Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Home
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Science Fiction for October  2014
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    The best fantasy and science fiction take place in strange worlds, worlds where the common rules of nature either don’t work or are modified by magic or modified physics. These type of books make the reader stretch his mind and really allow a sense of wonder.
Max Gladstone has been writing about a world with gods, deathless kings and the power of soul used for money. But if money requires part of someone’s soul, how do you create off-shore banks?  Full Fathom Five (hard from Tor) takes us to the island of Kavekava whose gods were lost in the war of the gods. They store soul in the idols they create. Because of dealing in the money markets sometimes these non-intelligent idols, like Seven Alpha die. Kai, a priestess and money dealer who is present when seven alpha sinks, but something she senses in the Idol forces her to unsuccessfully rescue the being. Izza is a homeless pre-teen living off of begging and stealing. A being she worshiped, and who had come to her help that she called the blue angel just died. So in helping the other children and avoiding the giant stone penitents that enforce the law on the island, she wants to find out how the blue angel died. But there is corruption in the priesthood that creates the idols, and a Craftwoman from another land looking the loss.   Izza, Kai, and a poet who might have dipped into Seven Alpha’s soul storage to create poems are all at risk. I suspect this is an award nominee.
It’s hard to write about computer games because, at least to me, they never feel real. Nick Cole gets around this problem with professional gamers who fight for corporations competing for ad space.  With money involved, the stakes in real life can get a lot higher as John Saxon discovers. He’s a Soda Pop Soldier (trade from Harper Voyager) fighting on computer for Colacorp and his side is losing. His girlfriend has left him and he’s behind on the rent, so he enters a black, illegal game to pick up extra money. But the stakes are high in his real game as the bribes start coming, while in the real world his apartment building. There’s another money player willing to help and that’s why he eventually finds himself playing in an expensive cabin on an airplane, while the plane is being boarded by thugs with real weapons. Both games are very important to multiple parties and his genius at play makes him a target. Lots of fun and impossible to put down.
One of my favorite tropes is that of someone from our world dropping into a fantasy one. Christopher Sinclair is a forty-year-old mechanical engineer with sword fighting hobby. The world he finds himself in gets its magic from dead people, with ranks coming from the amount of magic owned. Once his is magically taught the language, and told he can’t go home, he has to become a priest of one of the very real gods and carry the Sword of the Bright Lady (trade from Pyr) Every year all the villages have their young men drafted into a war with monsters and he will go with them. Of Course M. C. Planck has him creating a banking system and building guns and cannons. It’s not as easy as it sounds because rumors of his magical sword send swordsmen after him. Lots of fun with enough left for a sequel. I can’t wait.
Wen Spencer tells of the cutest nine-year-old geniuses ever. Louise and Jilian go to a school for the gifted only because their parents want them to have normal social interaction. On their own, they have created videos about Elfhome, The place where Pittsburgh disappears to every month. These are posted on an obscure film site because their parents are very protective. Their father works for a company that stores unused, fertilized, human eggs, and they were his solution to providing children for his sterile wife. Technically they are siblings of the main character in Ms. Spensor’s other books in the series, Tinker (paper) and have four potential other siblings whose eggs are supposed to be destroyed in a few months. Rescuing the eggs, creating all the sets for Peter Pan at their school, and dealing with the fact that their little films have become very popular, are only part of the problem. When the  Wood Sprites (hard from Baen)  literally break into a museum to steal some magical containers, they also discover there is an ancient elf determined to attack Elfhome. Then things get really complicated. Because this tale takes place at the same time as the other books in the series, it’s unnecessary to have read the other tales. This is defiantly a wow.
Stephen Renneberg captures the same fun as Guardians of the Galaxy with the tale of Sirius Kade, free trader with his own ship, and former spy for the  Earth Intelligence Service. Earth was cut off from galactic civilization for a thousand years when fanatics blew up their ship on a galactic world. With only fifty years left of the current five century probation period, Earth is eager to prevent other incidents. So Syrius is reactivated when something is heard of a potential incident. The trail leads to the Mcguffin of the tale, The Antaran Codex (ebook from Amazon Digital Services, Inc which I bought) which is up for bid. But the aliens who where hurt with the first incident, the Matarons have an evil plan that involves the Codex and one of the buyers. Sirius has to risk his ship and his crew, first stealing the Codex, then restealing it, then stopping the final crew from destroying a low-tech world. The action is fast and furious and the background shear fun. I hope there’s a sequel.
