Science Fiction for September 2010
By Henry Leon Lazarus
Steam punk, both Fantasy and Science Fiction, has
been having a revival lately. Usually set in an alternate Victorian Age
in which dirigibles, fantastic steam engines, and Babbage computing engines
are used. Iím not sure how readers are taking to this odd contrivance.
But writers seem fascinated. However, the best books this month donít fall
into that catagory.
Adrian Tchaikovskyís tetrology, Shadows of the Apt, is set in a world where humans conquered a world of giant insects by taking on their characteristics. Now fighting the deadliest prey, themselves, the practical beatles have been creating fantastic devices adapted quickly to war, the telepathic ant cities have regimented, unbeatable armies, and the wasps with the ability to fly and throw magical stings, have decided to conquer the world, city by city. In Salute the Dark (hard from Pyr) everything comes to a head as city after city throws off its tyrant rulers and the strange box makes it way to the capital to by used by the vampiric mosquito-kin. War ranges from guerrilla bands on land to fantastic air battles with gyrocopters, dirigibles and individuals with their own wings. I canít recommend this series enough and this ending is extremely satisfying.
Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. As Jasper Kent tells it, one of the officers, fighting a guerrilla war against the invading army, had fought with vampires in the Carpathian Mountains and wrote to ask for their help in this war. Dracula brings Twelve (trade from Pyr) of the brutal monsters to fight the French. However, when Captain Danilov discovers what he has let into Russia, he decided to get into the slaying business. What follows is well limned history and impossible-to-put-down reading adventure with scenes impossible to remove from memory. There is a sequel already written and a plan to add vampires to Russian history up till the revolution I hope this becomes a movie.
Kate Elliott tells of a young woman taken from her home, and married to a stranger in a world where science is reborn (dirigibles) and Cold Magic (trade from Orbit) is being replaced. But when the Mages decide that Catherine is the wrong woman and order her killed, they donít know she has her own slight magic and can travel via an alternate magical world to escape them. She has to return to her home to rescue her adopted sister, Beatrice, whose abilities to foresee the future are needed by the mages to stop an escaped Napoleonic figure. This is a fun, impossible-to-put-down first book of a trilogy.
Those who loved The Magicians and Mrs Quent (paper) will be happy to know that Mr. Quent has received a Baronet for services to the king and this necessitates an upgrade to The House on Durrow Street (hard from Bantam Spectra) which uncovers two doors that seemingly go no where. Mr. Rafferdy has been sitting in the House of Lords for his gravely ill father and has joined a group of other lords, all magicians, with a secret leadership. Mr. Garritt is working as a clerk for the church and on the side he has joined a troupe of illusionists as he has finally discovered his magic. A new planet has entered the system throwing off all the calculations of day length. Only Lady Quentís clock is still accurate. But beneath the courtly, Victorian-style society lurks lovecraftian monsters and only our heroes can keep their world safe for now. Fun and Iím waiting for more.
Lovecraftian monsters and British spies (who are computer geeks) make for a weird combination. Charles Strossís latest laundry room tale has Bob Howard on another case that starts with specialized air craft designed to travel through other worlds that have been stored in a museum. A routine exorcism goes wrong and Bob Howard accidently kills the secretary of the museum. Then his boss disappears and Russian Zombies attack both him and his wife (who carries a killing violin) It all has to do with The Fuller Memorandum (trade from Ace which I bought electronically) about a demon trapped in a human body. Someone wants to release the demon and thinks Bob has the answer. I love this series.
M. K Hobson looks at an 1876 America in which magic is a natural part of the economy and sometimes bubbles up from the ground causing monsters. Emily is a small town witch in a California mining town whose business is being destroyed by mail order charms. Then The Native Stone (paper from Bantam Spectre) lodges in her hand, absorbing magic around her and making her a target for Maelstrom agents (blood sorcerers working for President Grant), and Russian scientists trying to eradicate magic. Her only hope is Professor Miribilis, a magician in New York City. She and Mr. Stanton, a warlock originally from New York, have to cross the country by horse, train, and half-magical flying machine, dodge body-stealing, bounty hunters, and an anti-magic religious sect. I couldnít put it down.
Mark Hodder looks at the Victorian era modified by a time traveler whose attempts to change his ancestors shame, has, through his hints, added primitive genetic engineering and fantastic steam engines. Richard Burton (the famous explorer) and Algernon Swinburne (the poet) do a Holmes and Watson act chasing after dog-faced men in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (trade from Pyr). Way over-the-top with cursing parakeet messenger birds and steam powered bicycles, but anyone who loved the last Sherlock Holmes movie will find this delicious.
George Mann has a second tale of an Avenger type investigating team, Newberry and Hobbs. This time stolen Egyptian artifacts, including some from some mummified alive. a and dead women are related by a mad man trying to perform The Osiris Ritual (hard from Tor), Light pulpish fun, but not memorable.
My favorite author, L. E.Modesitt , Jr., has a new tale in his series about a portrait painter turned imager. In Imager's Intrigue (hard from Tor which I bought electronically) Rhennthyl, now married with a young daughter, rise to head of security for the Imagers when their island is bombarded, killing the previous head. Foreign agents are destabilizing his country, to keep them out of a war and Rhennthyl his to weed his way through high-level corruption in both the ruling council and the navy. Very dry and a must for fans of L. E.Modesitt , Jr. and this series.
Paranormal procedurals have drifted far from the vampire romances, thankfully. Stacia Kane imagines a near future in which killer ghosts have risen, leaving the population controlled by the only church that can offer safety. Chess Putnam, who needs illegal pills to keep her sane, is back with a partner from the Black Squad agency (with a high ranking father) and a magical binding to keep her from telling anybody the truth of what is going on. There is evil afoot in the City of Ghosts (paper from Del Rey) and only Chess and her drug dealing friends can actually stop it before it destroys the Church. Excellent series and I canít wait for more.
The paranormal types (vampires etc) are kept under wraps by triads of human teams, some with magical powers. Evangeline Stone had been tortured to death, only to wake up in the body of a suicide with Three Days to Dead (paper). While the main attack was stopped and as Kelly Meding tells it, there is a left over bad guy (human) who has to be stopped. As Lie the Dead (paper from Dell) is fun as Evy rushes around dealing with the politics of her world trying to killer and as she learns to use her new teleport power. Fun.
When I saw that Tor is the latest publisher for Carrie Vaughn and has a paperback of Kitty Goes to War, I immediately bought the Kindle version. Radio Host for the paranormal/werewolf Kitty Norville gets asked to help the Army with three green berets who were turned werewolf by their leader to fight better in Afghanistan. Alas the leader died and the rest donít know how to handle their wolf sides. One has already killed two of the other members of the team in dominance fights but the other two have a chance. Everything would have gone ok of a rich wizard hadnít come to Denver intending to smother the city in snow. Lots of fun as usual.
Jon (immortal through illegal nano-technology) and Lobo, his partner and intelligent assault vehicle /space ship) have been asked to help rescue some kids who are Children No More (hard from Baen). Someone with money wants one of them and is willing to rehab the bunch. Jon because of his past, is drawn in emotionally and has to get involved when a corrupt politician decides it would be cheaper to keep the boys soldiers. Mark L. Van Name believes in the cause to donate all payments to the cause, I love this series.
Michael Z. Williamson has another tale of a cadre of bodyguards who believe Do unto Others (hard from Baen) The client is a young women whose father has become Ďricher than Godí because the family owns a mining planet. When the bad guy starts hunting her, the team has to go in hiding on a company world with the guards all hunting them. The mining set piece is pretty amazing because the world is uninhabitable so there is no EPA rules to protect the environment. Lots of fun and lots of action.
If you liked the movie Zombieland, you can understand the lure of Jesse Petersenís Married with Zombies (paper from Orbit) in which starts with a married couple fending off their zombified marriage counselor and follows their next week of survival not only of the zombies, but also of a religious cult. Fun and I couldnít put it down.
For the latest adventures of Pigs in Space thereís Harry Harrisonís The Stainless Steel Rat Returns (hard from Tor) in which Slippery Jim has to deal with relatives from his home planet complete with Porcuswine. He ends up buying a starship in poor condition which necessitates landing worlds with problems that he has to get the ship out of. The series started when I was in High School and so is a bit dated, but still fun.
Reprints this months include Robert Heinleinís classic, The Puppet Masters (paper from Baen); David Baenís latest Leary and Mundy tale, In the Stormy Red Sky (paper from Baen).
The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on September 10th, 2010 at International House on the University of Pennsylvania. Campus. David Gerrold, a Hugo and Nebula award winning author who started his career with "The Trouble with TribblesĒ and has had The Martian Child: A Novel About A Single Father Adopting A Son made into a movie. will speak
Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods from Wolfsinger Publications which can be bought on Amazon.