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Science Fiction for November 2016
by Henry Leon Lazarus
    Fantasy and Science fiction was named by Hugo Gernsback who created the first pulp magazine, Amazing Stories in 1926 devoted to tales like those of Jules Verne. Edgar Allen Poe  and H. G. Wells. Current tales are very different from what he published, and are constantly changing and getting better.
Ashes is a fourteen-year-old, con-man,. thief who's lived in Burroughside since he was found there at age three.  He's perpetually in trouble with Mr. Ragged, the governor of the slum. Candlestick Jack discovers him when he changes the face of a card in three-card monte, a change possible only for those with magical abilities. Ashes learns Artifice in return for helping Jack with his thievery, but has an agenda of his own. He wants to use his new ability to get rid of Mr. Ragged. Chandler J. Birch sets the difficulty higher because of R. Ragged's contacts with the ruling class, making The Face-Fakers Game (trade from Simon 451) even more complex, especially since Jack suspects Ashes is a spy for someone important. This is a fun introduction to what promises to be an exciting series.
Rysa Walker has an exciting beginning to a new series about The Delphi Effect (paper from Skyscape) Anna Morgan’s ability to pick up ghosts caused her parents to abandon her along with most potential foster parents. She has some control now as she is almost ready to graduate college, especially with the help of her adopted brother Deo when she picks up the spirit of Molly, a murder victim iof the Delphi group that is investigating psychic abilities, especially in the children of people who participated in CIA experiments and were given a drug that enhanced their abilities, and passed the abilities on genetically. Molly forces her to contact her ex-cop grandfather. Alas his attempt to verify her information brings her to the attention of the Delphi group. She gets help from other people with abilities working against the group and her Psychologist. Pulse-pounding action follows, especially when they capture her and kill people to see if she can absorb their abilities. Solid ending with enough open threads to make me eager for the next volume.  
Sharon Shinn has a tale of Leah, a member of the five families, who had been spying for the regent and five years later returns to this Unquiet Land (hard from ACE). She had left a baby behind, being raised by one of the four primes who can work the elements when she left.Mally had been a body double of the princess heir, but when the princess heir proved to have mental problems, she is now being raised openly. Leah only wants to reconnect with her daughter even though she regrets leaving, Chandran, a good friend behind. The regent, soon to be king, wants her to set up a store in the city to help get gossip about the Karkan embassy, a group trying to get allies in their quest for freedom from foreign domination. The problem is that the Karkans believe any sin can be bought off with donations to charity and their nobility has a truly horrible vice that is causing the death of poor Kingdom children. I always enjoy Sharon Shinn’s work and this tale of romance and adventure is hard to put down.
Genevieve Cogman returns to a universe of parallel Earths ranging from utter Chaos ruled by the Fae, and Order run by Dragons. The Invisible Library (paper) tries to find stability by collecting rare books that could effect worlds. Irene, now resident in a Victorian world is collecting books with her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent, when one member of the Fae decides to force a war between Dragon and Fae by kidnaping Fae and taking him to an alternate Venice,  The Masked City (paper from ROC) where he will be auctioned off. Fae magic tends to force the world into melodramatic tales – making Irene’s ability to rescue Kai with the help of her Great Detective friend, even though the prison is hidden in dark magic and the only way home is to free a captured train that can travel through the worlds. Lots of fun, and of course melodramatic on purpose. This series is growing on me.
Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor tell a fun Castaway Odyssey (hard from Baen) In which four kids, ages 8 through 16 join Seargent Morgan Campbell in Lifeboat drill on a shuttle when their starship explodes, leaving they lost in space. They have to fix their ship, and hobble to the nearest G star which luckily has a livable, green-hued planet they call Emerald. Survival on a strange planet requires extreme caution especially since there are real surprises that are barely survivable. Fun.
Mercedes Lackey began her career in 1987 with a fun tale of a magical land of Valdemar with its heralds riding magical horses called Companions who talk telepathically to their riders. In the latest tale, the city of Haven and the Palace are beset with nasty letters attacking women with careers. Then women who own shops have their shops attacked. Herald spy Mags and his wife, Amily, the King’s own, have to keep information Closer to the Chest  (hard from DAW) while dealing with suicidal trainees and upset women, before the women-haters  start attacking people. Fun.
Marshall Ryan Maresca has become an author I await eagerly. An Import of Intrigue (paper from DAW). Detectives Satrine Rainey, and Minox Welling, an  uncircled mage, have to deal with the death of a trader of noble background in the Little East quarter of Maradaine, where foreigners of many Eastern countries live, all with crazy customs. Minox has to deal with problems with his abilities. While Rainey has to deal with riots as the various Eastern cultures come into conflict. Alas the solution had a ‘Butler did it” effect.
Finally we have two novelettes from Jeff Somers that are prequels to intense tale of blood magicians, We Are Not Good People.  Lem Vonnegan and his huge sidekick Mags are magicians who have resolved not to use other people’s blood for their magic the way the master mages do. The Stringer (ebook from  Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc) is about a master mage determined  to destroy civilization and bring back mage power by demon possession. Last Best Day (ebook) tells how Lem is kidnapped and Mags has to get him back by using a spell that gives information about anything, but will kill him if he asks too many questions. Both tales are very noir and as intense as the novel.
    Baen has reprinted in paper  Charles E. Gannon’s fun  Raising Caine’ and the second volume of David Weber and Joelle Presby’s fun Road to Hell as well as David Drake’s tale of Patriots written 20 years ago in trade. Operation Arcana is a collection of fun tales edited by John Joseph Adams in paper. They have also acquired Susan R. Matthews tale of a doctor turned torturer. The first three are available in trade as Fleet Inquisitor. I plan to reread them before newer tales I haven’t read appear.
    The Science Fiction Society presents Philcon 2016 at the  Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill on November 18-20.  C.J. Cherryh is the Prinicipal Speaker, Dave Seeley the Artist Guest of Honor, and L.E. Modesitt, Jr.  As the Special Guest. Adults are $55 for the day rate. This convention may have been the first science fiction convention in 1936.
    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.