Henry L Lazarus
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Science Fiction for December 2010
By Henry Leon Lazarus

    I like to walk while reading a book, startling bystanders. The other day I passed someone reading a book while walking, but he was reading his on a Kindle. I guess that means we have entered a new era. Electronic books have arrived for good. Whether you read  books on a designated reader, a computer pad, or a smart phone ( like I do) most books are available. Isnít this a wonderful time to be a reader?
Sharon Lee uses older magical creatures, like dryads, and selkies in the enchanting Maine coastal town of Archerís Beach. Kate, who had been a land guardian and exiled herself of a bad decision that let a friend die, returns when her Grandmother disappears. Kate had been born on a princess on one of the more magical worlds and escaped to her grandmother on Earth when her father was killed. But the powerful wizard has come to Archerís Beach searching for something he thinks was stolen and Kate and her magical friends can stop him only if she reconnects to the land and if she gets her Carousel ride ready for early opening of the amusement park. Only the Carousel Tides (trade from Baen) and the imprisoned beings who inhabit the creatures of the ride will determine her success. This is a warm, wonderful look at the fantasy just below reality and has such a strong sense of wonder, it is impossible to put down.
Carol Berg introduces us to a world transitioning from magic to science. Powerful magic using blood has been outlawed after a major war. On the anniversary of his sonís death, the king is nearly assassinated, and he appoints his best friend and closest advisor to determine how a man, drained regularly of blood for months, was able to shoot an arrow into the kingís horse. Then the advisor disappears and the King suspects another attack will come on the next anniversary. Enter Portier de Duplais, library to the college of magic and failed magician who is a distant cousin of the king. Together with the Queenís half-brother,  Ilario, a seemingly useless fop, and Dante, a loner magician who passed all the magical tests without going to the college he has to determine who is responsible and why illegal blood magic plays such a strong part in the various attacks on the King. Thereís also the problem of the missing advisor he might have actually survived and is mixed into the plot somehow. Fascinating. Luckily the tale is complete. Sequels to this first tale of Collegia Magica, The Spirit Lens (paper from Roc which I bought for my Kindle App) will have new characters and problems.
Iíve been very impressed with N. K. Jemisinís tales of a world whose creators and the godlings they birthed wonder around where everyone can talk to them. The sun god has been overthrown and made basically mortal, leaving his priesthood still in power, but very confused. Then Oree Shoth, a blind artist whose ex-lover is one of the godlings, is present when another godling is found murdered. In the city of Shadow under the World Tree in The Broken Kingdoms (trade from Orbit) a sect of the Sun God worshipers uses powers inherited from breeding with the immortal godlings to destroy them. Since her paintings have magic. Oree and her new, friend who keeps killing himself and then is reborn to health, are under suspicion, especially when she uses the magic inside her to fight the priests sent to arrest her. This is an unusual and addicting world and I hope further tales are on their way.
Itís wonderful to see Louis McMaster Bujold bring Miles Vorkosigan back into action. This time Gregor sends him to Kibou-daini where senior citizens are put into cryogenic storage. The owners of the storage facilities, who can vote by proxy for their clients, have accumulated a lot of political power and are looking to extend that power to one of words of the Barrayaran  Empire. An attempted kidnaping leads Miles to the son of a woman forcibly frozen because a dirty secret from one of the companies. Of course he and his sister have to be rescued, their mother brought out of cold storage, and the information she holds brought to life. The bad guys are incompetent, making Miles job a little easier and the plot a bit silly. This tale of a Cryoburn (hard from Baen)  is a must for fans of the series and luckily comes with a cd of all the previous books in the series.
L. E. Modessitt, Jr imagines a time, ages from now, when a massive canal, totally impervious to change, crosses one of the continents. As human civilizations rise and fall, and as the earth goes from ice age to overheating and back to our normal, three groups of scientists to to investigate the canal and find themselves under attack by their own governments. Since the canal is locked out of time, it, somehow, can connect the three groups and provide help for their deadly problems. One of the groups in under attack by a weapon that could destroy the universe. All tthe researchers  have to do is somehow connect to the controls of the canal, and for one of them to actually direct the forces the canal can master to become a sort-of Empress of Eternity (hard from Tor). This took about half the book to get into,. Mr. Modesitt is one of my favorite writers so I persevered, and found the end worth the trouble.
Laura Anne Gilman continues her tale of magic and wine in  Weight of Stone (hard from Gallery which I bought for my Kindle app) in which Jerzy and friends travel across the ocean to find where the evil that is attacking his lands is coming from. The bad guys turn out to be a bit routine, but I still love the magic that comes from the preparation and decanting of special wines. Jerzy, and ex-slave and apprentice wine maker, is solidly growing into his magical talents, even though the outer world still confuses him. The final book in this trilogy, coming next year, holds promise.
I always compare Rachael Caineís tales of The Morganville Vampires as counter to Buffy. Claire, the heroine, is very smart and has no super powers. Most vampires have settled in the small Texas town which has itís own university. Claire was an early admission student because her parents thought her too young to go to MIT (yeah she is that bright) and no one outside of the town know that it is run by vampires. In the eighth book, Claire and friends go on a road trip to Dallas, because Michael has a recording session. But their minder. Oliver, has a side trip in mind, a trip to a small Texas town where new vampires created by the evil Bishop have been heavily infected by the Kiss of Death (paper from New American Library that I bought for my kindle app) that zombifies them. Then Claire and her boss Myrnin, in book nine, uses a computer to recreate the vampire brain powered system that kept people leaving Morganville from remembering the vampires. Alas it goes horribly wrong erasing three years of memories from both vampires and humans. Myrnin goes nuts and blocks Claire from turning off the machine that is turning Morganville into a Ghost Town (hard). Ms. Caine, as usual, has created impossible to put down tales. Iím always up for Claireís latest adventure.
I also keep following Patricia Briggsís tales of coyote shifter, Mercy Thompson. In the fifth book it is time for the villain to be fae, this time a fairy queen who is enthralling humans and is searching for a magical Silver Borne (paper from Ace that I bought for my Kindle app) object that Mercy owns. The queen is not above attacking the local werewolf pack, especially Adam, its alpha and Mercyís lover. It doesnít help that Samuel, Mercyís friend, physician, and werewolf, is suicidal and only his wolf aspect is keeping him alive. Mercy eventually has to face the queen in her lair and only her ties to those she love enables her to survive.
Another series Iíve been following is Jennifer Estep whose tales of Spider (Gin Blanco), an assassin with elemental powers of stone and ice made her impossible to stop. Eventually she hopes to face Mab Monroe, a powerful mage with fire magic so powerful she rules the town. She burnt out Ginís family when Gin was a child, forcing Gin to live on the streets. Venom (paper from Pocket which I bought for my Kindle app). Now with the sister she thought dead come to town as a police detective, and a whore-house owning vampire being stalked by Mabís enforcer, a giant named Elliot Slater. Elliot likes eventually to beat his girls to death and Rachael, even though a vampire, wouldnít survive. Heís fast, deadly, and attacking him would alert Mab. I like this series well enough that I bought Karma Girl (paper from Berkley) about a reporter in a world of super heroes and super villains who has a reputation for finding the secret identities, at least till one of her finds commits suicide., and itís sequel Hot Momma (paper) about two superheroes falling in love. Lots of fun.
WVMP, the radio station run by vampires who play music from the era they were turned, is back this time with zombies. According to Jeri Smith-Ready, these zombies need magic to rise and are only deadly until the sun burns them to a crisp. But Bring On the Night(paper from pocket which I bought for my Kindle App) and the monsters might tear up Sherwood, if not stopped. They also are carriers of a lethal version of Chicken Pox that can kill in hours anyone not immunized previously (alas like our hero Ciara Griffin who has finally said yes to her vampire fiancee Shan). Of course thereís the massive zombie rising,  that can only be stopped by slicing the zombies in two, and a deadly plot that only Ciara can stop. Fun and another tale is coming next year.
