Science Fiction for December 2012
by Henry Leon Lazarus
The singularity, a term invented by Verner Vinge
in the 80's is a time coming soon in which computer intelligence has grown
so great it has outstripped humanity and everything imaginable is possible.
It a time when minds are uploaded to the cloud and back into artificial
bodies. It is a wonderfully confusing future, that I doubt will ever happen.
Imagine Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy written by techno nerds and filled with technical jargon that will delight people familiar with current technology and confuse others. Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross have so much fun with their post-singularity tale The Rapture of the Nerds (hard from Tor). Huw has been avoiding the growing cloud of micro-processors that have eaten all the rest of the inner Solar System ever since his parents uplifted, but making clay pots in Wales. Then he is requested to join a techno-jury to evaluate the safety of new technology dropped to Earth in Lybia and at the same time in infected by a unique virus. Chased out of Lybia with his teapot guide, he is dumped in an extreme religious right southern US where he discovers that the virus is shaping his larynx so he can talk to an ambassador dropped to Earth. Thatís only the first third. In the second he is uplifted to the cloud as a witness to help stop the government from destroying Earth and sending all its inhabitants to a simulation. Wow!
Charles Stross has a new laundry tale about the demonologist Bob Howard . The fun of the laundry books which mix spy novels with Lovecraftian demons is that Mr. Stross always chooses his style from a popular spy novelist. The first stole from Len Deighton and the delightful Ipcress File. The second borrowed from Ian Flemming, which didnít work as well since everybody has spoofed James Bond.. The Apocalypse Codex (hard from Ace which I bought electronically) uses Peter O'Donnellís fun 60's character Modesty Blaise found in comic stip, book, and even a movie.. Bob has to work with Persephone and her friend Johnny MacTavish as they look into a super church in Colorado. It seems the true believers want to wake as sleeping monster on another plane, thinking it is really J. C. Theyíve used mind parasites to take over the local police and blocked all the roads out of Denver. As usual the action never stops and our heroes barely survive. Itís impossible to put down.
Christopher L. Bennet tells of a time when the asteroid belt is a lawless area filled with habitats. To handle the problems a group of troubleshooters enhanced with genetic and bionic superpowers try to stop the terrorists and criminals. They have become very good at their task, attracting movers and shakers who want to use them. Emerald Blair, Emry to her friends, is one of their newest members. Her father left the habitat of Vangard, a pioneer in genetic engineering. Vangard had closed itself from the rest of the belt during the revolution from Earth, but now they have decided to become leaders at the same time the Troubleshooters have gotten new funding and suggestions that they move in different directions. Emry, who is Only Superhuman (hard from Tor which I bought at Philcon), is pushed in different directions not knowing everyone is trying to use her. Lots of fun and hard to put down. I hope thereís a sequel.
One of my favorite authors, Jacqueline Carey, has entered the paranormal field with fun tale of a quirky town, Pemkowet, where magical elements like vampires, fairies, ogres, etc are open. They are ruled by the goddess Hel. Daisy Johanssenís mother was impregnated by a demon which didnít stop her from loving her daughter who was mostly normal except for the tail. She earns a living as a part-time file clerk at the police department and also as Helís agent. Calliung her father for help, however, could cause Armageddon. Dark Currents (hard from Roc that I bought electronically) starts with a college student who drowned in the river when drunk, except his lungs were filled with salt water. Working with a werewolf cop as a partner, she has to question the local undines, fairies, and the immortal, emotion-eating ghouls who are important to the case. The boy did die accidently, but in an unbelievable way. This tale sets the stage for a long series, and I intend to keep reading.
The most amazing person ever to be President was, of course, Teddy Roosevelt. Mike Resnick has him in a major role in his alternate version of the 1880's in which Indian magic has kept the U. S. from crossing the Mississippi . This time itís The Doctor and the Rough Rider (trade from Pyr) have an offer from Geronimo. Kill a magical beast called War Bonnet and Geranimo will lift the barrier blocking American Expansion. Doc Holliday is on his last legs before TB gets him and Roosevelt had only come to the black hills because his wife and mother died on the same day. Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline are there to help, as they have been in the three previous books in the series. Lots of action and fun.
Kelly McCullough returns us to a fantasy world in which magicians get their magic from bonding to magical creatures. Aral Kingslayer became an alcoholic after his goddess who preached justice was killed and his order destroyed. Jax, another assassin and one time lover tells him that other blades have been captured and he and Triss, his shadow familiar that gives him magical powers, are needed to rescue them. So he has to pull himself together and become the best assassin of the age with his Crossed Blades (paper from Ace) . But in this fun adventure, not everyone is honest and treachery lurks behind every meeting. Impossible to put down even though this is Aralís third adventure.
Mike Shepherd tells a tale of Kris Longknife Furious (paper from Ace which I bought at Philcon) Last episode she had commanded a flotilla that had attacked aliens who threatened an avian civilization and refused any attempt at contact. Sheís been sidelined and a hundred and fifty planets want to arrest her and try her for murder. Then her grandfather decides that the aliens need trade goods and in stopping him, she ends up arrested and facing the death penalty. I love this space opera series and hope it continues for a while.
