Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        HOME
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Science Fiction for November 2015
by Henry Leon Lazarus
    Books considered for SF’s many awards are usually published in the Fall. Publishers expect that readers will only remember the most recent books, and thus present their best wares in this season.
Ian McDonald has a very decadent, libertarian society set on Luna. New Moon (hard from Tor) is the first half of a duology telling the beginning of a war between two of the five dragons, controlling families, that dominate the moon. Mackenzie Metals was the first and resents all the rest. The Corta’s ship energy producing Helium 3 to Earth and were the last to be created. Dying Adriana clawed the dragon out of Mackenzie and her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren live in style in caverns she discovered when she was a dust grubber. The moon is a place of high technology reserved to the rich and the poor find trouble even paying for essential like air. Natives and the emigrees who have lost too much bone density, usually two years, cannot survive Earth. The Corta family, who came from Brazil and still use Portugese, are our protagonists along with Marina Calzaghe and immigrant living in poverty after her promised job disappeared. Luna’s law is all contract because even murder with the right contracts is quite legal. This is a fascinating look at an unusual society and I can’t wait for its conclusion.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr borrows from the classic Rendevous with Rama for a tale set a century from now that is unlike anything he has written before. Alayna Wong is on a post-doc as the only person at COFAR, the large telescope on the ar side of the moon. She spends her time doing research, repairing the giant array, and writing to her parents and the pilot who piloted her to the moon, Christopher Tavoian. Then an object on a cometary orbit, turns out to be manufactured. At a time when the Sianese are flexing their muscle in space and threatening India, Noram stands apart. Chris is selected to investigate the object using robots on a solo expedition. The Sianese launch a month later with a larger crew and actually land on the object, labeled Solar Express (hard from Tor) because it is actually moving faster than predicted. This is a quiet tale of normal scientists working with a strange object. Despite little action, I found the tale fascinating. I hope it gets nominated for some awards.
Mitchell Bogatz has a sentimental tale of a future where geniuses are cloned, but remain property. The fifth Timothy Cottard is remarkable smart. We meet him as a teenager when he tries to escape and learns that his body will poison itself at forty. In the last year of his life he meets a lab assistant Alan Turner who works with him on his final project of nanotech Tiny Instruments (paper from Publicity) and then helps him escape to the real world for his final six months.  This will bring a tear or two.
Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy about a world where powers come from ingesting metal ended with the destruction and rebuilding of that world with one of the characters becoming its god. The first tale of Waxillium Ladrian, a lawman from the rough who returns home to take up his position as a  Lord of Elendel who apprehends criminals on the side. It’s a year later. He’s engaged to a lovely woman whose family has helped restore his family’s fortunes. Then the Governor’s brother is murdered while selling his vote on council to criminal elements (also murdered) A crazed immortal being who can assume the shape of anyone is responsible. Wax has to face these Shadows of Self (hard from Tor) with the help of his friends, his fiancee, and another of those immortal creatures sent to help. Exciting.
Christina Farley introduced us to sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee in Gilded (paper) who returned with her Father, after her mother’s death, to Korea from Los Angeles where she was raised. As the descendent of one of Korea’s demigods One such demigod, Haemosu, has been stealing the souls of the eldest of each generation and she has to kill him to survive. Then in Silvern (paper), she has to find a magical orb in North Korea to stop the god of Darkness, Kud from causing a war between North and South Korea. Unfortunately Kud cursed Jae’s boyfriend and to save his life, she has to swear allegiance to Kud. In Brazen (paper from Skyscape) she has to find another orb hidden in China to finally stop Kud and save her homeland. These three tales show a very real Korea from the viewpoint of a teenager who is both native and new to the environment. Jae is a very gutsy girl adept in hand-to-hand combat and archery, but is still very female. There’s a nice solid ending to the series. I really enjoyed the series.
Eliza Nolan has a nice tale of a girl developing super powers in an American High School in Minneapolis where her father hid her after her mother disappeared when Julia Long was a tot. Phoenix Awakens (ebook for Amazon) tells how her dreams of secret rituals turn out to real when the hunk in them transfers to her school. Eventually with the help of a good friend, she hops freight trains to get to Charleston where her boy had been kidnaped to complete the ritual stolen from Phoenixes. I really enjoyed it and hope to read the sequel.
