Science Fiction for September 2010
by Henry Leon Lazarus
In Fantasy and Science Fiction, war tales can be
a lot of fun. The enemy, both internal and external, is frequently evil
and our heroes able to overcome impossible odds to trounce the villain.
Long running series like David Weberís Honor Harrington series keep adding
new villains. But sometimes, like Robert Heinleinís Starship Troopers,
Joe Haldemanís The Forever War, or Gordon R. Dicksonís Dorsai,
the tale goes deeper. These are books that somehow touch our souls.
Ia feels she has A soldier's duty (paper from Ace) so she enlists in the Terran United Space Force of the future, survives a harsh basic marine training and serves as in an pirate hunting patrol until promoted to lieutenant. Ia has a number of advantages. She was born on a heavy world colony and is used to double gravity with strength and agility to match. She also has psionic powers, able to telekinetically move both energy and matter to some extent. Jean Johnson describes the background very well, making for a very believable galactic civilization with both human and aliens that actually feel alien. What sets this tale apart is that Ia is a powerful precog and at age fifteen realized that galactic civilization was doomed three centuries hence unless she does things perfectly. Ia literally has the weight of the universe on her young shoulders, for the future is not fixed and many times the flow is convoluted enough for her not to be able to predict an outcome. This is impossible to put down and worthy of award nominations. I canít wait for the sequel.
I love fantasy noir where a Sam Spade detective has to find a murderer in a fantasy world. Warden isnít a detective. In fact heís a war veteran, ex-cop, and working as a drug runner in the dirty streets of Low Town (hard from Doubleday) Daniel Polansky provides his solidly drawn hero a minimum reason for looking into the death of children, children who have been sacrificed to the same type of demon that won the war. But, as his involvement grows, so do the motivations that originally made him a cop. Great beginning to a new series and perfect for both fantasy and mystery fans.
David Drake and John Lambshead borrow loosely from the politics of the French and Indian war, following the exploits of a future George Washington. Frames that allow travel in the Continuum come in various sizes, the smallest is human powered, like a bicycle, allowing easy faster-than-light travel. A few hours of peddling effort can take someone from one world to another. Allison is a young aristocrat from the Cutter Stream colonies who we first meet in a small expedition Into the Hinterlands (hard from Baen). There are two major empires interested in this barely explored area; Terrans and Andersonís own Brasilians. There are also the primitive riders who transverse the Continuum on silicon beasts. The expedition discovers an illegal terran fort and soon Anderson finds himself head of the colonial militia working with the Brasilian regular army. The background resembles nineteenth century society with nobility at the top (with dueling) and servants at the bottom, and a growing middle class. But war is new and the colonies need new tactics to fight both Riders and Terrans. Lots of fun and a good beginning to a new series.
Lev Grossman continues the tale of The Magicians (paper) which started in a college for Magic, Brakebills, and ended with our hero and three of his friends in a Narnia-like magical world of Fillory. Two years later Quentin is bored and decides to go an collect taxes from a far island. But, behind the scenes, creatures called the old gods have returned to turn off magic which would hurt Earth and destroy Fillory. How and why they appeared is all in Juliaís history Ė Julia who learned magic outside of Brakehills. Seven magical keys could restore that magic and The Magician King (hard from Viking) and friends have to quest across various worlds to find them. Mr. Grossman is very attuned to what the reality of magic might mean. He deliberately tries to avoid standard tropes of the fantasy. Sometimes I think he tries too hard. Still I had a lot of fun with this and fans of the first novel shouldnít miss this continuation.
Jo Anderton tells of a world base on the manipulation of pions that most of the inhabitants can manipulate to some extent. Tanyana is a master architect using her mastery of those pions to erect buildings and massive statues by will power alone. Her current project collapses around her, maybe because of sabotage, and she is injured to the point that she can no longer see pions. Instead she can see the opposite of pions, the dark Debris (trade from Angry Robot) that needs to be cleaned up by collectors who are the bottom of society. However there are dark secrets in this trash and deadly emergencies when it erupts out of control, destroying building and leaving dead bodies. I couldnít put this down and canít wait for the sequel.
Arcadia Bell (an alias) has been on the run since her wizard parents were accused of murder. She has a halo like the discontents of Demons, but is a wizard like her parents. Conceived in a magical ceremony designed to bring her great powers. She was supposed to be Kindling the Moon (paper from Pocket). Instead she is part owner of a bar for demons that savages (normal humans) never realize have real magic. Then her parents reappear and she has two weeks to prove their innocense. She finds an ally in Lon Butler, an older man with a teenage son and a large collection of occult books. If she can find the demon that actually murdered the people her parents were accused of murdering, then she could summon it and force it to tell who was really responsible. But the murder weapon, a glass dagger, is really one of the demonís horns and hard to find. I like the fact that Jenn Bennette keeps the romance low and integral to the plot, which makes it much more powerful. I also was surprised by the twist at the end which Arcadia discovers while being tied to a sacrificial post. I canít wait for the sequel.
Raylene Pendle, vampire thief, is Hellbent (trade from Spectre) on finding out why her vampire friend, Ian Stott was blinded by government research, and also what happened to her friend Adrienís sister turned vampire and deafened. Adrien is an ex-navy seal who works as a female impersonator. The clues lead to the vampire house in Atlanta. Her opening comes when the head of the vampire house in San Francisco is murdered in Atlanta and she is sent to investigate. Cherie Priest adds a quest for a packet of supernatural penis bones that a witch has stolen and is using to wreck vengeance. Despite all the craziness, this is far more routine than the first book in this fun series. I enjoyed it and canít wait for the sequel, but the first tale Bloodshot (paper) promised much more.
Clay and Susan Griffith continue their fun, pulp tale in an alternate present in which the species of vampire conquered the north in 1880. Senator Clark still wants to marry the heir to the Equatorian Empire, Princess Adele. When Gareth hears that his brother plans something horrible at the wedding, he dons his mask as The Grayfriar (paper), a legendary vampire fighter, and goes to Alexandria to rescue her (in the middle of the wedding). So they head south to a King of an independent country in South Aftrica. There Adele learns she is The Rift Walker (trade from Pyr)who can use the magic of Geomancy to kill vampires. Thereís a concluding book in this fun trilogy that Iím waiting for.
Larry Correia has been tackling fun fights against true monsters that are so over-the-tope, you wonder how the heroes actually survive. This time Earl Harbinger the century-old werewolf who is the Monster Hunter Alpha (paper from Baen) leaves his team behind because an old enemy from the vietnam war has surfaced in a very small town in Northern Michigan, a place where everyone knows each other, there are tons of snow, and an ancient relic at the hands of a mad werewolf brings forth werewolf zombies. This is, as usual, a pulse-pounding, impossible-to-put-down with a fun deputy-sheriff heroine who has to fight to control the madness that comes with turning werewolf to save her townspeople.
Rachel Caine imagines a drug that literally can bring the dead back to life, but the resurrected dead require a daily shot. Bryn, an ex-GI whoís first day working at the Fairview Mortuary ends with her death, becomes a Working Stiff (paper from Roc) for agents of the drug company trying to find the illegal purveyor of the drug, and then working to stop an executive of the drug company from mad power plans. I enjoyed this and will be looking for the sequel.
Dani and Eytan Kollin have been having fun updating the oft-repeated theme of a war between the inner and outer planets. The politics of individual incorporation and the revolt that rose over its abuse are interesting, even though the villains are stock (and now Anti-Semetic). Sandra OíTool is another person frozen from our near future, and her relationship to Justin Cord has the public labeling The Unincorporated Woman (hard from Tor). So she is picked to be the figurehead President of the outer planets. Except she is no figurehead and soon discovers the artificially intelligent avatars who are also fighting a civil war. The war details are fascinating and Iíve been enjoying this series enough so far as to wait for the fourth installment next year.
Thirty-five years ago a young lawyer was so enthralled by Tolkeinís work that he wrote his own version about a fantasy conflict set in the far future, which Del Rey books bought. Recently Terry Brooks has been filling in the background. Five centuries after demons caused the destruction of out world descendant of the survivors have to face the outside world when their magical protective wall comes down. The Bearers of the Black Staff (paper), both the older man murdered at the end of the first book, and his young successor, Pan face not only an army of trolls but an actual demon survivor determined to kill the bearer of the staff. Aided by the Elven Princess Phryne who has to recover the magical elfstones, Pan has to discover The Measure of Magic (hard from Del Rey) to save his world and create the background created for The Sword of Shannara (paper). This dualogy is a must for fans of the series.
David Weberís long running tale of a new Earth with religion used to keep technology from recurring and bringing the aliens who destroyed Earth on this new world. How Firm A Foundation (hard from Tor) is the seventh book telling of the revolt against a corrupt mother church. The good guys have the help of Merlin. a personality from the past downloaded into a robot body, who helps provide technical hints to improve their side. This episode has some neat naval battles easily up to the standard of C. S. Forester and a nice escape of a young prince and his older sister and his Guardian. But there are too, too many talking head scenes of people plotting. Iím hoping at Mr. Weber plans to keep this tale to ten volumes, because I donít know if I can continue much beyond that.
Evy Stone is no stranger to death having come back to life in a new body. She was part of a group killing people modified by the virus in vampire blood. Thereís a mad scientist out their who will do anything to find a cure to the virus that infected his wife and killed his child. So Kelly Meding tells that he infects Evy, who has magical healing powers, and then kidnaps her friend so she will give herself up to be tested and face Another Kind of Dead (paper from Bantam) through torture. Evy lives in a very dark, dangerous, alternate version of our world that I wouldnít want to live in, but Iím still reading this series.
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller finally have Theo Waitley meet the ancient, sapient Ghost Ship (hard from Baen). At the same time Korval has moved (house and tree) from Liaden to a new planet and has settling in problems. This is a fun series. Baen has been nice enough to reprint the earlier books in the series and I would try to start reading there. Fans will be overjoyed for a new episode.
Finally we have pulp silliness set in an alternate steam punk 1927 with a cold war between England and the United States. With Brass Raptors attacking people on the street, and an evil plot to use black magic against England. Ghosts of War (trade from Pyr) has the Ghost, police inspector Donovan, and a British spy all working to save the world from an evil cyborg and the politicians who think the end justifies the means. George Mann deliberately ignores the physics of a man who flies with rockets strapped to his legs, but itís still as much fun as the Shadow novels of the original pulp era.
The Crow has been both a movie and television series, but it started as a Graphic novel by James OíBarr. Gallery Books has done a nice reprinting job in trade.
Collections this month include a series taking place on an Earth in which other species developed minds and magic, Exiles: Clan of the Claw (hard from Baen and edited by Bill Faucett; older tales about Citizens (paper from Baen and edited by John Ringo and Brian M. Thomsen) trapped in future wars; four classic novels from A. Bertram Chandler about John Grimesí First Command (trade from Baen).; fantasy tales From the Wild Side (trade from Baen edited by Mark L. Von Name).
Baen has reprinted the second tale of the impossible body guards by Michael Z. Williamson, Do Unto Others... in paper. Harper Voyager has reprinted Sheri S. Tepperís fun tale of a future quest taking place after the fall of technology, The Waterís Rising in trade and Richard Kadreyís silly tale of a man back from hell to Kill The Dead (paper) who had him there and also to help the devil with publicity. Del Rey has reprinted the first two of Peter F. Hamiltonís near future thrillers in The Mandel Files (trade) which, written twenty years ago, are a bit dated, but still fun.
The World Fantasy Award nominations are Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Jacana [South Africa]/Angry Robot);The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit);The Silent Land by Graham Joyce (Gollancz/Doubleday); Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada/Roc/Harper Voyager UK); Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord (Small Beer Press); and
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW). Iíve only read two of them.
The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on September 9th at 8:15p.m. at International House on the University of Pennsylvania. Campus .Annette Curtis Klause, a librarian and author of four fantasy related teen novels, will speak. Guests are welcome.
Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods from Wolfsinger Publications