Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Home
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Science Fiction for November 2014
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    War is not fun, but suppose you could have a new body after dying. It might be worth some heroics.
B. V. Larson tells us that Galactics arrived in 2052 and told Earth we had to join the confederation or be wiped out. Oh Yes they also said we had to find something to sell. We had mercenaries. James McGill enlists with Varus, a unit sent to the worst places and usually gets itself wiped out while getting the job done. Basic training is done on the ship out and most recruits die a few times, James makes is through to the world of dinosaurs, Steel World (paper from Amazon) has hired a number of mercenary companies to handle their many disputes. This time they’ve decided to go into the business by themselves by wiping out a human company, V alus. James doesn’t help things by killing a Galactic observer no once but twice. Of course he dies four times along with most of his compatriots. This one is free as an ebook but I didn’t mind paying for the sequel.
Valus is mud because of losing mercenary contracts, but Earth has a secret. Before the Galactics came they had sent out a colony ship. They’ve sent a radio signal home and it’s up to Valus to solve the problem. But there’s a bigger problem when their ship is attacked by lizards and they end up landing on Dust World (paper from Amazon) where they find that the lizards have a habit of capturing the colonists and turning them into slaves. The remaining colonists are fighters and don’t want anything to do with Valus let alone they came from Earth. The trick is to take out the lizard starship which involves dying again and again. Just as much fun.
Earth has been upped to a level two civilization and has to take on duties of policing the local stars. Tau Ceti has a huge space station and is filled with money hungry natives.  Tech World (paper from Amazon) ‘s aliens have  problem in that their clothes shape their opinion and a mercenary from another company has figured a way to get rich by creating a rebellion. This time James is the only survivor as two Earth mercenary companies are wiped to the last man. The lizards apparently control far more worlds than the Galactics guessed and they’re mad over the loss of their colony. James of course comes up smelling good. I’m waiting eagerly for next volume.
Brad R Torgersen looks at war between humans and aliens with a huge technological edge. Luckily they have a sense of morality. The Chaplain's War (trade from Baen) Harrison Barlow enlisted because his friends did and somehow became a Chaplain’s assistant. He finds himself in a POW camp, actually a wall hemming the survivors in, and follows the advice of his late Chaplain. He builds a house of worship, but doesn’t try to lead services. When a professor Mantis decided to investigate human religion, he becomes the center and somehow his words indirectly make it to the Queen Mother who creates a truce. But nothing can me kept that simple. When he is brought along during the diplomatic procedures to renew the truce, he,   the professor and the Queen Mother are trapped with both sides hunting them as war begins again. This type of peace making could only work if both sides can see reason. Think of Gandhi vs. The British as opposed to Gandhi vs the Nazis. Fun, but a dash unbelievable.
Jack McDevitt has been writing of Alex Benedict and his assistant Chase Kolpath for a while. They live nine thousand years from now in a confederation at peace and hunt for sellable artifacts from the past. In the latest they are given a communicator that would have been with artifacts from the early space age and lost during the dark ages of the early three thousands. The quest finds them Coming Home (Hard from Ace) to an Earth pleasantly warmed with many of today’s cities under water. Plenty of tourists, but someone doesn’t want them digging and they face an attack on their sailboat while diving at the Huntington Space Museum. At the same time the interstellar transport Capella, lost in a space warp is due to emerge after eleven years (several days to the passengers). Alex’s mentor Gabe was a passenger. Fun, as usual.
Ben Tripp has a tale of an indentured servant in the middle eighteenth century turned into The Accidental Highwayman (hard from Tor) when his master returns one night dying from being shot. He, in addition to robbing coaches, had contracted to rescue a fairy princess on her way to marry the future King George III against her will. He does this with the help of a witch and some tiny fairies who can shoot fire. The dragoons are after him because he has been mistaken for his master and that ties his fate to hers and her rebellion against her father. With arrow totting pixies and horrendous goblings facing them, it is the test of a teenage hero to survive and protect his princess. This is the first of three adventures and lots of fun.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr has had eighteen tales set in the Recluse universe where magic comes from control of order and /or chaos. Heritage of Cyador (hard from Tor) continues the tale of Lerial a grey magician and second son of the Duke of Cigoerne during the early years of Hamor when it was ruled by five dukes. When the Dutchy of Aftrit comes under attack from the Duke of Heldya, Lerial is sent to provide small aid. Since Afrit’s wizards are owned by its merchant class, Lerial is the only one capable of stopping the order and chaos wizards that could turn the tide of battle. In addition Afrit is a place for him to find love. This is a routine adventure from an author I really like.
What if the Artful (paper from 47North)  Dodger met up with the future Queen Elizabeth and fought vampyres with Bram Van Helsing. Peter David takes this silly concept and turns it into a fun melodrama, mixing in characters from Oliver Twist like Fagin and Fang (now vampyres) and using a style that easily could have come from the pen of Mark Twain. It starts with the princess deciding to leaver her palace (where she was tightly controlled by her parents) to see the real England and runs into the Dodger who turns out to be a gentleman is thieves clothing. What a giggle.
 Keith Stevenson tells of a scientific expedition to the possible inhabited planet of Horizon (ebook from AUS Impulse) that takes forty-five years for a crew in deep sleep. But on the outskirts of the new solar system, the crew awakens to find one member dead and the A. I. guidance system crippled. A course change sent from Earth has code designed to destroy their ship. Cait Dyson, Mission Leader of The Magellan not only has to deal with the internal politics of her small crew, including one member who can connect directly to the ships computer, but also with politics of an Earth population facing famine because directed genetic diseases have wiped out food crops. The inhabitable planet might represent a place to plant a colony for humanity to make a new start and one of the Earth groups sent warships, leaving soon after the Magellan to ensure the crew makes the right decisions. A message sent from Earth gives direction on how to built a communicator that allow instantaneous communication with Earth and complicates the politics and morality even more. Fun. I gulped it down.
