Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                                    HOME
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Science Fiction for April 2020
by Henry L Lazarus
    Fantasy and Science Fiction have many tales of plague. Hopefully by the time this is printed Covid-19 will have peaked.
Nadja Bikram is lured to the planet of Skiathos (ebook from 3B Independent Publishers) because the language of the eight-foot tall Lacertians seems to be untranslatable. A former starship captain and noted linguist she and her team are perfect for the job. Unfortunately the survey team has lost its leader and is a mess. Searching for the missing scientist, Nadja’s skiff is shot down and she finds herself with the native Lacertians along with  two marines who had survived a previous wreck are there to help her. Fortunately living with the natives, who are well adapted to their desert land, provides answers to their language and their food is edible. In an effort to get to place where she can signal the mission, she finds herself caught up in a war between her tribe and others. Boris L. Slocum has created fascinating aliens who are easy to identify with, and an interesting universe. I would really love another adventure with Nadja and Gunny, one of the marines. Highly recommended.
Sarah Beth Durst looks at a world where reincarnation is very real. Augurs  can read souls and council people on how to avoid the worst reincarnation. The worst reincarnate as monsters,  kehoks who come in various shapes. In Becar if a kehok wins in the Race the Sands (paper from Harper Voyager), it can be reincarnated as human. The tale borrows the fun parts of the Seabiscuit tale with a trainer Tamra who is down on her luck and unable to pay tuition for her daughter training to be an augur.  A jockey Raia who flunked out of augur school and whose parents want to marry her off to a man who may have murdered his previous wife. Then there’s the owner Lady Evara who secretly is on the verge of bankruptcy. The Kehok, she races,  is a black lion hiding a deep secret that effects the emperor-to-be. Lots of fun.  
In an alternate 1905 where some very rich people have alternate animal bodies they can trade with, as opposed to the solitaires who can’t.  Thalia Cutler is a stage magician mostly working her late father’s tricks. She thinks her main problem is that of another magician with a non-compete clause who got her act closed down for using a bullet catching trick invented by her father. Then Von Faber is killed doing the trick, and Thalia is suspected of murder. Unfortunately Thalia is not aware she is really a trader, and there are Manticore’s hunting traders who haven’t mastered their ability to switch forms. Luckily the Trader family where she’s been giving stage magic lessons is willing to help.  Caroline Stevermer has a very pleasant tale of The Glass Magician (hard from Tor). A sequel would be fun.
Robert Jackson Bennett continues his award nominated Foundryside (paper) where the basic laws of the universe can be manipulated with symbols on metal. Sancia Grado, who has an etched tablet in her head, and her friends think they have a way to bring down another one of the  Merchant Houses. Unfortunately someone has brought Crasedes Magnus back to life; a being who has crushed civilization after civilization for thousands of years in an effort to eliminate evil. A thousand years before his tools had rebelled when he tried to modify humanity. His return brings the horror of Shorefall (hard from Del Rey) night to the city of Tevanne and only Sancia and her friends have a chance of stopping him. This unique world is not to be missed.
The mining city of Titanshade (paper) is in the far north on an Earth with eight very different types of people. It’s running out of the oil that has replaced the magical manna.  In the first police procedural mystery Detective Carter followed the trail of a murderer straight to a point where people had found a well of Manna deep underground.  He’s been on paperwork detail until he and his partner Jax, a Mollenkampi get their first case. The murderer had taken the teeth of a Mollenkampi artist new to the city. No one even knew her name. It’s the time of the Titan's Day (hard from DAW) celebration with an election going on. The city is trying to deal with the gang violence and typical corruption. Carter and Jax persue the case that noone cares about, while the department tries to deal with his notoriety and keep him from finding the murderer.  Dan Stout has a gritty, impossible-to-put-down tale and I look forward to more cases.  
Eric Lewis borrows the horrors of the 30-year war on a peninsula where two potential kings are fighting to rule. Peasants are either in the way and killed, or made an object and crucified.  There’s a small group called The Heron Kings (hard from Flame Tree Press) who get good at stealing from both armies to survive.  Then they capture a messenger with proof that both sides in this war are being manipulated. The fun is in getting the message to the Queen of one side and the King of the other. The full horrors of medieval and it’s effects on the peasants are depicted well. Recommended.   
S. L. Huang returns with a third tale of Cas Russell who can use mathematics for amazing acrobatics. This time the Critical Point (hard from Tor) is about a plastic surgeon who can create faces with absolute beauty and trust, along with faces that cause intense fear, and faces that make their possessors totally forgetable. It doesn’t help that someone is using people with these odd faces to blow building’s up , like Cas’s office. In addition her private detective friend Arthur, has been kidnaped. Very exciting.
In the Queendom of Sol centuries from now the genius Bruno De Towaji lives on a very small planet in Kuiper belt working by himself on obscure problems when he is called in to fix problems with The Collapsium (trade from Baen) Ring that was being built to speed communications between Earth and Mars. The problem is that it is falling into the Sun and will destroy the Solar System. It’s a time of utopia with the problems of death fixed and no human suffering.  The first time the problems is easily fixed. The second time the problem is the result of murder. But the third time it’s sabotage. There’s a silliness to the tale, but Wil McCarthy tells a fun tale in this finale of the series.
K.A. Emmons tells the tale of 14-year-old Ion Jacobs, an orphan fosterling put in a family whose son hates him. Ion is an Anolamy(ebook) and is developing powers like telekinesis and healing and doesn’t understand what is happening to him. He’ll be ok because this is a prequel to The Blood Race trilogy which starts when he’s eighteen.
Sarah Zellaby was introduced in Seanan McGuire’s series as human-looking alien cockoo adopted into the Price family of crytid biologists. Cockoos have their children raised by humans,  and use their telepathy to influence humans to do their bidding. Until Imaginary Numbers (paper from DAW) all that was known about the species was that they came from another dimension and evolved from wasp like insects. It turns out that Cockoos molt mentally through stages and Sarah is changing to the equivalent of Queen and faced with solving equations that can destroy the world. This is part one of a two part tale and the ending abrupt.
Nicole Lee was abducted from her life in the gangs of Philadelphia to a huge alien ship called the Fyrantha where she becomes a Pawn (paper) of the ship masters who capture aliens to test their war making ability and sell the location of their planets. Humans, for some reason, are the only beings who can repair the ship. The ship mind has been broken into four parts and one of them declares Nicole Protector, raising her value to Knight (paper).  As the war against the ship masters and other aliens who bring an armada to attack the ship, Nicole can only win and become a Queen (hard from Tor) if she unites all her friends and gets them to work together. Timothy Zahn tells a fun tale, but the ending was abrupt and felt unearned like a deus-ex-machina solution where a god-like being solves all problems.
    Tor has reprinted Peter Watts’s award winning Blindsight in hard cover.  Subterranean Press has collected  Michael Swanwick’s odd tales of The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus in hardcover.  Berkley has Fantastic Hope a collection edited by Laurell K. Hamilton and William McCaskey in paper. Subterranean Press has reprinted Connie Willis’s Jack in hard cover.
    The Nebula Awards for best novel are: Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen); The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK); A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor); Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher); Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing); and A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)
    The Science Fiction Society will have its next meeting  on April 17th. The meeting starts  at  8 p.m. at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church at 39th  and Locust Walk on  the University of Pennsylvania Campus.  Dr. Vikram Paralkar a physician in infectious diseases who also writes fantasy 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.