Suppose someone managed to not only sense the soul, but actually trap it. Timothy Zahn considers all the ramifications and implications of a Soulminder (paper from Open Road Media) in a novelization of the stories he wrote in the 90's for Analog. Capturing the soul allows the body to be worked on when essentially dead. But dictators can use if for torture, gangsters to grab a new body, and other horrible consequences. Fun and interesting.
Chris Evans creates a magical variation of the Vietnam War fought with dragons (rags) instead of helicopters  and crossbows (rifles) with magical radios for communication At home political pressure comes from the literal bastardization of the royal line. The sylts are mainly peaceful, but the fighters have magicians who can throw lightning. Like Vietnam the war is fought with conscripts who have no real reason for fighting. There’s drug abuse, racial hatred of trolls, and a final battle in the valley Of Bone and Thunder (hard from Gallery) where victory seems impossible. I expected to hate this because it was so obviously based in history, but the characters came alive and I found myself rooting for them. Very exciting, but dark.
Ani Bolton sets her tale of Steel and Song( ebook from Writer Unboxed Publishing) in a variation of Russia during World War I. The only ones with magic are the gytrash and they are drafted for the war with the Franks, emptying out their villages. Tova is the last airwitch in her small village, and she is drafted into a war Aileron captained by Cossack Piers Dashkov who has already lost most of his family to the war. Thrown immediately into small battles, Tova quickly has to learn to moderate her magic so it won’t kill her, a common fate of airwitches in the war.  In the barracks rebellion is brewing and the secret police don’t care who they catch. This is an exciting beginning to a longer tale, filled with romance and danger. I’m looking forward to more.
Nancy Kress tells a tale of science and culture shock as aliens who are really Yesterday's Kin (paper from Tachyon Publications) A hundred thousand years ago some humans were taken to another planet. Very peaceful they have prospered and are far advanced in technology. Geneticist Marianne Jenner has just written a paper on the discover of a rare branch of humanity discovered by tests of mitochondrial DNA and these strangers, not only belong to that group, but they are seeking earth humans with the same traits because their culture is very family oriented. Noah, Marianne’s adopted son is one of them and he becomes fascinated with their culture, since he never fit in with ours. The main reason they have come is to find a cure for a spore cloud in space that had already wiped out one of their colonies and will hit Earth in less than a year. As usual for this Hugo-winning author, the emphasis is on character and social issues. Fascinating.
Prudence Jones “Roo” struck in rich as a spy in the right place and time. He’s living on his catamaran in near future predicted by the Global Warming alarmists, in the Caribbean infected with Hurricane Fever (hard from Tor) when an old friend sends him information post death. That leads to men trying to kill him and getting the nephew he was raising instead. Tobias S. Buckell tells an exciting tale that Ian Flemming might have written today about a very rich megalomaniac who has to be stopped. Helped by a woman first claiming to be Roo’s friend’s daughter, and then french intelligence, he is constantly attacking the bad guys in the middle of one hurricane after another, a common event for the Caribbean of the future. Fun!
Jennifer Foehner Wells imagines that the government has kept top secret an alien ship in the asteroid belt near Mars. The Roswell craft was one of their shuttles. An expedition, ostensibly going to mars is really sent to the ship. Dr. Jane Holloway is along because of her Fluency (ebook from  Blue Bedlam Books) but she doesn’t realized that she is so fluent that the only survivor , the ship’s navigator, can communicate with her telepathically. The ships crew had all been killed by a mysterious disease, and the rest of the astronauts don’t believe her, especially when talking to Ei’Brai requires her to fall into a coma. The ship has been empty so long that the pests have run wild, creating danger for the small expedition, Exciting and fun. I hope that a sequel sending her to the ships’ home world is available soon.
Kendare Blake puts dying Greek Gods and reincarnated mortals from the Trojan war into our world. Athena is growing feathers, Demeter is stretched flat over acres, and Hera is partially stone. All the gods who used to live on Mount Olympus are dying. Odysseus has remembered his past life, and together with Athena and Hermes locate Cassandra, the prophetess who might be considered an Antigoddess (trade) because her touch can destroy a god. They have to face a mad Poseidon working with Hera and Aphrodite who is convinced that killing other gods will let them live. It doesn’t help that all the reincarnated mortals are teenagers.
Alas the fates interfere and with Ares and a revived Hera working against them the Mortal Gods (trade from Tor), Cassandra, lying to her parents, has to help Athena as they eventually travel to Olympus to face the dying fates and their allies. There’s at least another book in the series. The tale is a bit too dark for my taste, but I’m intrigued enough to keep reading.
The royal family of the tine kingdom of Swansgaard had one son and twelve daughters who couldn’t inherit. Since the cost of doweries would bankrupt the kingdom, each sets off at eighteen to seek their fortune.  Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory tell of Clarice who wants to be a swordswoman, but starts her travels disguised as a man. A whim sends her on a ship to the new world, not knowing that the captain intends to goad his crew to mutiny so he can kill most of them and make his way to the magically protected The House of the Four Winds (hard from Tor). The mutiny but their new captain, the original navigator is force to land at the pirate island. The island is run by sorceress Shamal who forces them off on a massive treasure hunt, happily killing  any crew member who protests. Light fun with a dash of romance.
E. C. Blake continues his tale of fifteen-year-old Mara, daughter of a mask maker in a land ruled by an evil Autarch and where all adults wear magical Masks (hard) . In the first tale her ability to see all the colors of magic causes her to be sent to the mines and rescued by the Unmasked Army.  But she has to creep in the Shadows(hard from DAW) to visit her father and get the secret of making masks– but she is captured along with Chell, a prince from a foreign land seeking magical help against their enemies. She convinces the Autarch to let her train with the Mistress of Magic who also can see all the colors. Then her father is murdered and she inadvertently gives up the location of the unmasked army.  On the run, she and Chell sail to his ships only to be in worse straits. Third book to follow in this fun teen series.
Drew Hayes has The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, The Vampire Accountant (Ebook from Reuts) who boringly kept doing people’s books after being turned. He works all night (and day during tax season) and gets his blood from the hospital he keeps accounts for. Until he attends his high school reunion and meets an old friend who is an agent for the agency that maintains all the paranormal agreements. Of course werewolves attack the reunion. Other tales have him face a wizard with his only zombie who is determined to kill people at a gamers party. Properly silly and I can only hope for more adventures.     
Ilona Andrews sets their (husband and wife team) latest in an alternate present where a serum created magical, inheritable powers. Families breed to produce powerful primes, like Adam Pierce who can melt steel with his mind. He’s killed a bank guard while stealing something from its vault, and his family wants him back, and they own part of Nevada Baylor’s family detective agency. So with only the ability to tell truth from lies, her only hope is convince him to return to his family peacefully. Enter Mad Rogan whose ability to tear down buildings help win the Mexican war. He’s searching for a cousin who worked with Adam. So we have two strong-willed people finding they have to work together to stop Adam from destroying Houston as he does a Burn for Me (paper from Avon).
Richard K. Morgan finishes the tale of an expedition to the far north to locate the tomb a dead sorcerer that was started in The Cold Commands (paper).The tomb was looted and, while our heroes were gone, the Empire started a war with the League. So the group is captured. Egar, dragonsbane   and Archeth, the half-breed daughter of the immortal Kiriath get shipwrecked and survive to find an ancient Kiriath fortress with a living demon controller (think immortal computer) with plans for Archeth. Ringil Eskiath the sorceror warrior takes control of the ship carrying him and returns to face some of the ancient Dwenda in his home town. Everybody it seems, including the ancient gods have plans for these two  including sending them down The Dark Defiles.(paper from Del Rey). Mr. Morgan has great fight scenes and fun characters, but the plots within plots got too complicated for my taste and some of the action was a bit too arbitrary.    