Every so often Amazon recommends a series that just hits me and I devour it as fast as I can. P. G. Allison has a nice series about Missy the Werecat (paper). Away at Soccer Camp, she has her first change at thirteen and can’t figure how to change back for two years. So she survives as a Cougar, even wounded by a bear and shot by a hunter. Figuring how to turn back and perfecting her ability, she heads home, only to save a family whose car ran over a cliff. That ut her in a hospital with confused doctors because of her tremendous healing ability. Then she works with tutors to catch up, and also learning Hand-to-hand combat and winning a tournament. But when she helps a friend being raped regularly by a new stepfather, that points the mob at her. There’s also her true love Mike who she bonds to.  Then Missy Goes to West Point (paper) where she deals with male cadets unhappy with women in the Army. She also meets a witch (they manipulate energy) who can throw lightning bolts and the two of them frighten a mobster out of white slavery. Missy's First Mission (paper) takes place during her freshman year and sends her to Afghanistan to rescue three German engineers from the Taliban. That summer she helps the  special forces destroy the Taliban base and is wounded, recovering quickly and also using her healing to help her fellow soldiers. When the niece of the General is kidnaped, Missy's Misadventure (paper) tells how other witches help locate the girl and how she rescues her By Missy Makes Mayhem (paper from Amazon), Missy has improved her abilities so that she can become energy and teleport in that form. That helps her find the suicide bombers, with the help of government agencies and witches who locate the terrorists. There is some awkwardness to the writing and the sex scenes, while always between bonded heterosexual pairs and  typical of teenage lust,  might just offend some people. Also while Missy can be killed and drugged and so is vulnerable, she has become almost too powerful. I’m addicted.
Marion G. Harmon has a new “Wearing the Cape” tale. Ronin Games sends Astra, Artemis, and Ozma to Japan. Hope (Astra) has been dreaming of a tree, she had seen with Kitsune. To avoid getting pulled into this dream world is to find Kitsune in Japan, which involves getting into Japan illegally and crossing real barriers. Then, while pretending to be Ronin (unsanctioned supers) they have to face the Yakuza, deal with a ghost, face a being so powerful it might merit the name god, and help defend Japan from Godzilla type monsters. I eagerly await the next adventure.
Jennifer Estep is a writer I’ve been enjoying for a long time. Cold Burn of Magic (Paper) introduced Lila Merriweather, a teenage thief living on her own since her mother was murdered. Adopted by the Sinclair family as a body guard for Devon  Cloudburst Falls is a place dominated by families with magical talents and magical creatures. Dark Heart of Magic (paper from  Kensington) starts with the discovery that someone is murdering tree trolls.  Then she has to participate in a blade competition held once a year between the families. Then someone kills one of the Sinclair guards to steal his talents and Lila realizes that either she of Devon could be next. Ms. Estep is starting to repeat herself, and some of the teenagers come off as a bit obnoxious, but it’s still fun and well suited for teenagers.
    Christopher Nuttall, a very prolific writer, ends one fun series and starts another.
 Bookworm IV: Full Circle (ebook from Elsewhen Press) completes the tale of the librarian who had the contents of the full magical library dumped in her head. Racing the mad emperor to the tomb of the wizard king, Johan and Elaine  hope to stop the magically alive king from rising from his tomb. Alas they fail and only with the full magic of the capital city and Elaine’s full understanding of magic, can he be stopped . Fun ending.
The Oncoming Storm (paper from 47North) has an intrepid captain trying to save the commonwealth of worlds from the growing Theocracy. Katherine “Kat” Falcone was promoted to captain years before time because her powerful father is worried about how the newly appropriated world, Cadiz is prepared for a Theocracy advance. The admiral in charge has let everything slip to avoid threatening the Theocracy. It doesn’t help that the rebellion against the Commonwealth on the ground is successful.  When Kat’s ship captures some pirates and proves they are funded by the Theocracy, he only wants to introduce her to his son because of her social standing. Then her mission to find a Theocracy secret base is too successful. Lots of fun. I’m waiting the sequel.
Angela Holder writes of a pleasant world run by guilds. Josiah is a bit to rambunctious to be The Fuller's Apprentice (ebook from Deore Press which I bought) and because of one antic is about to be sent back to his parents, when a Journeyman Wizard offers to take him on as an assistant on his travels around Tevenar. Wizards, acting only with their bound familiar, can heal and open windows to see the near past and present. They act as judges using their powers to find truth.  So Josiah joins Elkan and his donkey Sardonyx as they heal were the goddess Mother lets them and find justice if possible. They also face floods, and bandits and a father who beats his wife and children. I liked this well enough that I pre-ordered the sequel
Larry Correia starts a fantasy set in a world where the oceans are filled with demons who sometimes invade land. The continent of Lok is protected with black swords that date from the time that the demons were pushed back. These magical swords pick their user by killing those that don’t meet its test. Lok has a heavily controlled caste system, and the casteless are treated worse than slaves. So when boy cleaning the blood of the potential users is picked by the sword, the Valon family he is of their family, wipes him memory, and sends him to the harsh protector guild that maintains order, hoping he’ll die. Twenty years later this Son of the Black Sword (hard from Baen), Ashok, is told the truth. He immediately confronts the family, which leads to the death of the head of the family, then believing in law above all else, he sends himself to jail and awaits his death. Unfortunately that offers an opportunity for a Judge seeking to rule the continent. This first part ends with a very exciting battle and left me hungry for the next part.
M. C. Planck continues his tale of of Christopher who walked from our world to a world where magic works and huge monsters attack, and promptly brings gun powder and canons to improve the kill rate. In Sword of the Bright Lady (paper) he was so successful protecting the drafted young men from the village he arrived at, that he was tortured to death. But in this world money allows revival. Gold Throne in Shadow ( Trade from Pyr) has his army assigned to a border town. Politics force him to move to a hastily built fort which comes under attack by an army of monsters that outnumbers him fifty to one. Guns and nerves carry the day, but that brings him to the attention of truly evil people, and sets of the next tale. Fun with exciting battle scenes.
Rysa Walker concludes her fun time travel tale about Time’s Divide (paper from Skyscape). In the basic premise historians from 24th century were marooned when their home base was destroyed. Only their descendants like  Kate Pierce-Keller can use the pendent time traveling devices,. Prudence, the first, has been used by her father, Saul, to reshape the past to create a religion Cyrisism by using time travel to create very real miracles. But they have decided to use a disease from the 23rd century to cull out non-believers. Kate’s quest to stop them involves an interaction with Houdini in the past as well as a trip to the 24th century to retrieve pendents before Prudence can get them. So back and fourth across time she flits, sometimes being literally in two places at the same time. Very nice conclusion to a fun series.
David Walton continues his tale of an artificially life form that lives on the quantum computer that is the Universe. The Varcolac returns fifteen years after the events of Superposition (paper). Ryan Oronzi has created a separate universe and is using it to allow quantum effects like teleportation and Supersymmetry (Trade from Pyr). Jacob Kelly, the hero of the first tale is murdered by an implosion at a Baseball Stadium. His daughters, Sandra a cop, and Alex, a physicist (they were the same person til age 14) are on the run. The final scenes are in Poland where the Varcolac has gotten hold of nuclear launch codes and is determined to wipe out humanity. The Physics wouldn’t work in my little field theory; henrylazarus.com/utf.html or in most other theories I know about, but it is sort of fun. The ending is a time travel cheat and I can’t recommend it.
    Onward Drake (hard from Baen and edited by Mark. L. Van Name) is a collection of original stories from major authors honoring David Drake’s long career and his being a special guest at the the World Fantasy Convention this year. Bryan Thomas Schmidt has put together a collection of mostly new tales of non-NASA space expeditions by major authors, Mission: Tomorrow (trade from Baen)
    Steve Tribe takes a neat behind-the-secenes look at the British show, in Sherlock Chronicles (hard from Dey St), I am amazed by the show and bought the DVD’s. My wife who likes the classic Sherlock Holmes BBC production, hates this show.  Sherlock also streams on Netflix. Fans will go nuts over this book.
    Baen has reprinted Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor (trade) ; Brian R. Torgersen’s fun tale of The Chaplain’s War (paper) and David Weber and Eric Flint’s addition to the honorverse, Cauldrons of Ghosts (paper).
    The 79th Anniversary Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference, Philcon, will be on
November 20st -22rd in the Crown Plaza Hotel, Cherry Hill, NJ. The Principal Speakers is   Wen Spencer known for her Elfhome series that sends Pittsburgh to the land of Elves. . The artist guest is Richard Hescox.  It’s $50 for the weekend, but there are day rates. Always fun.
    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 where six formulas define our universe.