Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               HOME
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Science Fiction for February 2020
by Henry L Lazarus

    Science Fiction and Fantasy promise strange worlds. When they actually deliver the invented worlds can be truly strange.
A. K. Larkwood tells of a universe of multiple worlds that are accessible through a dry endless maze. It is a place of living worlds, dead worlds, and gods that give magical power. Csorwe, an orphaned child is doomed to be the latest child bride of a death god with The Unspoken Name (hard from Tor). A wizard, Bethandros Sethannai convinces her to leave her post and help him regain rule of his city. After being tortured and almost losing a tusk, she accomplish that, becoming his agent. The most important thing for her to find is a magical Reliquary. Along the way she meets a sorceress whose people want her to meld with four other people. There’s a deep secret in Bethandros’s past that brings Csorwe into conflict when she tries to help a friend. Excellant.
Justin T. Call starts a large fantasy series about a boy with a prophesy who is destined to become the great evil of his world. The Academy of Chaenbalu is in a hidden city that kills any born with a defect like a missing arm. Annev de Breth has hidden his missing left arm with a magical artificial one that has not be detected during his training to join the avatars who hunt magical objects.  Helped by Sodar, a two millennian old priest, he finds his willingness to help fellow students blocking his rise to avatar ranks. Sent to kill a peddler who has somehow found his way to the town, he cheats and some how is raised to the rank of master avatar, as Master of Sorrows (hard from Blackstone Publishing) and put in charge of a few of his rivals on an expedition to steal magical objects. This promises to be a major series and I look forward to future episodes.
James A. Cambias starts a series about the Apkallu who rule the world through the demons and spirits they call. Samuel Arquero had his wife and child murdered  to a demon attack. Then Lukas came to him and offered to help him enter the society so he can destroy it from within. So Sam moves to New York under an assumed name and soon becomes The Initiate (hard from Baen) entering the ranks. Lukas encourages him to kill one and then another higher ranked Apkallu, causing descent. While it took Sam the whole book to discover who had set the demon on his family, I felt it was obvious. This is an absorbing tale of revenge, and I look forward to the sequel.
Elaine Ways’s physicist husband was murdered after creating a way to visit the near Afterlife (ebook from Zimbell House Publishing). Three months later someone tries to drive her off the road and hshe loses her daughter, Samatha, while trying to escape. The world is very different than the reality she knows, but her skills in the martial arts help her against the demons and the evil Lilit who is sticking kids to a wall. Her only hope is to, according to the seeress, remember. Meanwhile her sister Jessica uses technology to enter the afterlife to find her daughter. I have a fascination with tales of the afterlife, and J. K. Ishaya & Kenneth Mader satisfy it well.
Genevieve Cogman’s sixth tale of the secret library is a fun heist tale.  To retrieve a special book, with The Secret Chapter (hard from Ace) from Mr. Nemo for the Library, Irene and Kai have steal a huge painting from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna on a world where the secret police are chasing supernatural creatures like vampires. Even helped by a dragon hacker wanted by the dragon rulers, and several fae thieves, the task is almost impossible. Not only that but everyone has their own motives to cheat, including Mr. Nemo. Even the painting isn’t what it seems. Lots of fun for fans and those new to the series.
Ben Aaronovitch latest police-magical procedural has Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, give False Value (hard from Ace) as he pretends to be fired from Scotland Yard in order to work undercover for an American Tech millionaire who may be using magic. Also investigating are two members of the New York Library’s magical detectives. Harrassed by deadly magical flying drones, and demon traps, the trail leads to a century old Mary calculating engine that produces magic. Lots of fun.
Tessa Andrews helped the The Late Great Wizard (paper) whose resurection had gone wrong when his house burnt down and ended up with a magical Maelstrom stone in her palm. Now she decides to help the Broadstone clan of trolls find the missing, or stolen ruby called the Eye of Nimora which can determine whether someone is lying. Along the way, with the help of the Maelstrom stone, she becomes The New Improved Sorceress (paper from DAW).  Sara Hanover has more adventures coming because Terssa’s father is still a ghost trapped in the basement.
Lois McMaster Bujold returns to her sharing knife world with a short tale of Knife Children (hard from Subterranean Press). Barr Foxbrush made a mistake when he was eighteen, using his lakewalker abilities to enjoy a young farm woman. Two years later he discovered he had had a daughter. Unfortunately Lily runs away at age fourteen because of her growing lakewalker abilities. Barr finds her, and because of a series of misadventures ends up in his home lakewalker camp, trying to explain the daughter no one in his camp had ever heard of. This is a good tale to enter this complicated world, and a nice addition to those already familiar with the series.  A warm family drama.
The tale of physician Miles Singer who hid his Witchmark(paper) and his family ties until he had to help his sister, Dame Grace Hensley, destroy the aethernet that used human souls to power the city of Kingston, the capital of Aeland, got C. L. Polk the World Fantasy Award.
There was also a plot by the conquered Laneerians who were going to use the souls of their dead to force Aerian soldiers mad. Now Grace, despite under indictment, returns to the city because she hears the Stormsong (paper from Tor) of a vast winter storm.  Unfortunately the Queen makes her Chancelor making her balance between the needs of the kingdom, and the Grand Duchess of the Amaranthines who can judge the kingdom. Then a princess of the Laneeri is murdered in captivity is murdered before she had talk about the Laneer treachery. Add in Grace’s involvement with a reporter, and the attentions of the prince heir, and you get a complicated plot that is a bit too complicated. It’s all too woke for me to fully enjoy.
Aileen Erin has a romantic tale of human and Aunare who are similar enough to interbreed. The  Aunare have spotted shapes, fao’ana, on their skin that glow with emotions and for some can give super powers. Maité Martinez is half -Aunare and trying to survive and get Off Planet (paper) since Space Tech, the ruling corporation on Earth, broke treaty with the Aunare and killed all  Aunare visitors.  After escaping Earth and surviving the mines she was assigned to when caught she finds her soul partner and future king of the Aunare Lorne. But she is still Off Balance (paper from Ink Monster, LLC) with her early memories wiped to help her survive her run. It doesn’t help that Lorne’s father and King wants break the arranged marriage contract. Heavily romantic and lots of fun. I’m waiting eagerly for the third.
David Sosnowski is an interesting author whose first novel is one of my favorite books. His current tale is a dark Buzz Kill (hard from 47 North) in which the ending is shown by the prologue.  Sixteen-year-old George Jedson had been hacking and living in the San Francisco public library when he hacked the autonomous car of tech billionaire. Because his hack actually improved the car’s software, he is hired. The company is looking for a solution to the problem of its users committing suicide on the platform. George thinks that AI bot might be the solution. Pandora Lynch’s father does remote psychiatry from Fairbanks Alaska. Pandora is very bright had also a hacker.  The two teens start collaborating.  Pandora’s first reaction of high school after being home-schooled is to throw sodium in the boy’s toilets after they teased her. Her punishment is to visit her Grandmother, who is slowing losing her memories. Somehow Buzz gets created and becomes self-aware. I wish the ending wasn’s so dark, because I was fascinated by the two teens.  
In Beth Ovlermsyer’s strange world, magic comes from The Goblets Immortal (hard from Flame Tree Press). Aiden Ingledark knows nothing of the six goblets until he barely escapes capture. Aiden can summon non-iron objects to him or dissolve the into a nothingness that he can later retrieve them from. He has always supposed he was responsible for his parent’s deaths.  Hunted by Lord Dewhurst he is almost trapped by a friend who betrayed him. Then a witch, Meraude,  come into his dreams, asking him to retrieve one of those goblets. He rescues a girl with powers from goblin witches, escapes capture by wraiths , he eventually has to break into Lord Dewhurst’s manor to find a map to the goblet. I found the world interesting and look forward to continuing the adventures and eventually finding goblets. Fun.
Noir detective tales work very well in fantasy worlds. Luke Arnold’s The Last Smile in Sunder City (paper from Orbit) is set in a world where humans dammed up the magical flow. Vampires can’t feed and are slowly wasting away. Werewolves have become half-human, half wolf, and Goblin magical devices no longer work. This first book starts fetch looking for two missing people; a Vampire turned teacher and one of his students, a teenage siren who wants to sing professionally. So far there’s no sign of foul play. I love this interesting world and can’t wait to find out the next complications in this fun case.
    Baen has reprinted the funny Gremlins Go Home from Ben Bova and the late Gordon R. Dickson in trade. There’s a fun collection of tales Straight Outta Dodge City(trade) edited by David Boop.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on February 7th. The meeting starts  at  8 p.m. at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church at 39th  and Locust Walk on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. Dina Leacock, horror writer, 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 fusion generation requires less energy because only one frequency is needed rather than a full spectrum.  It also explains dark matter, the proliferation of subatomic particles, and the limit of light speed for matter