David Weber enlists Timothy Zahn for A Call to Duty (trade  from Baen) in a tale set in the early years of the Manticore kingdom when politicians want to get rid of the Solarian Battle cruisers moth-balled in orbit because the kingdom has no threats. The tale follows Travis Uriah Long through his enlistment in the Navy till he is part of a special mission to investigate ships that Haven is selling. Pirates have decided to highjack two destroyers but thankfully a Manticore Battle cruiser is available to stop them. Fun.
Diana Pharaoh Francis has a nice mix of murder, romance and magic set in Diamond City, a corrupt city built into a mountain. The Tyet criminal factions control the police  using  the five types of magical powers. Riley Hollis has a very powerful  Trace of Magic (paper from Bell Bridge Books) in that she can sense people’s traces. Unlike most tracers, the trace never fades for her even after the subject dies. She stays under the radar pretending to be weaker than she is, but strong enough to find people for clients and kidnaped children for her own satisfaction. Then the cute cope,  Detective Clay Price, she’d been avoiding drags her into a deep plot involving a mcGuffin sought by all the gangs. It doesn’t help that her sister’s ex, whom she still loves, has been kidnaped or that Clay’s brother is the head of one of the Tyet Gangs. Soon she’s facing bullets and forced to stretch her abilities with her powers to survive. If you don’t mind a woman having sex a few hours after being shot, the story is enthralling. I’m eager for the sequel.
Sara C. Snider has a medieval fantasy sent in a world in which magi’s have built towers and use their magic to stabilize area from the magic of strange creatures like Kobolds and
Brownies. Emelyn is an orphan raised working as a  house servant at age seventeen. Then Kobolds cause everyone in the small village to start dancing except for her and two magi suggest that if  she comes with them, she’ll discover who her parents are. A man her age, Corran joins her, claiming to have been an apprentice for a wood carver who hadn’t had an apprentice in two decades. Iyen’ a young girl with magical powers keeps appearing. Then, when the corpse-like lampyres attack a town, she somehow dispels them. One of the magi tries to teach her their version of magic with runes and words, but it doesn’t work for her. On the quest to The Thirteenth Tower (paper from  Double Beast Publishing), a Magi tower with all dead, she loses Corran and finds older versions along with older versions of Lyen. This is a fun coming-of-age tale set in an interesting world.
Michael R. Underwood has a tale of the magic running below New York city and tied to five magical hearts, one per borough. Jacob Greene belongs to the powerful Greene family who have no problems with human sacrifice to raise power. When they killed his best friend he ran to St. Mark’s University in New York where he earns his tuition with work study and tries to avoid the magic stuff. His room mate thinks he is weird because he knows nothing of modern movies. Then his sister comes to town determined to capture the five hearts, kill anyone who gets in her way and use the hearts to get the gatekeepers to open a gate and let The Younger Gods (ebook from Pocket Star) out. He isn’t powerful enough to stop her so he finds allies in werewolves, a voodoo mamba, and yes his room mate who had been assigned to watch him. Yes his sister does get to the gates and the only way to stop her is to compromise his principles. Fun mix of multiple magic styles with a good feeling for New York City.
I watched the timer on the website  eagerly to buy the fourth Wearing The Cape ebook by Marion G. Harmon. Small Town Heroes (Amazon) was worth the wait and as much fun as the previous three. This time, borrowing from Eureka (TV Show) Astra is sent a dream that a small town will be destroyed. Littleton is in an alternate reality from Guantanamo Bay on a Cuba that has discovered capitalism and is run by a hidden super-powered person. The bad guys want to steal something from the town. It’s a good time for Astra to leave Chicago because of a scandal from an inadvertent fight during a flood rescue mission. Astra may have all the powers of Supergirl except for x-ray vision, but she is facing super villains and needs all the help she can get. I’m waiting for the next.
Jeff Somers wrote a noir tale about blood magic last year. Instead of just make a sequel We are not Good People(trade from Gallery) rewrites the first so as to allow a sequel (minor changes) and adds the second half. Blood is magic using the proper words and the more blood the more powerful the magic. When we first meed Lem Vonnegan and his less bright partner Mags, Lem refuses to use any blood but his own; limiting him to minor scams. Then he comes into the perview of the most powerful mage, Mika Renar so old she’s practically a mummy and afraid of death. Her solution, immortality requires the death of most of life on earth. In the first version Lem was in the right place and time to stop the sacrifices that would trigger world death. In this version he almost does so. The problem is another piece of magic, Kurre-Nikas the that can reach into the past and change one thing. His enemies use it to bring about an earth filled with the dead and Mr. Sommers allows readers a tour of this horrible tour before. Lem resets the world to normal. The problem is that the Kurre-Nikas feels like deus-ex-machina,. Still the tale is fascinating and the world worth returning to.
    Baen has new fun tales of Shattered Shields (paper and edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt) many set in established universes.; classic tales in The Baen Big Book of Monsters (trade and edited by Hank Davis); and tales and Provocations from Michael Z. Williamson Tour of Duty (paper). They’ve also reprinted Robert A. Heinlein’s classic libertarian classic Beyond this Horizon in trade.
    The 78th Anniversary Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference, Philcon, will be on November 21st -23rd in the Crown Plaza Hotel, Cherry Hill, NJ. The Principal Speakers are  Sharon Lee & Steve Miller known for their Liaden Universe tales. The artist guest is Bob Eggleton It’s $50 for the weekend, but there are day rates. Always fun. I’ll be there
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords)