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Science Fiction for October 2013
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    La La Land! Los Angeles whether real or fantasy, past or future is always the leader in trends and always carries the trend too far. Fantasy and Science Fictions authors frequently make use of its foibles.
S. G. Browne has a tale of a company called Big Egos (trade from Gallery Books) which sells a drug that, with a shot to the brain stem, makes you feel like you are someone else; Captain Kirk, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, etc, etc, etc. Our hero has risen high in the company and for three years has been playing with the latest products, going to parties with different people and making love to his girl friend as a different man each night. Then things start to go wrong. People start dying, supposedly by black market products according to the company. His co-works go mad and he doesnít exactly feel normal himself. Itís a solid example of Hollywoodís love of the inner self, and fascination with the latest and greatest new thing. . Impossible-to-put-down.
Los Angeles in the fifties was a great era for classic detective tales. Justin Robinson puts Nick Moss in a weird version of that era, a City of Devils (trade from Candlemark & Gleam) run by every monster possible and where humans are a small minority. The actors in Hollywood are all doppelgangers, The directors are mad robots and huge evil eyes. The cops are all werewolves and witches fly over the light traffic. Humans are only safe by treaty during the day, and Nick finds lost human children, usually converted to monster. Then a big star is accused of killing her mummy husband, a Hollywood mover and shaker and she wants a human detective to either find her husband or prove she didnít do it. This involves sneaking past the ogre guarding the gate of the movie studio, and invading a monster bordello in the middle of the night. Nick may carry a full paraphernalia of monster warding objects like wolfbane for the werewolves, a cross for vampires, silver bullets, and a mirror for the doppelganger, but its never enough and only quick wits and a willingness to run keeps Nick alive and human. Yes this is as much fun as it sounds.
Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest (paper from Orbit by A. Lee Martinez) starts in a strange version of Los Angeles where everybody simply accepts magical creatures and Gods. Helen, a rare female minotaur who worries that her horns, hooves, and size will get in the way of finding a boy friend, and Troy an over-achiever are working in a burger joint when their elf boss decides to sacrifice them to a hamburger god and gets eaten himself. The god sends them on a quest that would allow him to return to the plane of the gods, not a good thing. They are given a credit card and badges from the National Questing Bureau and sent on their way to visit a dragon reservation, fight a cyclops ( very nice guy), and eventually end up in an Amusement Park. The God of Orcs has sent a bunch of week-end biker orcs who work during the week as accountants, dentists, and realtors to kill our heroes. Of course it all works out in the end, but I dare you to read it without a chuckle.
Sandman Slim lives in modern L. A., and the violence has increased. Richard Kadrey puts the Oomrama Om Ya, a magical device that can destroy the universe,  in an abandoned mall filled with ghosts and demons. So our half-ange hero who was lucifer in a previous book has to track it down singing the Kill City Blues (hard from Harper Voyager) The abandoned mall is more dangerous than Hell, literally. This is a fun, over-the-top, fantasy p.i. tale and just as much fun as the previous exciting adventures.
Melinda Snodgrass writing as Phillipa Bornikova reflects that having a cast member shoot up the set and kill the director is real Box Office Poison (hard from Tor). Linnet Ellery is a lawyer working for a vampire firm in a world where vampires, werewolves, and elves came out in the sixties. She and her boss David have come to L. A.   To mediate between human and elf SAG actors because more and more roles have been going to the elves who are more charismatic on a one-to-one basis. Then some elves go nuts have no memory of what happened. The bad guy is trying to make elves look bad and has something horrible planned for the Oscars. Fun but a bit predictable.
Life is so worthless in the future, according to Michael Shea, that the extras in the epic movies of the future really die. Of course the public is easily sated. So a small town in the mountains is framed for murder and attacked by giant nanotech insects while being filmed by camera crews on anti-gravity rafts. The Assault on Sunrise (hard from Tor) is spread over two days with directorial surprises for each of the three acts of each day. Fun and exciting. I just find it difficult to believe that liberal California would get so hard-nosed.
Wolfgang Jeschkeís The Cusanus Game ( trade from Tor and translated so well by Ross Benjamin that it read as if it had been written in English) is the best time travel tale Iíve read in several years. Fifty years from now Europe is politically separated  because of pressure from Global Warming that has sent refugees fleeing from uninhabitable Norther Africa, and a terrorist nuclear attack that radiated a huge part of Germany. Rome is on the edge of disruption and the Papacy has moved to Salzburg. Botanist Domenica Ligrina is hired by the Pope to be one of the time travelers sent back to fifteenth century Cologne to collect seeds of plants long dead in the 21st century. Her expedition will be a failure because she will be exposed as a witch and maybe burned at the stake. She travels from Rome where she graduated college, by various means of transportation including dirigible, a short plane ride, and numerous trains which allows Herr Jeschke to show in marvelous descriptive prose how Europe has changed with areas of high technology, and poor areas worse than today.. Finally in Amsterdam she is readied for her trip to the past. Time travel modifies the present, but has limits to the amount of change and the tale plays with this in fun ways. I took my time with this delicious novel and really enjoyed it.
Mark Lawrence's trilogy takes place in a Europe gone feudal a thousand years after a thousand suns destroyed civilization. Before that they had changed the nature of reality to allow men to control fire, water, air and the dead. Jorg, the Prince of Thorns (paper) is one of those characters so violent you wouldnít want to meet him in real life, but is utterly fascinating to read about. We first meet him in a thorn bush where he watches his mother and brother murdered by assassins sent by he brother. Then he leaves his fatherís palace with a group of bandits he releases from his fatherís prison and four years later, when he is fourteen, he storms his uncleís palace putting all to death. As King of Thorns (paper) he captures other kingdoms and eventually heads to the conclave of kings that could chose an Emperor of Thorns (hard from Ace). The problem a man called King of the Dead, because of the dead army he has created, is heading to Vyene and the conclave needs to finally pick and emperor to stop him. Jorg is not the sort of person you poke a finger at; he will break it. When the Pope sends an assassin after his wife and child, he murders the Pope. Not a nice character, but fascinating. There is a solid ending that left me wondering. I hope Mr. Lawrence fallows this tale with other equally as exciting.S
Samantha Shannon imagines an alternate new future England ruled by the dictatorship Scion since the 20's. and dedicated to controlling clairvoyants. They collect them for the Raphaim, aura-eating, immortal aliens who came to Earth two centuries before and use clairvoyants to keep alien monsters, Emim from invading Earth. Every decade, during The Bone Season (hard from Bloomsbury) clairvoyants are sent to Sheol I where Oxford used to be. Paige Mahony has the rare ability to jump into other peopleís mindscapes. She is working for one of the illegal clairvoyant syndicates when captured and their her unusual talent She is trained by Warden, a Rapheim who has never trained a human before. The evil leader of the Raphaim has the ability to bind ghosts and use their talents and she wants Paigeís talents once trained. This an exciting tale in a complicated universe and the first of seven volumes.  It is impossible to put down. Movie rights have been sold, but the tale may be too complicated to convert.
Kay Kenyon borrows from the Sepoy rebellion and of a young Victorian woman who discovers A Thousand Perfect Things (trade from  Premier Digital Publishing ). There are only two continents in this world, England and India and England has built a thousand mile bridge between them. Astoriaís Grandfather was a famous explorer who brought back a cutting from a golden Lutus that he and Antonia think will allow the scientific society to consider working the wht Magic of India. Her grandfather dies and her parents destroy the manuscript he and Tori were wor4king on. Tori considers herself unmarriageable because of her club foot. Then a series of events including magical attack on England sends Tori across the long bridge to India and the very Provence where the Golden Lotus is hidden. She doesnít know she is being manipulated by the Rajah and his magical advisor. But thereís a spirit helping her and her new lover, the rajahís son who has hemophilia. Then the Rajaís other son kills his father and sends India to war.  The Golden Lotus cures her lover, but nothing goes according to plan and Tori is caught between what she feels her duty to India and her duty to her native country.  This is an intense tale about the plight of women in the nineteenth century and conflict between science and magic. Itís fun and absorbing.
Edward Lazellari tells of feudal fantasy world that sent an expedition to our world with the heir to the thrown when the palace was attacked. Alas they all lost the memories and rebuilt their lives while the prince grew up with a drunk step-father. After their Awakenings (paper) the quest is on to find The Lost Prince (hard from Tor) with the expedition including a minstrel become rock star, a dwarf become billionaire, a cop who was once a knight, and a cleric turned Christian Minister. The bad guys have magic and the ability to take peopleís hearts like the evil queen does in Once Upon a Time. The characters are three dimensional and all having problems dealing with the contradictions between their present and past lives. Iím eagerly awaiting the next book.S
 Rosie Best tells of Meg Banks, the daughter of a member of Parliament who locks her in a closet for disapproving behavior. As a result she sneaks out late at night and paints graffiti all over London. Then a wounded fox turns into a dead man, and Rosie develops the ability to shape change into fax, one of the six members of the Skulk (ebook from Strange Chemistry). There are four other groups of shape changers , rats, butterflies, spiders, and Ravens and they are all under attack by a mysterious fog, and a wizard who turns Megís parents into pigeons. The wizard is after the five magical stones protected by the five groups which, together, form a magical weapon from the age of magic. I had fun with this fun tale and hope the next part is just as much fun.
