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Science Fiction for October 2015
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    Science Fiction has two major awards. The older of the two, the Hugo, was invented here in Philadelphia and is usually given out Labor Day weekend. The only voters are those who paid for membership at the World Science Fiction Convention. The other award is the Nebula Award presented by the Science Fiction Writers of America. As you might guess politics has a lot to do with the books that are nominated.
Alex Lamb uses a standard trope of a future Earth gone theocratic, trying to conquer and convert its former colonies. Galatea, a world still being terraformed, is vastly outnumbered. It has mods for people to make them stronger, faster, smarter and to connect to the robots around them. Even for a Roboteeer (paper from Gollancz) Will Kuno-Mone is unusual enjoying interacting not only with the robots under his control, but also the rest of the crew of the stealth ship Ariel. Earth has developed a sun-tap weapon, and the Ariel follows its commander to an amazing discovery, a world built by aliens. The new weapon is from alien technology, and as the crew of the Ariel discovers, created by transcended alien species. Species willing to self-edit are allowed to grow. The sun-taps marks the stars of those species unable to progress and allows the transcended to wipe them out. So will, also being modified by the transcended and the rest of his crew have to somehow stop a powerful Earth and return it to sanity. Getting there is very exciting with near-miss excitement as our heroes are captured and escape only to be captured again. Lots of fun with a solid ending.
Michael Kan imagines a future galaxy under attack from Endervars, who wipe out all sapiens in space and then englobe their worlds with an energy barrier. Julian Nverson, a former starfighter is working as a pilot when they attack the mining world. Rescued he is reinstated back into the Alliance fleet, and in his first foray finds an Endervar ship that doesn’t disintegrate,. Inside is an android claiming to be from Earth, Earth that was englobed a millenia earlier. People are still alive there, and they might also be on Julian’s home planet Haven.  The Ouryan, a collection of uploaded minds and one of the most powerful groups in the Allience have developed bombs to destroy solar systems They don’t want the android to return to Earth Julian keeps getting in the middle of a complex of groups striving to survive the Endervar Helping him is an ancient, genetically modified  New Human with her own ship, and even members of the Ouryan opposing their own leadership. Remember the Starfighter (ebook from Amazon which I bought ) is a fascinating culture future from a first novelist.
Michael Swanwick latest tale of two con people Chasing the Phoenix (hard from Tor) will probably end up being nominated for an award, because the author is frequently nominated and the short tale that began the series “The Dog Said Bow-Wow,” already won the Hugo. Surplus is a genetically modified dog who walks erect and speaks perfectly. His partner, Aubrey Darger was killed in the previous book and needs revival by the Perfect Physician in China. After the revival the pair come to the Hidden King who has dreams of reuniting China, still in pieces after the fall of the utopian civilization. With the help of war machines dug up by the archeologist, White Squall, and the head of the hidden king’s armies Powerful Locomotive, Darger and Surplus soon find themselves far more successful as they con kings into joining them or standing by while the Hidden Emperor’s troops conquer other kingdoms. Dealing with the love interests of the inner circle of advisors is a little harder. The major problem is that the Hidden Emperor has dreams of being blown up by the nuke that White Squall found, convinced it will turn them all to gods. The tale is appropriately silly and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
The Masquerade Empire uses economics and deceit rather than armies to grow. Their only belief is in the purity of heterosexuality and will use chemicals and torture to destroy its opposite.   In it Seth Dickinson tells the tale of The Traitor Baru Cormorant (hard from Tor). Baru was born into a family of two fathers and a mother on an island paradise , When it is conquered, she is safe in an Imperial school while one of her fathers is murdered and plague wracks her home. Her test scores are very good. She is appointed Accountant to the conquered Provence of Aurdwynn, which gives her control of the money supply. The previous two Accountants were murdered, which allows her Imperial mentor to put her in such a high position. Aurdwynn is a land of squalling dukes and constant rebellion. Baru stops a rebellion in her first year by creating massive inflation. But three years later she decides that it is time to revolt against the Empire that destroyed her home. This is a neat tale of a very smart woman who plays politics with ease. I suspect it will be nominated for an award.
The late Donald Moffit has one more tale of the far future. Six billion years from now is the age of the Children of the Comet (paper from  Open Road Media ). The sun is a red star and enlarged past Earth’s orbit. Humans are living on giant trees growing on comets  in the Oort cloud. As part of the ritual to become adult, Torris has to climb kilometers to the top of the tree and have a dream Half way up, he meets a woman, Ning who made her way from another tree and they fight off danger, including one of Toris’s age mates. A starship from our near future, traveling at near light speed has left human colonies on a quasar that burst into a new galaxy. That ship returns at the same time that Torris is expelled out into the deep. It’s a classic case of the  future  meeting primitive past. The starship crew have only lived decades because of relativity and remember Earth the way it was. Torris’s people make their spacesuits from animal pelts. They  get their oxygen from the tree and water from the ice comet. The civilization that had genetically engineered the trees was long lost. Neat and a solid sense of wonder.
Fran Wilde has a wonderful tale of a people living in towers high above the clouds. They have artificial wings to fly using the down flow and Updraft (hard from Tor) winds to travel between towers. The Singers in the center spire keep the city whole and protect them from skymouth monsters, but have become controlling over the years. Kirit Densira is training to pass her wingtest so she can become a trader like her mother when a skymouth comes near her tower and she somehow chases it away with her screams. This rare talent is something the Singers want, and they block her getting her wingmark. Eventually she ends up joining the Singers, but discovers awful secrets that drive her to face the leadership in a fight to the death. This is an interesting society and I really liked the tale. 
Jim Butcher starts a fun series of people living in spires to avoid a dangerous Earth who get power including the power to lift their flying ships from crystals. Adding to the fun are talking cats who are just as willful as you might imagine. The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass (hard from Roc) is a fun tale of two spires on the edge of war. Spire Aurora send five hundred marines into Spire Albion. To stop them the  Spirearch of Albion has only a few loyal agents There’s Ex-nave Privateer Captain Grimm of the wounded air ship Predator and his crew who knows his duty even if the Navy doesn’t realize it. . Gwendolyn Lancaster is the only heir of the wealthy crystal making family serving the Spirearch’s Guard for one year requiredAnd who is absolutely fearless with her crystal weapons. . Gwen’s cousin Benedict who stayed in the Guard for an additional year.  Bridget whose noble family has been reduced to the ownership of one vattery. She is strong from lifting meat and resents her one year service. Finally There’s Rowl, a cat who adopted Bridget and will follow her everywhere. Add in etherist Efferus Ferus and his apprentice Folly who can work the ether and, like all etherists are quite mad. Opposing them are Madame Cavindish, an etherist bent on getting information and will stop at nothing to hurt Albion in the process. Veery exciting and a set up for a longer series.
R. S, Belcher mixes a very real occult wizardry with a present day noir adventure set in a Nightwise (hard from Tor)  today. Laytham Ballard is a powerful wizard who is asked by his dying partner to avenge the death of his wife, killed in during Bosnian civil war by a genocidal Serbian  wizard. Unfortunately the wizard has disappeared. The only clue is a place called the Greenway and U. S. Treasure plates. Beset by other wizards, demons, crooked cops, and gangsters and helped by a few friends and with wishes from the Devil, Laytham makes his way to the Greenway and a sorcerous battle. This has a potential for a long series and is lots of fun.
Imagine how the early years of the Revolution would have changed if conjurers had been  Present. D. B. Jackson (David B. Coe)’s fourth tale of Ethan Kaille, thief-taker and conjuror takes place in 1770 Boston. His archenemy, Nate Ramsey supposedly died in a fire the previous book. But a Dead Man’s Reach(hard from Tor) draws on Ethan’s powers to create discord, even to causing the Boston Massacre. There’s an exciting magical duel at the end and a happy surprise for readers of this fun series. The detailed background uses known historical figures to create a sense of time and place that fees real. I am really looking forward to Ethan’s participation in the War in future books.    
David B. Coe has a second tale about Justis Fearsson, ex-cop and private detective who uses his magical weremyste powers to help solve crimes. Some one is torturing his father through His father’s Eyes (hard from Baen) and the trail leads to weremystes who use blood to enhance their spells. Helped by an immortal, ancient witch. Helped by Nasmid, the rune myste training him, Justis must work with a drug lord and his ex–partner Cop to confront the evil mystes who are killing the homeless in order to make slaves of various were’s in the area Very exciting and fun. I like the revolutionary Boston tales better.
Tom Doyle continues his tale of Spies and magic in the modern world. Roderick who had been a living head for a century was liberated inadvertently by the agents and American Craftsmen (paper). He follows The Left-Handed Way (hard from Tor) that uses magic to become immortal and as a result he can move into new bodies. He is very powerful and wants to work a magic that will open the door to a world of evil and make him a god. The previous CIA agents, Scherie, her new husband Dale, and their leader Michael Endicot are joined by Mi13 agent Grace Marlow are in a chase that takes from London, Tokyo , Istanbul, and Chernobyl following a trail that leads to Kiev and then back to the US. There are ghosts abounding to both help and attack, guns and magic around every corner. Very exciting.
What happens when a wizard and a man without memory walk into a bar. Luckily the bar belongs to Bahzell Bahnakson, who took the Oath of Swords (paper) from the God of War Tomanak. Soon Wencit of Rum(the wizard), Kenhoden (the man without memory, and Bahzell are on a quest for The Sword of the South (hard from Tor) which is guarded by an evil sorceress. David Weber puts pirates, assassins, demons, and even a dragon in their path keeping the tale to its point, with lots of banter from the heroes. It sets up a later tale that promises an epic battle between good and evil in this fantasy world. Lots of fun. 
Mary Holland tells of a world of magic, twelve  demesnes  governed by their Magnes who have absolute power in their realms. After the four fire  demesnes were destroyed, leaving the scoured lands.  Jamie Pel, as secondary heir to The Dog of Pel (paper from Holland Books) as sent to the Scour lands to investigate the Portall’s use of the former inhabitants as collared slaves. Then his Uncle and niece died suddenly had he finds himself the new Magne in the middle of a political and magical fight that threatens the destruction of more demesnes.  He has some allies, including a woman from the scourge lands that he has temporally collared for her survival, and the heir of another demesne. There’s also the head of the Portall with the ability to use the void that surrounds human lands and a lot of deadly secrets lost since the end of the magician’s war. The world is a bit complicated, but somehow makes its own sense. Fun.
 Paradise is an artificial world with little disease, where people can live  three of Paradises’s centuries. Kept on a medieval, it is also a world of constant warfare and dinosaurs.  The best part of Victor Milán’s fun tale is watching The Dinosaur Lords (hard from Tor) ride their dinosaurs to joust and fight. Eight people created this world and they have grey angels to keep it stable. There are also rare wizards with technology able to regrow body parts So we have Karyl Bogomirskiy, former noble recruited to help a village turned pacifist, along with Rob Korrigan minstrel and dinosaur master. There’s the imperial war commander, Jaume who is bisexual, a poet whose philosophy lead to the pacificism of the village. He’s also commander of the Companions a group of nobles who also share love with each other. The Emperor’s daughter  Melodia is caught in a power struggle despite the fact that she cannot inherit her father’s elected office. The is the first of what promises to be a long tale, and at present there are three tales that really don’t interact. So much is left undiscovered, that the plot lacks direction. But oh those dinosaurs!
Brett Battles does a nice job with an old SF trope. Rewinder (paper from 47North) Denny Younger is born of low caste on an alternate Earth, but his love of history gets him selected to a group that observes history, particularly the history of its nobility to determine whether their ancestors deserved their nobility. Then an error in the nineteenth century changes his history to our own. Poul Anderson’s classic Time Patrol tale took an opposite tack, assuming the modifications had an evil purpose. Mr. Battles  takes the opposite tack, for a fun tale about the morality of time travel.
Greg Van Eekhout concludes his tale of a magical California where bone magic users rule a separate both the North and South of the state. On this Dragon Coast (trade from Tor) Daniel’s clone had built a dragon out of old bones. The clone of the Hierarch of the South, Sam, somehow got mixed into the dragon when it was activated and Daniel’s clone killed. Now Daniel has to impersonate his clone, raised in the North, and steal a special bone from the Heirarch of the North to somehow liberate Sam from the dragon, Whew!  Add in Daniels friends, like the water mage of Los Angeles, and his helper to further complicate this fun tale. You have to read California Bones (paper) and Pacific Fire (paper) first, but the trilogy is a fun and exciting way of  looking into a very strange California.