Henry V. O’Neil tells of a time when humans are combating people-looking Sims, who chirp instead of talk and can’t eat our food.. Jander Mortas is a shave-tail lieutenant right out of training and off to his first assignment. But his ship was wrecked and he gets woken out of a deep-sleep coffin with only three other survivors, a psychoanalyst, a scout, and a conscientious objector. They have no food, water and have been dumped on a dry world. Somehow they have to survive, face the sim colonists, survive other human soldiers under attack by the Sims,  and steal a Sim ship to get to Glory Main (ebook from Harper Voyager Impulse).  I enjoyed it, but could quite believe the background, giving it the same feeling as The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. This is only the first book in a series, so I expect the mystery of the Sims will be saved for later adventures.
R. S. Belcher continues his tale of a mining town, Golgotha in 1870 where the richest man in town, Malachi Bick, is really an angel, and the sheriff Jon Highlander has fought monsters and is known as unkillable. The Shot-Gun Arcana (hard from Tor) tells of another Angel Ray Zeal who had forgone his job of watching Cain’s skull. Determined to get his revenge on Bick, he finds the thirty-two evil people, mostly cannibals and serial killers, with the teeth of Cain and sends them to attack the town. Unfortunately for them, they die as easily as their victims. While fascinating, this second tale is a bit too predictable. The characters are interesting enough for want for more of their adventures.
Sandman Slim came back from Hell full of revenge a few books ago. Since then he served a term as Satan and dealt with numerous monsters. However the elder gods whom God kicked out before creating our universe and then splitting into five parts, want to come back. One of the God parts has been murdered and the others are weak. Sandman Slim has the only key to letting these gods in to remake the universe and they will stop a nothing to forced him to let The Getaway God (hard from Harper Voyager) back in. I found the tale fun, but a bit anti-climatic. Sure signs that the series has gotten old.
I was disappointed with Peter F. Hamilton’s latest addition to his  Commonwealth universe in which the Milky Way is filled with a high tech civilization except in the central void where different physics allow humans esp powers. Into  The Abyss Beyond Dreams (hard from Del Rey) goes a copy of  Nigel Sheldon with a ship designed to partially work in this void. The planet he finds has been inhabited by humans from a kidnaped colonizing expedition and have been there 3000 years (300 years in real time) The planet has been attack with  falling alien eggs that can absorb people and animals and turn them into killers. To get the bombs from the original ship lying under the capital city, Nigel has to stage a communist-style  revolution as a decoy. The planetary government might be corrupt, but revolution destroys stability. Most of the tale is devoted to the characters involved in the revolution, which I found hard to identify. Still fans of the series will find this a must read along with the coming sequel.
    Baen has two collections this month. David Drake’s time travel and tourist tales, Dinosaurs and a Dirigible (trade) and the sixth worlds of Honor Beginnings (edited by David Weber) in paper.
    Charles Stoss has revised and updated the first two tales of the Merchant Prince series in The Bloodline Feud (trade from Tor)
    Baen has reprinted in paperback John Lambshead’s fun Wolf in Shadow about a werewolf in London that needs a sequel; the late Anne McCaffrey writing with Jody Lynn Nye in The Death of Sleep; The Throne of Stars, the second  two tales about a lost Prince from the Empire of Man by David Weber and John Ringo; and Wen Spencer’s fun tale of Eight Million Gods in the modern Japan. In trade they have reprinted David Weber and Jane Lindskold’s tale of the Treecat Wars; Lois McMaster Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance; and the fun tale of a Slow Train to Arcturus by Eric Flint and Dave Freer. An earlier Miles Vorkosigan tale, Memory has been reprinted in Trade.
    Ace has reprinted in trade Stella Gemmell’s excellent tale of The City, which reminded me of Victor Hugo romances.
    Tor has repinted Wolfgang Jeschke’s fun time travel tale, The Cusanus Game, and Twenty-first Century Science Fiction Edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on, October 17th  2014 at 8 p.m. at International house on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. Author Craig Shaw Gardner will speak. As usual Guests are Welcome.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords).