Science Fiction for August 2010
By Henry Leon Lazarus
We are seeing a sea change in ebooks this summer.
The Ipad arrived with ebook software which also works on Appleís other
products. Dedicated ebook readers are in a price war, and smart phones
with large screens have arrived that make ebook reading very easy with
dedicated software. My new phone from Sprint, the evo, has a huge 4.3 inch
screen and reading ebooks is very comfortable. The best software for the
Android system is ereader, but that only works on books from Fictionwise.com
and Ereader.com. Kindle has a pretty good reader, but adding free books
is impossible. There are also free epub readers available which work on
other book stores. I personally recommend something pocket-able rather
than something that has to be toted around, but we all have personal preferences.
I giggled all the way through Ann Pinoís tale of a band manager for a heavy rock band of demons. Maelstrom (trade from L&L Dreamspell which I bought electronically) has a vampire who has to be persuaded not to eat the fans, a succubus who takes using groupies to a new level, a zombie always looking for brains, and a genie who feels safer in her bottle. They have a bet with another band (of Gods like Thor and Baccus) that one of them can have a platinum record without magical help. Maelstromís previous managers had either been eaten by the group or killed by the other band. Ricky Landon has to not only survive, but also keep his band under control so that he can get gigs for them. No platinum record in this tale, leaving room for a sequel, and Ms. Pino plays the whole thing quite straight which made it more endearing.
Sheryl Nantusís Blaze of Glory (ebook from Samhain) tells how, after super-heroes began appearing in the population, the government tagged them with killer explosives and set them up in fake fights. But aliens come to Earth to challenge these heroes, killing the ones who appear and sending the rest into hiding. Jo Tanis doesnít just want to sit around, so with help from friends who knew her before she got her control of electric and gravitic forces, she finds other flawed heroes and puts together a team to somehow save our planet, before the agency blows her head off. I found it impossible to put down and looked for her other books. I hope thereís a sequel.
C.E. Murphy has returned to tales a shaman detective, Joanne Walker this time involved with Demon Hunts (trade from Luna which I bought electronically) and a killer who eats his prey. Joanne has been getter better at this and her Captain in the Seattle PD has not only accepted her powers, but set up a special task force to handle these crazy crimes. On old lover comes back into her life as well as an investigative reporter, who knew her in highschool. I love this series and canít wait till the next tale.
Matthew Sturges pulls off the impossible Ė mixing James Bond spycraft in a medieval fantasy world. There are two Queendoms ruled by immortal Queens on the edge of war. Queen Mabís people destroyed a city with one bomb and Titania authorized the return of the Office of Shadow (trade from Pyr) So Silverdun, who we met in Midwinter(paper), is dragged from a Monastery where he had gone to forget his problems. He and Ironfoot, a soldier turned magical researcher, are trained and then sent into the field with a powerful fae who may be a bit insane, to discover how the bomb was made. The inventor was dead and his plans didnít make sense to the technicians trying to rebuild the bomb. One of them, told he would die in six months if he didnít solve the problem, turns traitor. So he has to be snuck out of Queen Mabís queendom. But the power of the bomb isnít in the plans, it is related to ancient bound gods. Lots of fun with plenty of hidden layers. Iím hoping for more tales set in this world.
Tales of war between the inner planets and the outer ones are so common that they have even become fodder for television. The truth is that the politics of Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollinís The Unincorporated War(hard from Tor) are not really relatable to our world, even with the inclusion predictable meanies. However the tactics and asteroid battles are so well worked out that I was fascinated and couldnít stop reading. This is somewhat predictably because of the subtle borrowing from the Civil War, but that enhanced the tale for me. This is part two of a trilogy and so the good guys lose badly.
Trent Jamieson knows about Death Most Definite (paper from Orbit) Grim Reapers are quite human and work for Mortmax, a commercial enterprise, Steven De Selby is a psychopomp, one of many sending souls to the great tree. Though it is a family business, Steven gets by doing the minimum. Then a dead girl warns him about an attempt on his life. She turns out to have been another pomp and knows the tricks of keeping herself on this plane. Thereís an evil plot to wipe out all the pomps in Australia, and letting the stirrers animate the corpses. Before long, Steven is forced through the gate into the underworld, trying to save himself from the murderer of the Regional Manager (one of thirteen Deaths in the world) and save his land from the end of all life. Lots of fun, plus there are two sequels already printed in Australia coming here.
Jeannie Holmes mixes police procedurals with racial politics in a strange alternate reality where vampires are born, not created. They may have a need for blood and not age, but they can be murdered by a vampire serial killer. Alexandra Sabian, agent for the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation, and vampire, is on the case involving Blood Law (paper from Dell). To her horror, the deaths resemble the death of her father that brought vampires out into the open. Thereís also a hate group using arson to drive the vampires of their town. This is a must for those who love mysteries with odd backgrounds.
The Church doesnít like it, but people who Speak to the Devil( hard from Tor) in Dave Duncanís new series can work magic in 1475. Two brothers from a noble family, get sent to a border fort where magic may of killed the current Earl and his heirs. One brother is offered the Earldom by saving the fort, with the understanding that the court knows nothing about the other brotherís magical talent. Anton, as the new Early has to take charge of the fort and marry the surviving daughter. Alas Wulf, who is learning how to use the magic, has fallen in love with the girl. Alas this is just part of what could be a fun series and Iím waiting patiently to see how it will all work out.
Terry Brooksís tales of Shannara take place in the far future, despite magic, elves, etc... His latest takes place five centuries after human, troll, and elves found refuge from the collapse of civilization. The magical walls are falling and outside an army of Trolls wait. Only the ill- prepared people inside, who have to relearn the arts of war and the Bearers of the Black Staff (Hard from Del Rey) can save their civilization. To be concluded next year.
Peter F. Hamilton, one of the best super-science writers today, concludes his tale of The Evolutionary Void (hard from Del Rey) that is literally eating the galaxy. Our heros have to get inside the void to the world where the fantasy dreams of the water walker have been coming from, and then go to the heart of the void. Very exciting and a nice conclusion. However I wouldnít start with this volume.
Baen has reprinted the first two Mark L. Van Nameís fun tales of a far future Travis McGee and his intelligent battle ship in Jump Gate Twist (trade) along with two tales of Jon and Lobo before they met.
Matt Kindt has an odd graphic novel about an office drone who lives in an alternate present where things have all gone to pieces. As he is a Revolver(hard from Vertigo) between the two realities he finds himself working with his boss on a news paper on the bad side while breaking up with his girlfriend on the normal side; Killing people on one side while killing time on this one. But the two sides are related Ė information his boss tells him on one side can be used as blackmail on the normal side. Neat.
Collections this month include two major ones in hard cover from Tor. First thrills (edited by Lee Child) include new tales from thriller writers and Gateways(edited by Elizabeth Ann Hull) is a 90th Birthday present to Frederik Pohl by major authors in the field, many set in universes he created.
Baen has reprinted in paper a collection of Jerry Pournelle tales in Fires of Freedom, Michael Z. Williamsonís fun tale of Contact with Chaos, and Catherine Asaroís tale of a rock singer, Diamond Star (which I was finally able to buy the music to.) Tor has reprinted George Mannís steampunk tale of robots during the time of Queen Victoria, The Affinity Bridge. Other paperback reprints include Terry Brooksís Princess of Landover (Del Rey); Kelly Armstrongís tale of werewolves hunting other werewolves in Alaska, Frostbitten(Bantam); and Laurel K. Hamiltonís latest tale of Merry Gentry, Devine Misdemeanors (Ballentine Del Rey)
Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods from Wolfsinger Publications