Henry L Lazarus
4603 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Science Fiction for December  2011
by Henry Leon Lazarus

    The problem with Global warming as a disaster is that it lacks excitement. Yeah, a century from now we might have to deal with rising ocean levels and move some of our cities away from coastal areas. Science Fiction readers know true disasters; meteors that wipe out most of life on earth; a plague with a ninety per cent kill rate like the Black Death of the middle ages; solar flares that burn off sections of the Earthís crust, or maybe a return Ice Age like the one twelve thousand years ago that covered what has become many of our major cities.
James Dashner sets his tale of a young man on the run against an Earth hurt badly by solar flares and fighting a deadly lab created disease that drives people mad. The story started with a memory-wiped Thomas sent to a group of teen-aged boys who have to deal with the constantly changing walls outside their living area. Thomas soon becomes The Maze Runner (trade) and, with the last person sent, a girl, finds the way out. Then the survivors of their group and a group of women have to face The Scorch Trials (trade) and cross a hundred miles of territory almost destroyed by the solar flares and through a city filled with zombi-like victims of the plague. An organization called Wicked is mapping their brains from these encounters trying to find The Death Cure (hard from Delacorte). But Thomas runs from them, finding civilized Denver desperately trying to keep the plague out and where immune people are hated and frequently attacked. The he joins a rebel attack on Wicked. All three books are very intense and difficult to put down. The ending is worth the trip, but I hope the Earth never goes through a disaster of that magnitude in mine of my grandchildrenís life time.
Harry Turtledove borrows his disaster from 600,000 years ago, imagining a Supervolcono: Erruption (hard from Roc) shooting out of Yellowstone National Park. Main characters include L. A. Cop Colin Ferguson, his new love, Geologist Kelly Birnbaum, his ex-wife and his scattered children. This is the first volume of three and shows us a normal present until the volcano blows and sends dust as far as Los Angeles, blankets a number of central states and starts the world towards several years without summers. Very intense. Iím not sure Iím going to read the next volume because of the intensity.
Monster attack is another thing to not worry about. But thereís something compelling about a huge monster attacking Washington D. C, and crushing the monuments under its feet.. . Larry Correia has an odd alternate history in which people starting getting powers in the middle of the eighteenth century. In this second tale he starts with an attack on FDR initiated by a secret government organization who  blames the Grimnoir Knights, eventually to bring all actives under government control. The knights have to face demons of greater and greater power, while some of their members are trapped by devices that block their powers. Faye, the powerful teleporting girl also has to come to terms with the fact she may be Spellbound (hard from Baen) and the last person spellbound turned into a multi murderer. This is a fun series that I loan to my son-in-law because he also really likes it.
Shutting off the power would be devastating to the modern world. Thatís what Joe Haldeman has aliens do to Earth after giving it free power. Carmen Dula, Martian colonist who discovered the Martians is now Earthbound (hard from Ace) after traveling twenty-five lightyears to the Otherís planet. After she arrives the power is shut off, then put on for a week. When the power is up, she and her friends have access to a jet so they travel to Russia and to Camp David, but soon crash near California, which the Governor has isolated with H bombs on his border, when the power is cut for the second time. After that she and her friends have to contend with  roving bicycle gangs. Disasters tend to bring out the worst in people.
Probably one of the worst disasters the future can throw at us is a mental disease that takes over peopleís minds. Walter Jon Williams looks at a future in which everyone is backed up, can change bodies easily, and live in pocket universes. Implied Spaces (electronic from  Night Shade Books which I bought for my Kindle App) introduces us to eight century old  Night Shade Books who we first meet, along with his talking cat and magical sword,  in a sword-and-sorcery universe. Someone is popping people to another universe to have their minds altered. It turns out that one of the eleven, super, artificial intelligences has been corrupted and that leads to war, zombie plagues and worse. The villain actually wants a war with the creator of our universe on the basis of complicated data that show our universe is as artificial as the created pocket universes. Lots of fun.
If you have seen the HBO series Game of Thrones, and found George R. R. Martinís series A Song of Ice and Fire, then your probably aware that the fifth massive book is out. Itís very dense and took me a full week to read. Thereís some nice scenes like two snowed-in armies. Jon Snow is attempting to get his enemies, the wildings, to man the unused forts along the wall and Daenerys Targaryen who hatched the three dragons at the end of the HBO series, has to do a Dance With Dragons (hard from Bantam) as armies approach the city she conquered with free slaves. The problem is that the dragons are larger than horses and not controllable. Alas, in a world where winter can last several years and is almost upon them, there is no resolution yet to any of the many story lines. Itíll be years before we find out what happened and probably some of the story lines in this book will have made it to television before the next book arrives..
Cherie Priest has a fun series that takes place where the Civil War has continued. For two decades and a strange gas from Seattle is creating addicts who eventually become Zombies. Earlier in the War a submarine, Ganymede (trade from Tor) was sunk in a lake near New Orleans which is controlled by Texicans for the Confederacy. So Free Blacks and other supporters of the Union have to sneak it out and take it down river to the Bay where a Union Dirigible is waiting for it. As always the world building is top-notch, and the tale fun. The submarine, even without torpedoes is exactly what steam punk requires Ė very neat. I love this series.