David Weber and Jane Lindskold continue the tale of teenage Stephanie Harrington who first discovered treecats on Sphinx. Itís Fire Season (hard from Baen) and not only the settlers but also the treecat colonies. In addition to the usual teen worries like getting a license and problems with parents, Stephanie finds a cute guy, the son of the leader of the anthropology team investigating whether treecats are sentient. This is a problem since they are telepathic and donít speak. Then the anthropology team parks on a bog and their aircar sinks. Their communicators donít work because of another problem. So of course treecats manage to get word to Stephanie who is helping fight a major fire and also rescuing another treecat colony. This is a nice continuation of a series that precedes David Weberís Honor Harrington tales.
Clara, whose mother has invented an artificial process for ammonia, and Tim, cabin boy have found their way to Australia. The Cuttlefish (hard). With the submarine in dry dock, Tim takes a job working on The Steam Mole (hard from Pyr) but his dark skin gets him mistaken for an aboriginal and kicked off the Mole in the middle of the desert. Clara gets a letter from the British, possibly from her father, Jack, who has been transported to work on the mines. With her mother sick (actually poisoned) Clara runs to Tim and steals a mini steam mole to find him on the desert. In the meantime Jack escapes. Meanwhile Claraís mother recovers and manages to get the rest of the Cuttlefish crew together to find her daughter and deal with a British invasion of Rebel territory. This nicely concludes the juvenile series. I found it hard to believe that the various characters would find themselves but Dave Freer justifies it well enough to allow for a fun read.
I knew that Alan Dean Fosterís tale of two ordinary folks making their way into a top secret installation in deepest Africa would end in a Deus ex Machina because otherwise there was no way that Whispr and his Physician ally Ingrid would manage to break their way into. But after surviving flash floods, sand storms and heavy security, The Sum of Her Parts (trade from Del Rey) takes them to a the core secret that I expected from the previous books. Itís still fun even though Whispr and Ingrid survive more by luck than by their wits.
I almost stopped reading Ian McDonaldís sequel to his fun Planesrunner (paper) in which Everett Singh found the secret to mapping the of parallel and is on the run from people who want the secret enough to have sent his father randomly out into the multi-universe. The problem was that the tale starts with an alternate Everett Singh who is turned into a modified cyborg with lasers and missiles to attack and kill the version of him still flying with the crew of airship Everness. Be My Enemy (hard from Pyr) soon returns us to our hero and is friend Sen as they find their way to the first Universe that discovered how to travel to alternate universes, but then had nano-technology go wrong and eat most of the people. Everett has to survive not only the attacks by his duplicate, but also find the technology that will help locate his father. Lots of action and fun.
Iíve been enjoying Sheryl Nantusís tales of super hero sidekicks who ended up saving the world from an alien invasion. Before that a group of guardians working for the Agency who keep them in line with bombs in their brain stems. Even though the remote signal was destroyed, there are still portable sensors. Heroes Lost and Found (digital from Samhain Publishing, Ltd) tells of a deranged guardian who wants to use one of these devices plus to control the remaining super heroes.Jo Tanis tries to catch him and ends up captured herself and forced to fight her own team. Lots of fun for those who like their super heroes with heart.
S. G. Browne considers Zombies with brains, at least as much as what they started with. When his hero, Andy (introduced in Breathers), escapes from the lab working on Zombies, he puts on a Santa Claus suit, tries to bring Christmas to a little girl, and break his friend out of the torturing lab clutches. I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus (hard from Gallery Books) is a very silly tale that is perfect for that rare combination of Zombie and Christmas lover and a bit of a giggle.
Travis S. Taylor presents his argument for A New American Space Plan (trade from Baen) It probably wonít happen.
Bantam Books has a collection of David Drake tales, Knight and Demons (trade) and George R. R. Martinís Dreamsongs Volume I and Volume II (trade) Baen starts the season with We Wish You a Cosmic Christmas (trade from Baen and edited by Hank Davis).
Baen has two paper reprints; Catherine Asaroís tale of music in her Skolian Empire series, The Carnelians; and classic tales from A. Bertram Chandler, First Command.
Bantam Books has reprinted George R. R. Martinís early novels in trade including: Dying of the Light; Windhaven(with Lisa Tuttle); and The Armageddon Rag. He was always a terrific writer, but these come with solid endings.
Baen has reprinted in paper classic tales by Cordwainer Smith, When the People Fell; Robert A. Heinleinís classic Starman Jones which still use sliderules to navigate the stars; David Drake and John Lambsheadís tale of human powered star ships that go Into the Hinterlands; and fun space opera by Robert Buettner, Undercurrents.
Del Rey has a thirty-fifth anniversary edition of Terry Brooks, The Annotated Sword of Shannara (hard). Mr. Brooks was, of course, writing his version of Lord of the Rings and has become a much better writer.
Gallery books has Star Trek: Klingon Bird-of-prey Haynes Manual (Hard) by Rick Sternbach and Ben Robinson for star trek fans.
The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting on December 9th at 8 p.m. at International House on the University of Pennsylvania. Campus. John Hemry, who also writes as Jack Campbell and is known for his fun space opera. As usual guests are welcome.
Dr. Henry Lazarus is a local Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords)