Science Fiction for August and September 2013
by Henry Leon Lazarus
Fantasy and Science have many instances of visits
to Hell Dante Alighieri was, of course, the most famous visitor.. However
tales of vising the underworld of the dead go all the way back to the epic
of Gilgamesh who was trying to bring back his friend Enkidu.
Bobby Dollar visits the particularly horrible place during the Happy Hour In Hell (hard from Penguin Group). Even though he is a low level angel, an advocate helping the souls of the dead to go to heaven, his girl friend, Casi¬mira, whom Tad Williams introduced us to in The Dirty Streets of Heaven (paper), is in hell. So Bobby, in a demon body, finds his way across a bridge built for Nero and into a hell so horrible that if it were real, people would do anything to avoid. This is not a visit to talk to famous people, but an immersion is true horror where people canít die despite impossible torture. Itís hot and smelly and far worse than the worst slum on Earth. This not the end of the tale, so Iím waiting for the next and trying to be good.
Michael Flynn has gotten award nominations for his far future tale of Donovan, a former revolutionary who was tortured by having his mind split into ten parts. It is a time of a hidden war between the Hounds of the League worlds , and the Shadows of the Confederation. The Names that rule the Confederation are also at internal war and Donovan finds himself On the Razorís Edge (hard from Tor) because his lost memories hold the secret to a hidden route into the Secret City of the Names. A large part of the tale happens on Earth now with low population and in the grip of an Ice Age. Most of its history was lost over the centuries, but Donovanís research points to events that may help his understanding of his present. I got lost a bit in the final attack on the Secret City, but it still was a solid ending to a well regarded series.
John Lambshead really knows London. Rhian is a young woman whose boy friend was murdered about the same time she discovered a medallion that lets her turn into a wolf. Leaving Wales she arbitrarily decides to stop in Londonís East End and ends up renting a room from Frankie a witch retired from the Commission that tries to keep control of Magic. Then one day, walking home from the Pub she worked at, she meets an elf and is almost killed. She is saved by Max, a vampire who fought off the Elves during Roman times. At the same time an Agent for the Commission Jameson and his vampire partner Karla, who is actually bonded to him, investigate the murder of a banker by supernatural means. Gateways to the Otherworld are being opened and may allow the Elves to return. Rhian discovers her talents and how to control her Wolf in Shadow (trade from Baen).. The otherworld has parts that mimic Londonís past and Rhian and Frankie find themselves trying at one point to survive in Roman times and during the Zeppelin bombing of London in World War I. I really loved the brazen fun of this impossible-to-put down adventure.
At the turn of the last century New York was a melting pot and people of all cultures found neighborhoods with those of the same culture. According to Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni (hard from Harper which I bought electronically) found each other there. Chava, the golem, was bought to be perfect wife. Alas the man died just after awakening her and she would have been lost with the help of an old rabbi who recognized her for what she was. Ahmed, the Jinni was trapped in a lamp for a thousand years until a tinsmith heats his lamp and frees him. His still has an iron chain that forces him into human shape. Each finds a place in the human world, she in a bake shop and he working for the tinsmith but both are lost a night when everyone else sleeps. Eventually they meet and start taking long walks in a well limned version of that crowded, Victorian-age city.The tale is marvelous and very absorbing.
James Enge has another tale of the youth of his hero Morlock Ambrosius, son of Merlin. Someone is killing the very real and appalling Gods of Kaen, a problem not only for embalmer, but also for the Graith who rule the wardship who fear a potential attack on their land from the Two Powers. So Morlock and Aloe Oaij to to Kaen where they find love and face multiple gods including a one day war between a sheep and a goat god, a dragon, the machine that makes gods for Kaen, and finally with Merlin, himself, face the Two Powers beneath the Wrath-Bearing Tree. Mr. Enge has a sardonic wit for this episodic tale which can easily stand alone. I always look forward to Morlock ís adventures.
Joel Shepherd continues his tale of android Cassandra Kresnov who has now 23 Years On Fire (paper from Pyr). Complications from the end of the League/Federation war have left many worlds on their own. Some of them have started delving into the same technology used in the war to make androids, or GIís as they are called. On Pyeongwha a neural connection has caused people with the connection to start the mass murder of those who canít or wonít get the surgery. Something worse may be happening on another world. Pantala which is kept closed by its corporate owners. So Sandy goes in undercover and barely survives a gas attack. She is helped by friends in orbit, two children surviving by salvaging and a very strange GI who may have been built by aliens. Lots of fun and excitement. .