Iíve been enjoying Kaylie Chanís tales of a Nanny to the child of a Chinese God. Emma has gotten more and more powerful as she trains in fighting skills while fighting off demons working for a powerful demon who wants Johnís head to become the number one demon son. While that wonít kill John, it will force him back into primal shape and make him leave this world.  Blue Dragon (paper from Harper Voyager) has no answer to why Emma turns into a snake sometimes, but it does answer some other questions while setting up a second trilogy that already is in print in Australia. Ms. Chan does a nice job of putting Chinese mythology into our real world and I hope that Harper Voyager prints the follow up series.
Jack McDevitt won a Nebula award for one of the Alex Benedict tales about a relic hunter ten millennium from now where the culture feels very twentieth century except for the electronics. A famous physicist, known for his out-spoken views of alternate realities disappeared literally after being dropped off at his doorstep. When his widow dies four decades later, Alex is asked to sell his effects. But the puzzle leads deeper. There a planet abandoned by humans that is inhabited by the artificial intelligences that used to work for the people. Have some of them become truly sapient? Then there is the work that Dr. Robin had been working on. He had been taking old space yachts, like the Firebird (hard from Ace) and sending them off seeming randomly. He had a fascination with ships lost in normal jumps. Was this part of the reason he disappeared? All these questions are answered including what happened to Dr. Robin. This is fun, but a minor addition to a fun series.
The fifteenth Repairman Jack tale shows us The Dark at the End (hard from Tor) Iíve always thought of this F. Paul Wilson series as a sort of Travis McGee tale with a supernatural bent. Jack has deliberately stayed off the system with no SSN etc. Now he is actively involved with the fight between two great powers in the Meta-universe, fighting an immortal man who has been working to bring  the doom of Earth for Millennia Jack is also trying to protect the Lady who is the Avatar of the living Earth, and helping a young woman retrieve her stolen baby. Heís got all sort of weapons at his disposal, but, since this is the penultimate book in this and other series, things donít go as well as hoped. This is a must for fans of the series.
Chris Evans(not the actor) concludes his tale of the Iron Elves, which mixes the blood of Gunga Din and Beau Geste with heavy Magic. The set piece of Ashes of a Black Frost (hard from Guardian Books) is in a deserted fort far from civilization, guarded by dead monsters. Thereís also been a big snowfall so that Mr. Evens can have Major Konowa and his trips ride a huge luge down to battle with an army of giant apes. The final confrontation with the evil Shadow Monarch seems almost postscript after that magical battle for survival.
Jennifer Lynn Barnes has an odd take on monster-hunting girls like Buffy. Sixteen-year-old Kali, raised by her Professor father, has the strength and speed to kill monsters Every Other Day (hard from EgmontUSA). When she sees a classmate dying of a monster parasite on one of her normal days, she transfers the parasite to herself, hoping to survive until dawn the next day when her blood will kill the monster. One thing, of course, leads to another. Helped by two girls she really didnít know before, one with  psychic powers, and a handy brother in the FBI, and the other the girl she helped whose father happens to run a secret monster lab. Along the way she meets the mother she hasnít seen since she was four and learns the reasons for her strange powers. Lots of fun and impossible to put down.
Steven L. Kent concludes his tale of a future Galactic wide human civilization that had created sterile clones to man its armies. In The Clone Redemption (paper from Penguin) Wayson Harris is leading the Clones to desperately evacuate human colonies before the Avatari, alien invaders from a nearby Galaxy, burn the planets they are on. The fight eventually takes him to Earth. At the same time a Japanese fleet find the  Avatari home planet and faces impossible odds. This is a nice conclusion to a fun, forgetable, future- military adventure. I donít keep these.
The U.S.S. Merrrimack doesnít have a lot to do since peace came between the Terran and Palentine empires. The battleship is glad when aliens attack a planet with intelligent (and very cute foxes) and possibly intelligent mastidons. The world is even more interesting because it is the first living world found with DN similar to that of Earth. That arouses Romeís interest.  Romeís legionnaires  come in groups of eight who are trained as brothers. They are bonded by a hazing that has them one by one forced off a cliff that has a hidden net. But for one group the net doesnít open and they runĖ eventually dropped from the Legion and the empire into The Ninth Circle(hard from Daw) of Hell . So they steal starship and become pirates. But Rome has other plans for them and that puts them on the planet with the foxes. I felt the plot was a bit contrived , but still enjoyed the tale.
    Baen has preprinted John Ringoís Citadel (paper)about Earth defending itís gate to other worlds with fancy weapons; Sharon Lee and Steve Millerís last Lliaden Universe novel, Mouse & Dragon(paper); and two classic Andre Norton novels, Moonsingerís Quest (trade). Del Rey has a trade printing of Alan Dean Fosterís The Human Blend which is soon to get a sequel. Harper Voyager has reprinted in paper Kim Harrison latest about the witch Rachael Morgan, Pale Demon.
    Collections this month include Worlds (paper from Baen) with Eric Flint tales, and The Power Illusion (paper from Baen) with classic tales from Christopher Anvil.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on December 9th at 8:15p.m. at International House on  the University of Pennsylvania. Campus .John G. Hemry, a retired United States Navy officer who also writes fun galactic war tales under the name of Jack Campbell will speak. Guests are welcome.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords)