landing in 1958. Ms. Kowal’s excellent research allows a lot of interesting borrowing from the actual space race and is absolutely fascinating. I expect this tale to garner award nominations.
Robert Jackson Bennett imagines a world where writing sigils  on materials can change their properties. A thousand years before an ancient empire had unimaginable power. The merchants of the city of Tevanne found a primer and in a few decades have created all sorts of devices, using them to conquer a small empire. Sancia Grado was experimented as a slave kid, an can talk to the sigils.  She lives in the Foundryside (hard from Crown) , the neglected part of the city. She is hired to steal a key recovered from a treasure of ancient artifacts which she does and the key talks to her and can open any door. Then her fence is murdered and assassins are sent after her. Her only home is the captain of the guards, Gregor Dandolo who just wants her arrested. Orso, the head sigil writer for one of the merchant houses and the original owner of the key somehow also comes to her aid because the whole city is in danger from the machinations of one of the merchant houses. This is a solid romp and impossible to put down.
 Drew Williams tells of a far future with seventeen different but well-integrated species. The problem was different sects willing to kill star systems over small differences in ideas. The the pulse came, radiation that destroyed technology randomly dropping settled planets back to the stone age. One group, the Pax, was lucky enough to be spared, and, like Star Trek’s Borg,  want to absorb all the intelligent life in our Galaxy. Jane Kamali, agent of the Justified, is an old soldier helping to find the few people effected by the Pulse to have psionic abilities. On one of The Stars Now Unclaimed (hard from TOR) heavily effected by the Pulse, she finds a powerful telekinetic teenager, Eva. Unfortunately the Pax are willing to destroy a battleship to send enough soldiers after them. Escaping them just leads to more battles, until the Pax come with enough ships destroy the Justified home base. This tale is impossible to put down, with fights in space, on land, and even with-in starships. There probably are sequels coming. I can’t wait.
There’s a tale from the old west about a prospector who struck it rich, had an assay done on what he had found, and then disappeared, leaving others searching for the lost mine.  In  S. K. Dunstall’s version a freighter, Road to the Goberlings led by Captain Hammond Roystan, is surprised by the exploration ship Hassim coming out of jump with its crew murdered and the company men on board willing to murder them too. The company believed that the Hassim had the secret to the Goberling treasure planet. They didn’t know that Josune Arriola, former engineer of the Hassim, was on board the Road. Stars Uncharted (paper from Ace) soon adds a renowned body-modification artist, Nika Rik Terri on the run because she had a way of temporarily switching bodies, and an assassin had used her body for something, and will be after her when he wakes up from the body modification she gave him. In a very corrupt future, these few have scant chance to survive in the rollicking adventure that is impossible to put down.
The final volume of John Ringo’s prequel to Larry Correia fun series, Monster Hunter Memoirs: Saints (hard from Baen) tells of Chad Gardenier’s attack on a massive monster living under New Orleans and causing all the problems with Zombies, Ghosts, and other monsters. The government has also decided that he’s behind a virgin kidnaping gang based on a supernatural reading. There are the usual violent monsters and problems with the local government monster hunters trying to keep the monster hunting quiet. The usual lots of fun.
John Dixon likes to put powerful teens in harsh, controlled environments. Apparently a generation ago, troops were exposed to a gas that altered their DNA and their kids have powers. These kids are forced into The Point (hard from Del Rey) a darker version of West Point that includes training in their special abilities. The problem is that the first group of these post humans went rogue and are committing terrorism. Scarlett Winter, who just graduated high school, ends up at the school when she stumbles on a bomb while sneaking into a friend’s party and manages to absorb the blast. At the school she learns to control her abilities while coping with difficult classes and West Point Plebe rules. Then the rogues attack. Lots of fun.
P. Djèlí Clark tells of New Orleans that is a free city separate from a civil war decades long. An orphaned thirteen-year-old who calls herself Creeper, overhears a plot to steal The Black God's Drums(ebook from TOR) a supernatural weapon that helped free Haiti. Helped by airship captain  Captain Ann-Marie and her connection to the air god Oya, she has to help stop wannabe slavers from taking the city with their new weapon. Lots of fun.
Seanan McGuire tells a second tale of the hitchhiking ghost, Rose Marshall, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown (paper from DAW). Her enemy, Bobby Cross, who can live forever as long as his spirit-eating car is kept fueled. Rose was always the one who got away, and his current plan involves using the special conditions of Halloween to turn her human which means dealing the mortal needs like peeing, that she hasn’t had to face in 60 years. She has to get help from a human who almost captured her. Her only way back is through Hades, which has multiple dangers and a cute three-headed dog. Lots of fun.         
