Science Fiction for August 2010
by Henry Leon Lazarus
Mediaeval fantasy usually reflects many r modern
concepts into the ancient world like womanís lib and human equality.
The actual society, however, was quite different with a strong belief in
place in society and of the strong hand of God moving the world. It was
a place of piety, where everyone knew their place was fixed as were their
childrenís place.. It was the time where Nobles knew they were better than
anyone else. It was the time of the Black Death.
Maeb Longtofteís father fought in the Crusades and left her no dowery, so she thought, when he died. She became a lady-in-waiting for the Countess of Pengraic who was pregnant with her eighth child. The Earl was a very powerful figure at the court of Edward III. Then a strange disease chases the household to Pengraic, a disease that causes people to burst into fire. As Sara Douglass tells it, the disease is Satanís tool to find The Devilís Diadem (hard from William Morrow) stolen from the Templars. The Earl is also not what he seems, and Maeb sees imps in his presence. When Maeb almost dies of the plague, she sees a strange forest and wolves who drive her back into life. This a very powerful tale and captures the mediaeval mind set perfectly.
Dianne Duane sets her wonderful tale of myths and legends during the early fourteenth century. It is when the Swiss revolted against the Austrian nobility, who were trying to turn them into surfs, and formed the original confederation. It is most famous as the time of William Tell. It is also a time when the gods and goddesses have gone into hiding with the rise of Christianity and A Wind from the South (trade from Badfort Press which I bought for my Kindle App)is blowing the change of freedom.. Mariarta dil Alicg is educated because she is the daughter of the Mayor, but she has inherited powers of the wind from her great, great grandmother, who may have been the goddess of the hunt. She needs to control these powers if she would help her people, and that means finding the hidden goddess. On the way she confronts a magical bull hurting her home village. Then, with her parents dead, she pretends to be male, living as a hunter. She confronts the goddess of love in a cave where a friend is trapped, a ghost trapped after a love suicide, and becomes involved in helping the rebellion as she rides around on a magical stag. I loved it and canít wait for the sequel.
Mark Lawrence starts a tale of Prince Honorous Jorg, who ran away from his fatherís kingdom after surviving the murder of his mother and brother by being caught in a briar patch. Now at fifteen, this Prince of Thorns (hard from Ace) is determined to use his fatherís kingdom as a base to restore a broken empire. Itís a thousand years since ancient weapons destroyed the technology of our world. Ancient wizards work behind the thrones of many of the new rulers and they present the biggest problem Jorg has to face. Jorg is so violent he makes Conan the Barbarian seem like a wimp, and lucky enough to survive the crazy risks he takes. Iím looking forward to the next book in ths series.
David Chandler tells an absolute romp through a mediaeval city, overcrowded with people, a few dwarves, and even an orc. Malden, son of a whore, while trying to join a Den of Thieves (paper from HarperCollins) accepts a commission to steal the crown of the local ruler, not knowing it has magical properties. But the problem is that the city is being turned upside down to find it, and he had given it to a powerful wizard whose home is filled with magical traps. Only with the help of a solid ghost and one of the five knights of the ancient blades, has he any hope of stealing the crown back. This is a very satisfying adventure and I couldnít put it down.
Drew Magary has depressing and intense look at our world after a cure for aging is discovered a decade from now. John Farrell, The Postmortal (Paper from Penguin) whose diary forms the basis for the story. At first a divorce lawyer, he eventually becomes an end-of-days specialist helping people suicide and eventually hunting criminals with death warrants. Even though Mr. Magary looks at the evil side of human nature, throwing his character again and again against the worst humanity has to offer, he really captures a sense of humans react, both good and bad. There are terrorists trying to stop the cure, and activists with various agendas. Thereís even a reference to a woman sick enough to want her baby to stay a baby for eternity. I couldnít put it down despite the nightmares..
I immersed myself in the world of Jane True after getting the fourth in the series and buying the rest for my Kindle App. According to Nicole Peeler, there is a group of supernatural in our world actively keeping themselves hidden. These tales are an odd mix of chic-lit, and urban fantasy with a dark core of villains who enjoy torture. Jane doesnít realized she is the daughter of a selkie who deserted her human family because of the call of the sea is too strong. Jane, who canít turn into a seal, can and needs to swim in the cold dangerous waters of a giant tidal whirlpool called the Old Sow near the tiny village of Rockabill in Maine. There she looks after her ailing father, and works quietly in a bookstore. Then with Tempest Rising (paper) she finds a corpse floating in the whirlpool which she manages to drag to shore. That gets the attention of Nell, a local gnome, Anyan who can swap from man to dog, Trill a Kelpie, and Ryu, a vampire (he only needs a little bit of blood the way Jane needs to swim) and investigator from the ruler of the local council. But the trail leads to the Alfar (think elf) compound where the beings killing halflings are revealed. In Tracking the Tempest (paper) a halfling with huge fire powers escapes from a medical lab and starts killing all those who put him there. Jane, who has been working on her magical abilities, wants to help and again the trail leads to others mimicking the half-Ifrit. Just as Jane dumps Rhu, in Tempestís Legacy (paper)she is told that there are more of these medical labs in which the halfling doctors spend more time torturing their pure-blood subjects after using a drug that strips their powers. Janís mother is one of the victims and Jane is at the heart of the fight to bring proof of their villainy to the Alfar. The only way to capture the head of the research is for Jane to be captured. Proof means nothing after a Royal assassination. But back in Rockabill in the Eye of the Tempest (paper from Orb) thereís a monster underneath the tidal whirlpool that both the Jane and her friends, including a very ancient powerful person Jane calls Blondie, have to confront. There are surprises below including the real history of the supernaturals. In all the books Jane keeps getting more powerful and there will be an ending which I canít wait for.
