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Science Fiction for October 2016
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    Some people enjoy exciting action in their Fantasy and Science Fiction, and others find that they want deep, psychological interaction with very flawed characters. I definitely want fun and I want my heroes to win the day. I’m a bit old fashioned, I guess.
In Glynn Stewart’s rip snorting action tale, Earth’s discovery of hyperspace has led to one of the empires that control our galaxy arriving to conquer Earth. Earth’s only hyper-capable warship under the command of Captain Annette Bond is sent to be The Terran Privateer (ebook from Faolan's Pen Publishing Inc). Her mission is to discover the organization of the galaxy and to attack shipping to hopefully gain enough technology to enable Earth to throw out her conquerors. To do that they have capture freighters, and find a place to sell their loot. The first mate of their first capture is willing to help, even though she is of the same species of the empire that captured Earth.  Slavers attempt to capture the human crew at the pirate base. One thing lead so another with lots of space battle. I’m eager for the sequel.
George R. R. Martin’s fans have some good news. Not , alas, about Game of Thrones. The Wildcard series that he and Melinda M. Snodgrass have been editing since 1987 have been picked up by Universal Cable Productions as a tv series. The latest tale in the series provides High Stakes (hard from Tor) for some of the Aces as they face Lovecraftian monsters in Talas Kyrgyzstan. In the previous book a trail of missing jokers led to gladiatorial matches in Talas. The violence was keeping the monsters quiescent, but now the city is filled with people eating their own flesh, and the Aces on the UN committee go mad when exposed to the evil miasma. The heart-pounding excitement is not for the faint of heart, but good wins in the end. If only one book a year in the series makes it to television, it will take a quarter century to reach this tale, sigh.
Marc Turner shows promise to be a major fantasy writer. When the Heavens Fell (paper) introduced us to a world filled with magic and wandering gods. In a world where the inhabitants of Erin Elal fled Augura, a genocidal people with stone colored skin and powerful magic. Dragon Hunters (hard ) was set on Dragon Day when normally one dragon was let through. This time political scheming and Auguran assassins let many dragons through, destroying the hunter ships. Fourteen days later the Augurans have sent ships to the Rubyholt islands, a pirate infested groups with ruins of old civilizations lost in its seas. They plan a Red Tide (hard from Tor) to destroy the canal between two seas and don’t care how many die to let their ships through. Characters introduced in both previous books reappear for the same pulse-pounding action as our heroes attempt to save the canal from invasion. Mr. Turner’s world building skills are top notch and I expect an award nomination for this or one of his future tales.
John Ringo liked Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series so well that he wrote some prequels set in the 80's Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge(hard from Baen) is the tale of Oliver Chadwick Gardenier who almost lost his life when his barracks were blown up in Beruit. A dream convinced him that St. Peter let him live because God had further plans from him. Then a prayer meeting literally caused the dead to rise, and he had to destroy zombies. After Oliver joins Monster hunters, Inc he works in Seattle where he has to kill giant spiders, vampires.  werewolves, and more in various adventures that cover the first decade of his time with the company. Two more books are promised.
Max Gladstone is a rising star in fantasy because of his tales of a world recovering from a war of the gods and of the Craftsmen and Craftswomen who are as powerful as gods. Four Roads Cross (hard from TOR) takes place in the city of Alt Coulumb where a year before the fire god Kos was murdered and brought back to life. This is a world where bonds are sold based on the stability of Gods, and the return of the moon god Seril threatens the solvency of Kos’s bonds. So Tara Abernathy, a craftswoman working for Kos’s temple, has to work with Seril’s gargoyles to recover Seril’s lost powers and prevent a hostile takeover of the city. Working with her are the agent of justice Catherine Elle, who can manifest a silver protective suit, and the vampire Raz Pelham.  This is a possible award nominee.    
David D. Levine imagines an Earth floating in air instead of space. Sailing ships can use the solar winds to float between worlds. It’s 1813 and Arabells’s mother sends her from her father’s plantation on Mars to Earth for a proper education for a young lady. After her father’s death, her uncle decides that killing her brother would give him deed to the family estate. Arabella rushes off to stop him, only to disguise herself as a young man and join the crew of the Diana, a commercial sailing ship under the command of Captain Prakash Singh. From her father Arabella had a fascination with Automata and Captain uses one to help navigate between planets. On the way they are attacked by Pirates, and suffer a Mutiny. The they reach Mars only to discover the native Crabs are in revolt. Of course it falls on Arabella of Mars ( hard from Tor).  There’s a strong taste of Treasure Island in this well thought out adventure. It can’t be read without bringing a solid grin.
I got addicted to Debra Dunbar’s eight book imp series and couldn’t stop till finished. Slum landlord  Samantha Martin is really a young imp, only a thousand years old and has played on Earth for forty. Angels will kill her if she is found, but when one does, she becomes A Demon Bound (paper) instead. Things get complicated when she finds Satan's Sword (paper) and it chooses her, the first Satan since the war between Angels of Chaos and Angels of Order two million years before. The new demons, exiled to Hel, could still breed, but the remaining angels, thankfully immortal, couldn’t. The sword puts her in the empty seat on the ruling committee of Angels. By the fifth book, Imp Forsaken (paper) she was injured by angels working with humans and elves to bottle demon spirit so that it can be used for angel sex. Heavily injured, she somehow manages to face her enemies and become the first Angel of Chaos since the war. The Angel world, Aaru has a civil war going on, and the elves have decided to Exodus (paper from Anessa Books)  Hel and conquer Earth, not realizing that technology will trump their magic and their allergy to iron is a great detriment. Our heroine has to find demons to help in the fight. She finds thirty, instead of legions. The tales are cute, silly and impossible to put down.
Hail Bristol left the Indranan Empire after her father, the royal consort, was murdered and after trying to find her father’s murderers ended up as a gun runner. She had some sisters who would become Empress didn’t care. Then, as K. B. Wagers tells it, someone started murdering her sisters and poisoned her mother, leaving her the heir Behind the Throne (paper from Orbit) shanghaied back to her home world she soon has to find friends to help her survive assassination after assassination attempt. Lots of fun.      
J.L. Doty writes about a star empire of our future with an ambitious king, but weak king. His first attempt at expansion left Charlie Cass, a bastard son of one of the Dukes, in a pow camp with the Syndonese despite the fact his tactics allowed for peace. Now returning a hero, he becomes an enemy of the king when the king lets the Syndonese control him as he attacks other star kingdoms. Charles’s father, murdered by his own wife, bequeathed him the Duchy of Lunis, whose first twelve Dukes had all committed treason. As The Thirteenth Man (paper from Harper Voyager Impulse) in the dukedom. However his father left him powerful tools, should he dare to use them Add a princess, and heiress to the Realm who has been betrothed to an evil Duke. There are assassination attempts and colorful Gipsy allies. This fun action tale with light romance.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to the imager’s world at a time when Alastar is settled into his role as Maitre of the Collegium of Imagers. The current Rex is weak, and the merchant class is growing, encroaching on the nobility. Some of them plan an uprising using Treachery’s Tools (hard from Tor). They have forgotten the power of Imagery and the willingness of Alastar to use his and the Colegium’s magic to prevent the Solidar devolving into a collection of Noble estates. This is quiet, taking its time to reach any excitement, but still quite enjoyable.
Peter F. Hamilton latest tale of the Commonwealth would have been more fun if it didn’t have a deus-ex-machina ending. A Night Without Stars (hard from Del Rey) is the story of the survival of the humans on the planet Bienvenido, a commonwealth settled world that lost most of its technology and that got dropped out of the Void where magic worked. . They are being menaced by a species they call the fallen dropping from trees in orbit. The fallen have the ability to exactly mimic people and animals and only their blue blood gives them away. They are losing, though not really realizing it, when a baby is dropped in a Commonwealth capsule. A forest ranger, Florian, finds the capsule and has to protect the baby from a corrupt government  for a month until she grows into the adult Paula Myo and can figure out how to save the human population and get them to the Commonwealth. This is a fun conclusion to the whole Void part of Mr. Hamilton’s Void series.
Jennifer Estep’s  fifteenth tale of master assassin Gin Blanco, the spider, finds her Unraveled (paper from Pocket Books) after she killed Finnigan Laine’s evil mother and learned about the new evil in her life, the circle.  Time for a vacation, especially since Finnigan has inherited a western theme park, Bullet Pointe. The bad guys are there searching for hidden jewels. One of them is a sharpshooter who infuses her bullets with fire energy. The usual fun.
The tenth October Daye is a routine murder mystery set at a conclave run by the King and Queen of the North American Fae to determine whether the cure for elf-shot (that kills half-fae and leaves the full Fae in a coma for a century) should be used. Once Broken Faith (paper from DAW) has Toby trying to solve the murder of a minor Fae king. Of course Seanan McGuire has  the murder involving magic, and of course all of Toby’s friends get elf shot during the investigation. Fun.
Barbara Barnett takes an odd look at the effects of  The Apothecary's Curse (paper from Pyr) of immortality on two people. In the sixteenth century Gaelan Erceldoune mixed a cure for the plague from his father’s ancient text. In the nineteenth century his friend Simon Bell, a physician of repute, asks him for a cure for cancer for his wife, The wife dies, and Simon thinking the medicine is poison downs the dose. Then a madman captures Gaelan and experiments on him in horrible ways including cutting off some fingers to see if they would grow back. His father’s book lost, Gaelan becomes a rare book collector, until, in the present, an evil medical research corporation finds a clue to his location and a miracle brings the book back to him. Simon wants to join his wife in death,  and Gaelan just wants to be normal. Interesting tale though the ending seemed to simple.    
At the same time as the Magna Carta was signed, an agreement was signed limiting mythical creatures to a single instance, the rest sent to a deep sleep. Ben Garston was one of the signers and the only dragon allowed. He mostly lives as human until an ancient dragon/goddess, gets awakened and then his enemies come after him. According to James Bennett, Ben might be very difficult to kill, but his girlfriend, Rose, is all too human. So Ben sets off Chasing Embers (paper from orbit) no realizing that his true, hidden, enemies have a plan to end the world. Very exciting, although the action becomes a bit predictable.
Eric Flint with a new co-author for his series of humans working with aliens who conquered us to fight the Ekhat, a genocidal, insane species. David Carroco adds a different flavor to the tale as a fleet is sent to discover potential allies in their fight to improve the The Span of Empire (hard from Baen) . The best parts are the tale of first contact with xenophobic aliens still recovering from another alien attack centuries before. Then the Ekhat arrive and the real battle begins. Fun and routine. I really liked the first book in this series.
    Baen has reprinted Larry Correia’s fun Son of the Black Sword in paper. They also have several short story collections this month: older tales about Things from Outer Space (paper edited by Hank Davis); Multiverse:Exploring Poul Anderson’s Works (paper and edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois); classic tales of Women of Futures Past (trade edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch); and tales from Wen Spencer’s Project Elfhome (hard).
       The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on October 14th  2016 where William "Brad" Hafford, Archeologist at the Penn Museum is the guest speaker. The meeting starts  at  8 p.m.  at International House on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus.  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 unified field theory at henrylazarus.com/utf.html that suggests a simpler way to achieve fusion generation.