 Earth Flight (hard from Pyr) concludes Janet Edwards trilogy about Jarra, one of the many handicapped who cannot portal to the colony worlds because of her immune reactions to other worlds. Her nw fame has brought both a clan that wants to adopt her and attacks from those who think the handicapped less than human. Teenagers have complicated lives, and Jarra more complicated than most. This is a must for those who enjoyed the first two.
Ree Reyes is back after being nearly killed. Ree who can watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then have Buffy’s powers for a short time or watch part of one of the Spiderman movies and then crawl up a wall, stopped Lucretia from killing her friend Eastwood. At her trial with the local geekdom, Lucretia request trial-by combat, which, of course, takes place inside a video game. By Lucretia’s friends, each with the power of Hexomancy (ebook from Simon and Schuster) and named for the three fates,  attack Eastwood every solstice. Michael R. Underwood sets the final fight, Tron like, inside the modern web. Lots of fun and even some romance  as usual.
Penn Roma (really Pennelope) is really in hiding in the magical circus her father built. After the jelly fish like aliens grazed Earth’s atmosphere, some families had daughters with magical powers, and Penn’s sisters each control one of the four elements. But Penn, as the fifth daughter can Sing Down the Stars (paper from Skyscape) and the authorities are rounding up people with power to control the situation. Penn’s father has kept them safe with his inventions and his negotiations with those authorities, but when he doesn’t return one day, the Circus is destroyed and Penn’s sisters captured. Only if Penn can master her abilities to somehow rescue her sisters in a floating habitat where bureaucrats oplan to bring back the rain that brought the powers in the first place. Fun.
According to Jeff Wheeler, Maia, is The Banished of Muirwood (paper from 47North) the only daughter of a King desperate enough for a male heir that he kicks out the priests who would disallow any divorce. Unfortunately that opens the door to spiritual attack in a world where priests have real uses. Maia has her own magic, something the priests also disapprove and they are on her tail trying to capture her while she seeks ancient lore that could save her kingdom. Alas her quest is leading her to a true evil that will eat her soul. I had a lot of fun with the tale, but was disappointed when the ending set up the need for a sequel.
Cecelia Holland has been winning awards for historical fiction for decades. Her one attempt at Science Fiction, Floating Worlds (paper) was amazing. But her entrance to fantasy, Dragon Heart (hard from Tor) misses the background details that make her historical tales so special. Castle Ocean is alive, but its king was killed defending his land from a growing empire. Queen Marioza must marry one of the Emperor’s brother, but the first one sent was poisoned. The second one and his two sons arrive and the wedding only awaits the return of the youngest princess, Tirza, locked in a monastery because while she can understand words, her own words only come out as shrieks. Enter the red dragon which sinks the ship carrying Tirza, and it turns out that the dragon can understand her and wants her stories. When she escapes and gets back to the castle, the tragic dance begins, trapping the Count and his sons in its coils.
    Wild side has a collection of Neal Asher Polity short tale The Engineer Reconditioned ( trade) This is a good way to discover this excellent writer. Baen has another collection about Chicks and Balances (trade and edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers) which are appropriately silly. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have volume 3 of Constellation (trade from Baen) a collection of shorter tales from the Liaden Universe. Hank Davis has a collection of classic tales about Future Wars ... and other Punchlines (trade from Baen).   
    Baen has reprinted in paper John Ringo’s final Zombie action tale, Islands of Rage and Hope ; Wen Spenser’s fun tale of genius adolescents who are Woodsprites;  two classic James P. Hogan tales in Prisoners of Tomorrow;  the first of two tales of war between science and magic coming from parallel Earth, Hell’s Gate (trade) by David Weber and Linda Evans;and  Lord of the Janissaries (trade)  combines the trilogy by Jerrry Pournelle and Roland J. Green written in the early eighties and still fun; 
    The Three-Body Problem by  Cixin Liu (paper from TOR) and translated by  Ken Liu has won the most divisive Hugo Awards that I’ve ever seen. I stopped half way through.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on October 176h 2015 at 8 p.m. at the International House  on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. Artist Heidi Hooper who works in dryer Lint and lost her arms to cancer 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). Check out his non-formula unified field theory at henrylazarus.com/utf.html