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Science Fiction for December 2018
    Winter is a great time to find fun Fantasy and Science Fiction   
Adrian Selby has a tale of early civilization in a world in which plants have a great effect on people, the proper blend making warriors far more powerful and new mixes more important than new weapons. Teyr Amondsen had spent years in militias before retiring to become a merchant. She is building a road with forts from the port city of Hillside to the Circle inhabited by various tribes where she had grown up. She and her husband and their step son take settlers and soldiers on The Winter Road (paper from Orbit) to visit the various forts she had built and visit with family. What she didn’t know was that a warlord had risen in the Circle with chalk covered soldiers who will kill anyone who gets in his way. She will end up naked and abandoned to death in the wilderness. Of course she survives and returns for revenge. This is an  extremely bloody tale of amped up warriors. Very intense.
Mirah Bolender writes of a world with 20th century technology, magic, and too many monsters. While walled cities keep out the wilderness, broken amulets can infest the house they are found and kill all the inhabitants. Only the sweepers of the city, using weaponized magic, can destroy the infestation and protect their city. Specialized pits are used to keep the broken amulets quiescent. The City of Broken Magic (paper from Tor), Amicae, pretends the monsters are the work of the mob and that the city walls protect their population, though the leaders know the truth. Clae Sinclair is the last of a family of sweepers and his only apprentice, Laura Kramer, learned of the profession from books. Her Aunt and friends wish she would find a more appropriate and safer job, or just get married. Then a very rich man in charge of sewage for the city decided to run a pipe in a way that conflicts with the pits, and suddenly Laura and another newer apprentice have to face the possible destruction of their city. This is a world well limned with interesting details that make it quite real. Lots of fun and I hope a return to this world is warranted.
Imagine if the Berlin wall had been erected out of pure magic. W.L. Goodwater creates an alternate  Eisenhower era, with all the politics the same. Karen O’Neil is a research magician called in when the CIA discovers a Breach (paper from ACE) in the wall. The soviets send their most evil agent, Nightingale. A ex-Nazi magician who helped build the wall wants to defect. Of course there’s a mole. But at the heart of the problem is a deep secret, a magical book that one of the Nazi magicians had hoped to end the world, and instead created a dangerous area. Spies and magic during the cold war is a weird mix, but fun adventure actually works very well.
Once Upon a River (hard from Atria/Emily Bestler Books), a wounded man comes caring a dead girl in his arms, and promptly collapses.  Rita, the local nurse in Radcot on the Thames, is called to treat the man. Then the girl comes to life. Diane Setterfield tells a wonderful Victorian tale centered on three people who claim the child. One couple lost a child two years before in a kidnaping. Another is the grandfather of a child whose mother committed suicide. The third is convinced it is the return of her drowned sister. Slowly the truth is revealed. This is an entrancing tale whose characters slowly grab the reader up in their travails.

Tasha Suri imagines a three hundred year old Empire of Sand (paper from Orbit) where the first emperor, Maha, uses the power of magical desert storms, which come from dreaming gods, to insure the empire’s success. For that he needs the power of Amrihi natives who can magically touch the storms since they descend from magical Daiva who at one time mated with humans. But the Amrihi suicide if captured and hide in the deep desert. Mehr is the daughter of the Governor of the Amrihi provence and an Amrihi mother. She has no defence when Maha’s mystics come to wed to Arum, an Amrihi man under Maha’s control. The two have to dance in the storms in order to change the world, and if they don’t dance, the Gods could awake and destroy it. This is a solid romance with interesting background. It drags the reader deep into its drifting sands and absorbs all attention.
Dayne Heldrin believed in The Way of the Shield (paper from DAW) and the Tarian Order. He wanted to protect people with his sword and shield and mostly save lives. But Parliament decides who will advance. He and his mentor had been sent to rescue a kidnaped noble child. Alas the child was hurt and his mentor killed. Returning to Maradaine, the city in which all Marshall Ryan Maresca fun tales are set, the master of the order informs him that he will never advance to adept. Then a group of wannabe revolutionaries decide to try to kill members of Parliament, and he and Jerinne, one of the initiates become involved in trying to stop the plotters, whose real leaders are very high in status. Lots of fun and very enjoyable.  