A ghost world has been created from our super highways filled with ghosts who died by them and then took Alternate Routes (hard from Baen). The Secret Service uses access to these ghosts to predict future attacks on the president, and according to Tim Powers, are willing to kill to keep their secret. Sebastian Vickery, new to the service who entered the wrong car, survived an assassination attempt and has been on the run for four years. Then the services uses the ghost of his suicided wife to track him down. Warned by current agent, Ingrid Castine, and helped by people already aware of the ghosts, the only way for the two of them to survive and keep Los Angeles from exploding, is to enter the ghost world while still alive, Very exciting, but I found the mythology a bit confusing and convenient.
Christina Henry wonders what would have happened if The Mermaid   (Paper from Berkley) that P. T. Barnum exhibited had actually been real. The Mermaid had captured and let go by a fisherman in northern Maine.  Touching sand turns her human and so she decided to stay with him for decades till his death while she still looked young. Rumors cause P. T. Barnum to send his assistant Levi. The mermaid (Amelia) first turns Levi down, and then decides that the offer would give her an opportunity to see the human world. Unfortunately this is a world where believers might try to kill her, and a place where slavery is still legal. This is a nice stranger-in-a-strange land tale that stays enthralling and very human.
Alan Dean Foster considers the fate of Rusian, a Relic( hard from Del Rey) of the insectoid  Myssari as the last human. Humanity had never met aliens despite having colonized numerous planets. Another species , the Vrizan,  are also investigating the human ruins. Rusian had asked the Myssari to help him find Earth before he would let them use his cells to recreate humanity, and the search leads to another planet with two surviving older children. There are more surprises later in this fun version of the last human.
Jeff Wheeler continues his tale of Cettie Pratt, once an orphan and moneyless, and Sera Fitzempress, only child of the Regent Prince. For four years they have been roommates studying the mysteries at Muirwood Academy. They are almost ready for the test that will reveal important facts about their world, when the Emperor finally dies . The Privy council has to decide between sixteen-year-old Sera and her father as the new emperor. Cettie is attacked at the Academy by someone who can turn off the magical protections, while Sera has to fend of attempts to ruin her reputation. The a war starts between another world connected via a Mirror Gate (paper from 47north), Kingfountain. I can’t wait for the final volume in this fun Victorian fantasy.
Martha Wells sends her Murderbot to an abandoned Terraforming station that the evil GrayCris Corporation had been using to dig up ancient alien technology. The station was supposed to crash on the planet below, but a new company purchased it and stabilized it. The rogue security bot attaches itself to the expedition investigating the station and helps the members of the expedition survive the Rogue Protocol (hard from TOR) involving treachery and armored attack robots. I enjoyed this exciting tale and one of these days will read the first two books in the series.  
Laurell K. Hamilton practically invented the paranormal mystery genre with her exciting Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series about a modern world with vampires, werewolves, and other creatures living openly. The 26th adventure sends Anita to a wedding party on one of the Florida Keys in which she is the best man for Edward, a fellow U.S. Marshal and rogue vampire killer. There are several weddings on the Key and of course a Bridesmaid is murdered and another kidnaped. At the heart of the mystery is a police officer with siren abilities, and a family of people warped by Serpentine (hard from Berkley) genes that cause snakes to grow from their bodies. I’ve learned to skim over the porn in these later Anita Blake tales, and the rest is still exciting.
At a small outpost protecting their country in a war almost lost, a discovery of a new enemy airbase suggests that they can loot supplies. Teado a changer whose other form is deadly and hard to kill, is dropped from the outpost plane onto a supply plane where he kills its crew, but unfortunately goes out the side. Brian McClellan’s War Cry (ebook from Tor), is a short and exciting tale about the war secrets he discovers making his way back to his base that has come under attack. This is an interesting world.
    Pyr has the Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 edited by Jane Yolen in Trade. Baen has volume 3 of the Complete Psychotechnic League by the late, great Poul Anderson in trade, and a collection of essays and stories by Michael C. Williamson, Tide of Battle, in trade. Subterranean Press has a collection of tales by Jack McDevitt,  A Voice in the Night in hard cover.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on August 3rd/ Linda Jean Lee, a Folklorist at the University of Pennsylvania, will speak The September meeting is on the 14th.  Miriam Seidel, author of The Speed of Clouds (paper from  New Door Books) about sf fandom.  Both meetings start 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 a simpler way to achieve fusion generation.