In Hexed (paper) Atticus, the two millennium old druid, promised his vampire and werewolf lawyers that he would lead them to Asgard to get Hammered (paper from Del Rey) by killing Thor, the Norse God not the Comic Book/movie hero. Added to their party are a minor Thunder God from a different pantheon and a Chinese Wizard both with an ax to grind. Add in some Frost Giants and the rest of the Aesir and you get a fun tale with lots of build up to the final battle. I suspect that Kevin Hearne has more Atticus tales to come and I canít wait.
Jacob sees the monster who kills his Grandfather, but no one else does. His grandfather had been a war orphan, the only survivor of his family, who spent part of the war on an island off of Wales at Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (trade from Quirk Books which I bought for my Kindle App). The children there were very peculiar, according to his Grandfather, one being lighter-than-air, another had her mouth on the back of her head, etc. To get over the trauma of the murder, Jacob and his father travel to the island, where, Jacob first discovers that the home had been destroyed by a Nazi bomb. But there is a magical link to 1943 where the children in the pictures are still living, hiding from the monster. Ransom Riggs has included a series of real pictures from the period to illustrate the tale and that adds a wonderful extra level of depth. The ending is wide open for a sequel which I will definitely buy, The plot is a bit generic, which didnít bother me, but I had expected something with more of a sense of wonder.
Faith has the Luck of the Devil (trade from Entangled Publishing) because she literally is his daughter and has to hide the horns and tail that prove it. As Patricia Eimer tells it, the Devil has three children Tolliver who is rising high in Hellís administration and who turned Faithís roommate, Lisa into a secubus; and Hope who is running a satanic sect out west. Lisa eats the soul of Faithís boss making her hide the body and leaving an inconvenient ghost. Then her sister arrives after her demon husband falls up (becomes good) and cleans up the sect. Then her dad and her flighty mother arrive with almost mortal martial problems. It doesnít help sheís being stalked and is almost killed by a car bomb. Or that her seemingly mortal neighbor may be more angelic than he seems. Even though the Alpha and the Devil are getting along, there is still a hoard of angelic troops ready to kill demons. Of course the ending has a deus-ex-machina feel because the Alpha is involved. One of the funniest scenes is of him and his brother (Satan) playing a Wii game badly. I giggled all way through and canít wait for the sequel.
Robert Buettner continues his tale of Jazan Parker who had quit the spy game after the last adventure. Then the love of his life, Kit, is captured on a mission to a low tech planet on which the Yaviís have found something that could change the cold war between them and the Earth humans. So Jazan is literally parachuted from orbit to find the local rebels. He has the impossible task of not only rescuing Kit, but also somehow stopping his enemies from shipping out the important mined material. Only an ability to think on his feet, survive the Undercurrents (trade from Baen) of politics, and with an awful lot of luck, and friends he makes on the ground allow him any chance at succeeding. Lots of fun.
Jeannie Holmes returns us to a world in which vampires are not only living, but can stand the sun. Alexandra is still on suspension from the FBPI, but her talent with psychic auras brings her back as a serial murderer, the doll maker, resurfaces by killing a coed from the local college. Itís a case of Blood Secrets (paper from Bantam) as the doll maker has been killing his human victims to increase is psychic strength and is very focused on Alexandra. Mystery fans who like the intensity of police procedurals in weird environments will really eat this tale up, Itís a nice series with plenty of ghosts in Alexandraís past for many future tales.
Fans of Kim Harrisonís tales of Rachael and Ivy in the Hollows will find that Blood Work (hard from Del Rey), the tale of Rachael and Ivyís first meeting as agents for Inderland Security is a fun Graphic Novel. The agents are on the trail of a cabal of witches who are killing Werewolves for a magic spell.
Baen paperback reprints include Virginia Demarceís addition to Eric Flintís long running series 1635:The Tangled Web; David Webberís latest Honor Harrington tale, Mission of Honor; Mark L. Van Nameís tale of children turned into soldiers, Children No More; and Sharon Lee and Steve Millerís continuation of the tale of Theo Waitley, Saltation.
Orb has reprinted Kate Elliottís tale of Cold Magic (paper) in a nineteenth century world of magic, science, and dirigibles. Bantam spectre has reprinted William Gibson and Bruce Sterlingís tale of nineteen century computers, The Difference Engine(trade).
More short tales can be found in Ring of Fire III (hard from Baen) which fill in gaps in Eric Flintís long running series. Carol Hightshoe has put together A Taste of Armageddon (trade from WolfSinger Publications) with new tales about the end of the world. I have a tale in it. Del Rey has republished some of the original, classic Conan the Barbarian (paper) tales from Robert H. Howard which are probably very different from the movie.
The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on August 12th at 8:15p.m. at International House on the University of Pennsylvania. Campus. Norman Spinrad, noted editor, author and science fiction bad boy will speak. Guests are welcome.
Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods from Wolfsinger Publications