Graham Sharp Paul continues his tale of Helfortís war of  two human empires, the Federation and the Hammer Worlds (boo hiss),  at war for over a century. Helfortís love Anna is in a POW camp. Helford has become such a thorn in the Hammer Worlds paw that they send him a message Ė surrender yourself or Anna gets tortured and raped to death. As commander of the three remaining dreadnaughts, he first thinks of desertion but his crew has other ideas. The Battle for Commitment Planet (paper from DelRey) starts with a basically simple plan, let the planetary defense destroy his dreadnaughts while he and the crew use assault shuttles to rescue the Federation Prisoners. Then join the rebels and carry the fight directly to the enemy. The Hammerís have control of air and space, and outnumber the rebels, but are suffering from morale problems from too frequent purges of anyone considered heratic. Iím waitting for more in this fun series of well described battle both in space and on the ground.
E. E. Knight continues his tale of David Valentine soldier in the fight against the vampiric Kurians who drink human auraís. This time David learns of a group of Grogs (brought from another planet to replace humans) who have been settled in Missouri. Now they work with the Kurians but might be resettled in the recently freed areas of Kentucky. To get them there requires removing their leader and then a hard March in Country (hard from Roc) so David goes in pretending to be a human slave until he can make his move. Mr. Knight has attempted to keep his tale of revolution against alien invaders as realistic as possible and there is no easy solution to the horrors of this Vampire Earth.
David Webber writes in Tom Clancy style in his alien invasion novel, Out of the Dark (hard from Tor which I bought for my Kindle app); a gun of certain muzzle velocity will punch a bullet through the windshield and the driver and into the seat behind him. The Shongair think that by hitting Earthís major cities with small rocks (destructive as nukes but no radiation) the survivors will simply acknowledge defeat and surrender. Yeah right. The aliens arenít ready for guerrilla warfare and their armored personal carriers donít have enough armor for earth weapons. I felt cheated by the real solution, however, which Mr. Webber introduces in the Carpathian mountains and a resistence fighter who admires Vlad the Impaler and whose friends seem unkillable. It was still a fun read.
Earthís empire required soldiers so they cloned them. As Steven L. Kent tells it, in this sixth book of the series, Wayne Harris was the last of the liberator clones, the only clone type that wouldnít suicide when told they were a clone. In the last book he figured out how to fight alien invaders to our galaxy and recovered many human planets. Then he, and the rest of the clones, were betrayed. They were set as targets to blood the new all-human Earth fleet, but Wayne survived to rejoin The Clone Empire (paper from Ace). His first problem, find the deadly, assassin clones who are infiltrating the clone planets and look like ordinary clones. But success with that leads to another problem. The aliens are back and they are wiping life out on all the planets they were driven off of. This is the penultimate book of this fun military series, and I hope it has a rousing finish.
S.L. Viehl has a fitting end to her fun Star Doc series about an immortal physician who works on hurt aliens in a strange future in which is doomed by a  black crystal that is semi-intelligent. When a strange starship millions of years old is discovered by a rift in space, Cherijo and her husband Duncan, are part of the team sent to investigate. But it takes a Dream Called Time (paper from ROC which I bought for my Kindle app) and a trip to the past to prevent the creation of the black crystal and save the universe.
Alan Dean Foster starts a tale where half of human practice The Human blend (hard from Del Rey) and modify themselves with biologic and mechanical gadgets. Two thieves rob the wrong man, stealing a mysterious chain. One is killed quickly and the other goes underground, finding a doctor willing to work with him to investigate the origin of the chain and what it means. The blending bothered me, since I have an artificial hip which has more limits than the real one I was born with, and the tale has been broken into three parts with two years left till itís conclusion.
    I put the U. S. S. Enterprise Ownerís workshop Manual (hard from Gallery Books and written by Ben Robinson and Marcus Riley) in my waiting room. Itís a must gift for Star Trek fans.
    Harry Turtledove has a collection of tales of alternate times and places, Atlantis and Other Places (Hard from Roc).
Baen has reprinted John Ringís tale of New Hampshire citizens fighting back against alien domination by selling maple sugar, Live Free or Die in paper, and has a third volume of The Complete hammerís Slammers in trade from David Drake.
    The City & The City by China Miéville was the winner of the 2010 World Fantasy Award.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on September 10th, 2010 at 8 pm at the Rotunda on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus. Ellen Kushner, host of the radio program Sound & Spirit on Public Radio International, and the author of three major fantasy novels, will speak. Guests are welcome.
 

 Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods from Wolfsinger Publications which can be bought on Amazon.com.