Don Sakers & Melissa Scott (whose The Roads of Heaven I’ve read numerous times since their publication in the mid 80's and which need to be republished soonist) start a neat series in a complicated far future that has humanity spread out over thousands of worlds and across Five Planes (paper from Speed-of-C Productions) of existence. Justices, aided by artificial intelligences settle legal disputes across the five planes, overruling governments and large corporations as needed. Large luxury Plane liners, piloted by a huge A.I,  carry passengers. The tale starts when one of these liners, attacked by pirates, would have been lost in the maelstrom of hyperspace currents is led to safety  by the mythical fifth generation ship that apparently had helped ships before. The human pilot, Val Milat is ordered to keep silent about the event and quits the ship to discover the truth. Supreme Justice Nalani Lotuma has come out of near retirement to find a missing friend and co-Justice.  Pirates attack the Liner Quintile Illumination’s A.I, killing it with a logic bomb and leaving the huge liner potentially lost mid-drop. There’s a major war starting on the fourth plane that’s forcing a settled asteroid to dare try to drop a plane on it’s own. Alas, not everything is tied up. I’m hoping for the next episode to come soon.
It’s taken five years to get to the end of  Edward Lazellari’s of a prince sent to our world to protect him when his country is invaded. With the Blood of Ten Kings (hard from Tor), he is very important. Fourteen years in our world, is only two days in his, and he and his protectors are transferred back when they’re not ready.  Of course the villains are truly evil, and the fun of having an armed helicopter attacking a medieval army makes the whole tale worth the ride. Fun.
Antony Johnston, whose made a name for himself in graphic novels like the one turned into the movie Atomic Blonde, sets his tale of a cat burglar with impossible skills in a world with futuristic tech and magic. Nicco Salarum is down on his luck, and takes a commission to steal a magical amulet from a visiting governor. It’s an impossible theft, but the consequences are so horrible that Nicco has to travel to the land that the governor came from and steal back the amulet from the leader of the revolution. He has to use his wits, when he doesn’t know the language, and when crossing a swamp filled with monsters. Stealing Life (paper from Abaddon Books) is a romp of action-adventure. Fun.
Brandon Sanderson has a tale of a genius with a Legion (hard from Tor) of imaginary people who help him with cases. Stephen Leeds considers himself perfectly sane, even though he flies first class with extra seats for his imaginary friends, and needs large cars to hold all the aspects who he needs to solve the latest mystery. Like a missing camera that can take pictures of the past, or a missing corpse with information encoded in its cells. It’s a fun, but silly read.
For two decades and a book a year,  Neal Asher has been building aspects of the humanity’s Polity worlds. With aliens, artificial intelligence, and humans modified both with technology and with biology, his worlds and both strange and filled with superscience. One species, the Jain, have been extinct for five millennia. Their technology has destroyed civilizations.  Outside an accretion disc of the remains of an ancient battle, the Polity has created a wall of battleships to keep the technology contained. Then a collector of Jain technology releases The Soldier (hard from Skyhorse Publishing). To complicate things there’s an ancient, extinct species whose corpse is revived, a woman, Orlandine, who can go from human to full AI with a thought, and who designed the fortresses, and other odd beings. Fans of the series will be glad to see old friends. Mr. Asher has a gift of keeping his complex universe understandable to readers. Highly recommended like all his work.
I have really enjoyed Jeff Wheeler’s tale of a Harbinger, a dreamer of the future, set in a Victorian society with magic.  In the third book, Iron Garland (ebook from 47North) Cettie Pratt has been managing her family’s floating estate while sending her dreams to her adopted father Fitzroy who is the admiral in charge of fighting the battle with the other world of Kingfountain, accessible through a magical gate. Sera Fitzempress, supposedly heir to the throne and hated by her father, has been in house arrest. After a major battle, the only hope her world has is for her to got to Kingfountain and marry their prince after making a peace treaty. Two more books remain in this fun series and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  
Ben Aaronovitch has a wonderful series about policing the magical sides of London. Peter Grant, a cop in London, demonstrated a talent for magic when he encountered the mad spirit Mr. Punch in the first tale. He’s been trained by Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in London. He’s also been sleeping with one of the human spirits of the river, Beverly. In the seventh tale, the problem is what Lies Sleeping (hard from DAW) in the ancient past of London. The faceless man, Martin Chorley, has a plan to bring back someone from the fifth century using an ancient magical sword, a magical bell, and the energy from killing Mr. Punch. He’s working with Peter’s old partner, Lesley and all sorts of minions. The joy of these books come from descriptions of odd, but very real parts of the city, and to the descriptions of actual police work. Lots of fun.
I love fun tales of superheroes and James Alan Gardner delivers in a second tale of  Jools and her friends who became super in a world with darklings like vampires and demons and sparks. They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded (ebook from Tor) tells of a bazooka possibly created by the supervillain Diamond. Robin Hood and his gang want to steal the device, and their capture of Jools, somehow puts her in the middle of the theft. With lots of super fighting and impossible odds, Jools confronts her addictions. I hope there’s more.
The Mortal Word (paper from ACE) is needed to save a peace treaty in the multiverse between the Dragons representing order and the Fae representing Chaos. Irene is called in with her friend the Great Detective and her former protégée Kai to solver the closed door murder of one of the Dragon diplomats on a early 20th century Earth. It’s a pretty standard Sherlock Holmes case  with the added complication of Dragon and Fae powers until the murder is discovered and all hell breaks loose. Genevieve Cogman tells a fun mystery for Irene’s fifth library book.
Dru Jasper, a crystal sorceress, and her friends are convinced they have stopped the end of the world. Bu there’s No Sleep till Doomsday (trade from Pyr) once a magical amulet is stolen from her shop. The trail leads to an irradiated empty town deep in the desert and a second demon car as powerful as her friend Grayson’s vehicle. The action is non-stop and the evil sorceress really wants to destroy the world. Laurence MacNaughton adds another pulse pounding tale in this fun series.     
Anise Wise has been working in her Aunts magical bakery for a few months now, but her brush with death imbued necromantic magic into her Sugar Spells (ebook from  Ink Monster, LLCby Lola Dodge)) and everything she bakes. There’s a strange being that can wants and can actually eat her pastries and wants to pay in gold. It turns out her bodyguard is basically a slave because of his contract. All she wants is to pay off that contract, now that she’s no longer in danger. Alas there’s a giant bad god lurking and waiting to capture her. Silly fun.
Twenty-one books ago, David Weber introduced us to Honor Harrington, a star ship captain of the Star Kingdom of Manticore. In a very settled galaxy, Manticore and it’s enemy, the People’s Republic of Haven were tiny compared to the huge Solarian empire base on Earth. Their wars with each other kept improving their technology until they were no longer neo-barbarians, but potentially far more powerful competitors. Unfortunately there’s an evil cabal imbedded in Solarian bureaucracy that want’s war and isn’t afraid of setting off hidden nukes. This final tale needs Uncompromising Honor (hard from Baen) though millions including those close to her were killed.
    Baen has four collections; Straight out of Tombstone (paper edited by David Boop) with weird tales of the West; Target Rich Environment volume 1 (hard ) with shorter tales from Larry Correia known for Monster Hunter International tales; The Monster Hunter Files (paper) edited by Larry Correia and Bryan Thomas Schmidt with tales by other authors; and  Forged in Blood (paper ) edited by Maichael Z. Williamson and set in his Freehold universe.
    Baen has also reprinted in trade Elizabeth Moon’s Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, the first tale of The Deed of Paksenarrion, and the first of Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series, Tinker. The Alexander Inheritance about a modern cruise ship sent to the Hellenic period has been reprinted in as a paperback. It’s written by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett. So has P. C. Hodgell’s The Gates of Tagmeth, the latest of Jame’s adventures.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on December 14th  The meeting starts  at  8 p.m. at International house  on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. Lawrence Schoen, author of the Barsk novels, among others, and Klingon language scholar will speak As usual guests are welcome.
    Dr. Henry Lazarus is a retired 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.