Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                HOME
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Science Fiction for March 2020
by Henry L Lazarus
    As spring comes, there is more time for the adventures of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
In Ditchtown, a slum of future Miami,  Ashley Akachi is a player in the infinite game, a game played by the whole body in addition to the mind. As Ashura the Terrible she and her team are among the best gamers. The money she earns is barely enough to pay for her mother’s treatment to reduce the psychosis caused by fighting in the water wars. Gamers make excellent soldiers. The evil bad guy creates a new helmet allows  computer control of their bodies. Ash discovers this in a clandestine operation in the real that she does as a side job for a secret government organization. Then she and her gamer team are working to find the source of these new helmets before being attacked in both the real and the game world. Otaku (hard from Tor) by Chris Kluwe is a thrilling tale of a depressed future where the haves and have-nots live in very different worlds. It’s impossible to put down.
Talon Novels is reissuing C. R. Daems’s Red Angel series which I hadn’t read. Anna Paulus almost died of the incurable Coaca virus at age four but she somehow was adopted by a rare poisonous Krait snake she calls Red. She grows up and is adopted by a former Navy captain and goes through the classes of the Naval Academy by seventeen. Then she is recruited by the Naval Intelligence Agency. Her first concerns Smugglers (ebook). It’s a rare trick to make data analysis exciting, but C. R. Daems makes the tale impossible to put down.  Not only that but I gulped down the other four books in the series. Lots of fun.
E. J. Swift imagines time travel as an addiction that only a few rare people can partake.  In 2318 the world is destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. The only way to stop this is to introduce Halle, a college student on a gap year in 2017, to interact with the temporal anomaly beneath Millie’s bar where she finds work.  When she finally gets time travel to work, she is stuck in 1875 for months with the Millie who founded the tavern. Then she ends up in World War II helping a young cellist recover her cello before being rescued by the underground.  As she travels she changes the present, setting Paris Adrift (paper from Solaris). he dips more and more into the past and future, helped by another time traveler and lover, Leon. Eventually she learns that if she keeps time traveling, she will waste away. Fascinating.
If there was an SF award for the largest imaginary creation, then Zack Jordan would win it handily. He starts with a network whose nodes are spheres surrounding stars connected to over a billion stars. The intelligent network allows information to flow instantly within the network and ships to move from solar system to solar system through gates.  Gates are open to all species that elect to join and only one has ever refused and was apparently destroyed.  Sarya knows she is The Last Human (hard from Del Rey) and has been adopted by an intelligent, giant black widow spider. When kidnappers come to the water tower station she has been raised on, it sets off a chain of reactions that ends up with her an a ship owned by a super-intelligent seven-year-old alien who thinks she has been manipulating things. Unfortunately the network and a multi-bodied Operator are fighting for her allegiance. This is a mind-blowing tale that jumps to larger and larger playing fields abruptly. Amazing.
Katie M. Flynn has a solution to create intelligent robots: simply use down-loaded minds from the recently dead.  The Companions (hard from  Gallery/Scout Press) is more of a group of tales detailing the emergence of this technology at a time when society is under quarantine from human created viruses. Lilac a new companion, figures out how to escape her owners and find the woman who had murdered her decades before. That leads to slow changes in society and eventually to the end of the companion program. I’d nominate this for awards.
In a world much like our own,  Randi, newly graduated from high school in her small town, just wants to be a hair stylist. But the mark of a Paragon (hard from Zimbell House Publishing) appears. The gods have given seven tokens for each generation to fight evil. However is someone can call the owners and claim all the tokens, they can manifest an eighth power, time travel. So hunters are going around trying to collect the tokens and kill Paragons. The authorities seem to ignore the problem. So Randi and her friends go to the nearest big city hoping to find clues as to what is happening (and actually looking at the college there) . At the same time, spirits are coming up from a mine and causing people to turn violent. In addition, every night instead of sleeping, Randi finds herself in a training gym. Shauna Alderson tells an exciting tale with some neat twists that kept me absorbed. Fun.
Duncan M. Hamilton tells of a world where magic had ebbed and now was coming back, awakening dragons and other magical creatures. Guillot who had been drinking his life away after exile from the court and his wife’s death, has the village on his estate destroyed by a dragon. It’s been decades since the last Dragonslayer (paper) was need and the magical techniques that protected them have been lost. Guillot was, in fact, the last Knight of the Silver Circle (paper).  But with the help of a wizardress Solène who had been hiding her powers for fear of being put to the stake for being a witch, he manages to kill two.  But there’s a problem. The Prime minister, Amaury, an old rival of Guillot, has used his small magical powers to throw the king into a coma, and has declared himself Prime Defender. Guillot and Solène have to each be a Servant of the Crown ( hard from Tor) to cure their king and set him back on his thrown. Fun tale with lots of potential for sequels.
After literally going to hell and back, Ingred Castine returns to L.A. and meets up with  Sebastian Vickery to deal with dreams of an old house. This time it’s a case of Forced Perspectives (hard from Baen) as someone wants them to join humanity into a single consciousness in a ceremony on Halloween 2018. The old house was the scene of a previous attempt in 1968. Soon a  millionaire and his henchmen are chasing him, while an Egyptologist is trying to remove the magic from a stolen hieroglyph that someone had painted on the walls of Cecil Demille’s Egyptian palace built for the 1928 version of The Ten Commandments.  Tim Powers has lots of fun and action in this sequel. And plenty of ghosts too.
Carrie Vaughn returns to her series about Kitty who is a werewolf , radio host.   Ricardo de Avila was one of Coronado’s soldiers and turned into a vampire five centuries ago. The Immortal Conquistador (paper from achyon Publications) tells of several events in his long, and independent life. Fun.
After her family was murdered, Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona had to Kill the Queen(paper) and then Protect the Prince (paper) but now she has to face her real enemy and Crush the King (hard from Harper Voyager) . Her best chance is during Regalia Games attended by all seven kingdoms. The Mortan king has huge storm powers and Evie’s immunity magic seems much weaker. As usual in a Jennifer Estep tale, Evie has to be smarter and faster than her opponent. Lots of fun, even though I never read the first two books of the series.
The colonist star ship Outward Initiative was hit by disaster losing four lifeboats with passengers in them. One makes it to Orado as does the Outward Iniative. The other three land on a Castaway Planet (paper) they call Lincoln filled with floating continents. When one continent rots away because of the interference of one group, it takes an Castaway Odyssey(paper) for them to reach another continent where the other colonists have survived. Back home the search has begun to find them, while the planet has more surprises before the Castaway Resolution (hard from Baen) sees them rescued. A bit predictable, but light fun.
    Solaris has published a collection of Made to Order (paper) with tales from by John Chu; Daryl Gregory; Alice Sola Kim; Rich Larson; Ken Liu; Carmen Maria Machado; Ian R. Macleod; Annalee Newitz; Suzanne Palmer; Vina Jie-Min Prasad; Alastair Reynolds; Kelly Robson; Sofia Samatar; Rivers Solomon ; and Peter Watts and printed on 100th anniversary of the word “Robot”.
    Tor has reprinted the excellent China Mountain Zhang (trade) by Maureen F. McHugh about a U.S. under Chinese control. I still have my copy. Baen has reprinted James L Cambias’s fun Arkad’s World in paper, Tim Powers’ Earthquake Weather in paper, David Drake’s fun second tale of a chaotic universe that can be walked through in The Storm,  and Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes’s tale first published in the 1987 The Legacy of Heorot in trade.
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on March 13th. The meeting starts  at  8 p.m. at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church at 39th  and Locust Walk on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus. Simone Zelitch, author of the alternate history novel Judenstaat 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.