Nicholas Kaufmann tells of Trent for whom Dying Is My Business (paper from St. Martin's Griffin). A year before he woke up with no memory,. Working for a gangster, Underwood, retrieving odd objects he has discovered that when he is killed, he takes the life from someone nearby and recovers. Sent to retrieve a box, he runs into gargoyles attacking a woman and is soon drawn into a hidden world of magic with the villain able to raise the dead. Inside the box is something that can destroy New York, and Trent has only hours to save his world. This is a fun start to what will be a fun series and I canít wait for the next.
Seanan McGuire has the seventh October Daye tale, a series about the hidden Fae of San Francisco. October is a rare changling (half human) who has become a Knight of the Fae court. In the first tale , investigating a murder, she had been turned into a fish for fourteen years. In Chimes at Midnight (paper from DAW)  Goblin Fruit  is suddenly available. It is  instantly addicting and quite deadly to changlings. The Queen of Mists has apparently been distributing the drug and exiles October when she tries to curb the influx. So itís time to find a missing princess and replace the Queen while trying to stave off the addiction after being hit in the face with a pie made of the stuff. Lots of fun as usual.
Brenda Cooper, borrowing a smidgen from Evita Peronís life continues the tale of Rubyís Song. The Creative Fire (paper) was a generation ship that explored several stars and now is going home. Ruby led a revolution that destroyed the caste system. Now they enter their very changed home system, survive an attack by pirates and dock at the largest station orbiting the mostly abandoned home planet. The Diamond Deep (trade from Pyr) operates under harsh libertarian rules that offer a short life to those who wonít compete for credits. This is extremely difficult for the several thousand crew who donít know the rules and only have enough credits to support them for six months. But Ruby, just as she was on their ship, is charasmic singer, quickly moving to top billing on a station starved for novelty. But her songs and the actions of her crewmates trying to survive, upset the leadership leading to a dangerous trial. This is a sad tale, impossible-to-put-down with a bitter-sweet ending. I dare you not to cry.
Jane M. Lindskold is a great selection to continue David Weberís tale of Honor Harringtonís ancestor, Stephanie Harrington as a teenager. . Treecat Wars(hard from Baen) takes place after the Fire Season (trade) which destroyed the habitats of many treecat tribes. One near starvation encounters another that can survive but the stress of the fires has driven one of them mad. At the same time Stephanie goes to Manticore for an advance course while her boy friend Anders and Jessica have to discover and rescue the starving treecat tribe. Light, well written teenage fun and Iím sure more is coming.
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro writes historical novels, most featuring the travails of the count Saint-Germaine, a vampire who lives mainly off sex. In the thirteenth century he settled in an Egyptian monestary under the name of Rakoczy, Sodo San djerímin. Polatics cause him to join a group of Night Pilgrims (hard from Tor), traveling at night because of the heat of the Egyptian and Sudan day, heading towards Ethiopia. Headed by a soldier-knight who mistakenly killed a Christian village, and filled with people looking for redemption, like a woman whose husband lost his senses in a fall. Itís a hard trek, but the group as an easier time than the reports of other pilgrims who fell to bandits, or disease. Each book in this series, like this one,  can be read independently and provide a solid look at an obscure part of history.
This summer ti seemed as if movie producers couldnít understand how to use CGI to make moves people wanted to see. Larry Correia certainly knows how to tell tales that keep the reader on the edge of their seat. The final book of the Grimnoir Chronicles finds our super-powered heroes Warbound (hard from Tor) in a specially made dirigible heading to fight the Japanese empire controlling Shanghai. Super powers have been around since the 1870's because of an alien creature that gives magic and reabsorbs it on the personís death. Another creature, Pathfinder eats all species that accept the magic, leaving desolated planets behind. It has to be stopped and that involves going through super charged Japanese Warriors who are devoted to the person they think is their chairman. Thereís enough action here for ten books. Great series.
D. B. Jackson has a wonderful historical tale of Boston in the Summer of 1768 when British troops occupied the city. Ethan Kaille is a Thieftaker (paper) and one of the rare conjurers, who, like is fellow magic users keeps his abilities hidden to avoid being burnt for a witch. When all the men on the HMS Graystone suddenly keel over dead, Ethan is hired to investigate the crime. With the lieutenant Governor wanting to burn all the known conjurers, and a missing crewman seemingly searching for something, Ethat has is work cut out because is rival thieftaker with lots of heavy muscle working for her, is after something the Thievesí Quarry.(hard from Tor) This was lots of fun for both people who like historical fiction, mystery lovers, and fantasy fans. I really enjoyed it.
Kitty, the werewolf radio host,  is kidnaped by a strange group that is convinced that with her they can create a ritual that will kill hers, and the worlds worst enemy. But as Kitty in the Underworld (paper from Tor by Carrie Vaughn) realizes, in a world where magic works, even nuts might be correct. I love this series and hope someone makes a decent television series from it.
Matt Adamsí I Crimsonstreak introduced us to the fastest man on Earth who had been locked in an insane assylum for superheroes. Getting out he discovered that a version of his father from an alternate universe had taken over the US because he saved the Earth from an invasion of Kiltechs. In II Crimsonstreak ((electronic from Candlemark & Gleam) it turns out that the Kiltechs come from another alternate universe. They are opposed to the Yellow Bands. (Think green lantern). One of them wants to meld all of Earthís parallels which would destroy the universe. The only way to stop this is to beat someone who may be even faster, Bluestreak. Filled with the same superheroics and bad movie references. However, unlike the first, this one ends in a cliff-hanger. Iím waiting for the third.
Iím sated with Zombie tales, but I do like John Ringo. In Under a Graveyard Sky (hard from Baen) nasty types from the genetic hacker society created a two-pronged zombie virus. The first is a simple flu that gestates for two weeks until turning its victims into mindless, naked people who just want to bite. The bite quickly turns the victim into a zombie. In the first part, the heroes work with one of the largest banks to develop a vaccine from the spines of infected victims. In the second theyíre in the Bermuda triangle rescuing survivors from ships filled with zombies after most of civilization. Like a certain television show, this is about survival and restarting civilization. And is filled with the usual Rohn Ringo love of guns and the military. I would have liked it better if medical people had turned the tide before civilization fell..
Howard Odentz has a tale about teenagers in a Zombie apocalypse from a disease created by mad scientists. Dead (A Lot) (paper from Bell Bridge Books) tells of Tripp and has twin sister who are immune to the airborne version of the virus that wipes out ninty per cent of humanity. The Zombies here burn easily and Tripp and his sister rescue a few trapped people before rescuing their parents from the mad scientists. This is a solid coming-of-age tale and kept me reading.
Kirsty díArc never went to college but instead joined an ad agency and did well.  On her twenty-fifth birthday, sheís at an office party when a grim reaper comes to take her bosses soul and reaps her instead. Gina X. Grant then sends her to hell where. The Reluctant Reaper (electronic from Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc) appeals her reaping and so she can return to her comatose body. She also falls for the reaper who mistakenly sent her to hell, Dante Alighieri. Hell is not very hellish, but thereís a silliness to the t ale that grows on you. This is only the first part of the tale.
Mist (trade from Tor) is a surviving Valkyrie entrusted with Odinís spear after Ragnarok. Sheí;s been around for centuries and fought the Naziís during WWII. Now she leads a fairly normal life in San Francisco until she is attacked by a Frost Giant and discovers that her boyfriend is really Loki in disguise. Helped by a disgraced elf who first looks homeless, she discovers that she is Freyaís daughter, Ragnarok never finished, and Loki wants to restart it with the help of the Frost Giants he brought to Earth through gates that somehow have closed. Susan Krinardís tale tells of the first skirmish in this battle and sets the series up for future adventures. I had fun with it.
J. E. Mooney and Bill Fawcett put together a collection of tales in honor of Gene wolfe, Shadows of the New Sun (hard from Tor) . Michael Z. Williamson has put together his shorter tales of soldiers on Tour of Duty: Stories and Provocations (trade from Baen). Urban fantasy tales from major authors can be found in Manifesto UF (ebook Angelic Knight Press).
 Paperback reprints include: Sherwood Smithís continuation of her Prisoner of Zenda with magic tale in which her heroine becomes a ghost in the past, Revenant Eve ( DAW); two Andre Norton novels in Ice and Shadow (Baen); Robert Heinleinís shorter works Assignment in Eternity (Baen); John Ringoís second urban fantasy Queen of Wands (Baen); and Sharon Lee and Steve Millerís last Liaden Universe tale, Dragon Ship (Baen);
 Treade paperback reprints include: David Weber and Jane Lindskoldís Fire Season Baen); Lois McMast Buujoldís first Vorkosigan tale in a while Captain Vorpartilís Alliance(Baen);and two of Robert Heinleinís classic collections The Man Who Sold the Moon and Orphans of the Sky (Baen).
 The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on at 8 p.m. at  International House  on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus,.
 Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords). He has a tale in the second issue of Fantasy Times which is available at Amazon. The stories are fun.