Every so often a fun wish-fulfillment tales comes a long and makes you wish the real world worked as easily as the world in the tale. The Goliath Stone (hard from Tor by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington) is about ideal nano-technology. In 2027 a nanobot filled space ship is sent to the Asteroid Belt to bring back an iron filled asteroid. In 2051 something is headed for Earth on a collision course. Toby Glyer, who designed the original bots is immediately declared a terrorist and has to go on the run. He is helped by Mycroft Yellowhorse, a man in the process of winning all the current Olympic events and used to be William Conner, and extremely smart cripple now ninety years old. He had modified Tobyís bots and infected the whole world, with all sort of good effects. Eventually he and Toby and their girl friends fly to space, opposed by the bad U. S. government authority people, to meet the returning bots who have become sapient. Fun, extremely libertarian, and the fanish references are a a giggle to those in the know.
Kelly McCullough introduced Aral Kingslayer as a Broken Sword (paper) drowning his sorrows in alcohol. He had been the best assassin for the Goddess of Justice until the Goddess was slain, her temple destroyed and her order scattered. Three books later we have the tale of the Blade Reforged (paper from Ace). Aral has given up drinking and, because a friend has been thrown into prison, wants to help kill the current king and put his niece Baroness Maylien, and friend and sometimes lover on the throne. What he doesnít know is thqt the current king is undead (not vampire though they like to bathe in blood an have killing frenzies). The current king is also protected by two blades, Aralís old friend from the order and now enemy, and a blade out of legend long thought dead. He and his symbiote shadow creature Triss, face impossible odds. As usual this is very exciting and impossible to put down.
Naomi Novik has been retelling the Napoleonic age with dragons. The best parts match actual historical events. The latest, Blood of Tyrants (hard from Del Rey) has a major historical event.. They left Brazil in the last book on a Dragon Carrier going to China so help solicit Chinese help to fight Napoleon. First Lawrence is knocked off the ship when it hits rocks of Japan and loses eight years of memory. Europeans are not allow in Japan at that time, so he ends up on the run and is helped by, of all things, a water dragon. Rescued by Temeraire, they proced on to China and have to help defeat rebels apparently supplied by the British because of the Opium trade. He does get three hundred Chinese Dragons and heads to Moscow to stop the French Invasion. This third part is the most exciting, even though the historical pattern is not broken. I wonder if the next book describes Waterloo.
The result of mixing animal genes with human is call a Chimera (hard from William Morrow). The Dark Angel television show was a fun look at a super-powered girl. David Wellington has a different take,. His transgendered men are extremely violent. So violent that the gates of their compound were locked and they were fed with food thrown over the wall. Someone uses a drone to blow up the fence and lets four of them out with a killing agenda. They are
carriers for a virus. Jim Chapel, who was special forces until losing an arm is essentially drafted with minimum information and sent after creatures stranger and faster than normal humans. He doesnít know that following him is a cleaner determined to kill everyone who comes into contact with the chimeras. Helped on his quest is a hacker, Angel, who is only a voice on a phone, but who can smooth his way with cars and planes. Julia Taggert, veternarian and daughter of one of the targets who is targeted by the laughing man after she comes in contact with the being who killed her mother. With edge of your seat excitement, this is a great tale for summer reading. .
Jesse Petersen continues the tale of The Monsters in Your Neighborhood (ebook from Pocket Star ) who have a support group. Itís been six months of quiet since Jeckyll and the Blob were murdered in Club Monstrosity (ebook) but no one doubts that Hyde has been up to something. This time Natalie, who was built by Dr, Frankenstein, Alex the wolfman, Drake, who no only has one fang, and the rest are helped by Patrick the Cthuihu. The Von Helsings have declared war and Hyde has decided to help them with a particularly nasty, monster-controlling, computer chip. There are YouTube videos of another of Frankensteinís monsters tearing the arm off a man and killthemonster facebook postings. So Natalie and friends have to avoid notarity and potential angry mobs to live their quiet, almost normal lives.Lots of fun and a great giggle.
Suzanne Johnson has a fun look at New Orleans after Katrina opened the gates for the Historical dead to show up in the present. Elysian Fields (hard from Tor) puts Drusilla Jaco having to deal with New Orleans answer to Jack the Ripper, the Axeman who did his killings in 1918. Now, back from the dead, he is unkillable and is directed by a Necromacer to kill Drucella She has her own magic, her elven heritage and friends like the undead Jean Lafitte. It doesnít help that a werewolf friend bit her and she may turn at the next new moon. I missed the second book in this series and will eventually buy it to complete the set.