Henry L Lazarus                                                                                                                                                                                                        HOME
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Science Fiction for May 2021
by Henry L Lazarus
    You don’t have to wear masks and keep social distancing in Fantasy and Science Fiction worlds.
Andy Weir started his career abandoning an astronaut on Mars. Ryland Grace, ex microbiologist and high school teacher gets marooned on Project Hail Mary (hard from Ballantine Books), a ship sent to Tau Ceti. At first he doesn’t remember why he is there, and the two crew members died in the forced coma he survived. The problem he’s been sent to solve is that of Astrophages, microscopic organisms that have infected the sun. They travel to Venus to breed and in doing so lower the solar output. Numerous suns near Earth have also been infected, except for Tau Ceti. As he finally realizes why he has been sent, an alien ship moves close to him. Yes this is a first contact and scientific puzzle tale about the survival of two intelligent beings. As much fun as The Martian (paper).
Christopher Buehlman has a romp of a quest tale of The Blacktongue Thief (hard from Tor) who owes money to the Guild of Thieves for cost of his low education. It takes place after the goblin wars and after the death of all the horses and a good portion of all the men. To repay his debt, he is asked to accompany Galva, a knight who fought with the giant birds that helped win the war. She wants to cross the sea to rescue her queen from a city attacked by giants. The Guild, for its own purposes, insists Kinch Na Shannack accompany her. This is a fun, albeit light adventure where things go spectactularly wrong and yet somehow work out. The whaler they board to cross the ocean is attacked by a Kraken and the cat that attaches itself to Kinch has magical properties. Kinch is skilled at theft, with some magical abilities. This is a world where creatures can be caught up in a tattoo, and where wizards are quite weird. I’d definitely enjoy a sequel.   
I have a soft spot for superhero tales. Alejandro Gonzalez tells of lights in the sky that give superpowers. Manny is a nerd who works minimum wage jobs. When the lights hit, Manny thinks of his favorite female superhero Capacitor, His mind lifts the hero Off the Pages (paper from BooksGoSocial) and he turns into his hero. While he can switch between the two personas easily, he likes finding emergencies around the world where his new powers can help. Billionaire Jericho Torvalds gets the ability to copy superpowers (without stealing them) and starts paying good money for people with powers. The world adapts easily to the changes, because most people are law abiding, until the Reverend Jack Hurst causes his version of Jesus to manifest, and proceeds to try to converty. Manny as Jane Black, and Jericho have to work together to save the world. Lots of fun. I suspect I’ll read this one again.
P. Djèlí Clark tells of 1912 Cairo in a world in which magic has returned and Djinns have integrated into society. The man responsible for bringing magic back, al-Jahiz, also known as A Master of Djinn (hard from Tor). Someone pretending to be him has killed a society of Englishmen dedicated to understanding him. Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi , her friend Siti, and her new partner Hadia, have their hands filled in stopping the imposter before he starts World War I. Even the ancient gods of Egypt and the clock-work angels are involved. Very exciting and lots of fun.
If reincarnation is real, then there are people who remember past lives completely. D. Eric Maikranz’s The Reincarnationist Papers (paper from Blackstone Publishing) is the memoirs of Evan Michaels, an arsonist recruited Cognomina because he doesn’t understand how he remembers two past lives. Many members of the club have memories stretching back hundreds of years. The club allows them to pass wealth on and they  and have become blasé like vampires except for growing old and going out in the sun. This is a fun tale and a nice introduction to their strange world.
Gene Doucette has a tale of The Apocalypse Seven (paper from John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) who wake up one morning to find the world empty of people, with wolves roaming the streets. Gradually they find each other and learn how to survive the dangerous weather to hunt for their food. There’s also a flickering light that keeps appearing. There’s no dead bodies, but dust and ruined clothes where the bodies might have been. While the question of what happened permeates the tale, how the seven survive is the interesting part. The  explanation for the events is revealed slowly and impossible to guess. Lots of fun.
Nicole Kornher-Stace writes of a future in which wars between companies have left a depressed economy and playing a shared game can actually earn people money. In Liberty City Mallory and her partner fight the monsters in the game and hope to spot the specops, who in the real world are super-powered protectors of Stellaxis who fight mechanical monsters. When she films a chance encounter with two of the surviving specops in the real world, and releases her footage, it goes viral, propelling her partner and herself to top tier in the game, no longer having to work part-time jobs like dog walking. The specops, however, have a dark secret. Mallory goes hunting to help them, and invariantly starts a revolution against the corporations. Firebreak (hard from Gallery / Saga Press) is a dark tale of a dystopian future and about normal people who have to step up to improve the world.
In a very far future, the Earth is uninhabitable, but still gets tourist visitors. The locals stage battle droid fights. Zhi has found an ancient warbot that she is fixing up. Desperate for money she tricks a researcher, Kas, into a bet. She was thinking all off-worlders were rich. Kas is only third class and the money risked is not hers.   Django Wexler has a fun, albeit predictable, tale of droid fights with impossible odd and Hard Reboot (ebook from Tor) problems. Light fun.
Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe and The Dark-Elf (hard from BHC Press) is the tale of the only dwarf in the city, trying to find why is partner, and fellow soldier from the Great War against the Orcs in Europa has been murdered. There’s also a dame who wants to know if her sister was murdered. The two cases may be related to a feud between the two gangs running alcohol in this time of Prohibition. There’s also the fairy secretary who needs her salary. William Schlichter has too much fun with this Mickey Spillane style fantasy. I look forward to further adventures.
Seanan McGuire continues the tale of Rose Marshall, the ghost in the prom dress haunting the roads. This time she has to finally face the man who killed her and who has been sucking up souls to keep himself young, Bobby Cross. The crossroads died in the previous book, and he is no longer protected. With the help Angel of the Overpass (paper from DAW) and her friends, she will finally see to his end. Fun.
In the continuing adventure, Sir Ransom Barton returns from his quest, which gave him a magic sheath for his sword. Immediately he is caught up in a Warrior's Ransom (paper from 47North) of a fight between an aging King and his sons. This time he is commanding the army the father, and the son has help from enemy nations. Fun.
Justin T. Call continues his epic trilogy set in a world of gods and strong magic. In the first tale, Master of Sorrows (paper), was saved by ancient priest after his parents were murdered, all because he was born without one arm. With a magical replacement that looked and felt real, he was able to hide in the Academy of Chaenbalu, a place that trains its students to steal magical objects they consider evil. At the end, his fake arm destroyed, he replaces it with the powerful Arm of the dead god Keos, and finds he can’t remove it. When the teachers at the academy attack him, he destroys the Academy. The sequel sends him on a quest to find how to remove the arm, and in the process become a Master Artificer (hard from Blackstone Publishing) Under attack as the vessel of Keos, who may eventualy become the god reborn, he crosses the world. His friends learn to use their magical abilities. One of his friends was locked in the Academy and barely survives, becoming much stronger due to adversity. Another is apprenticed to a shadow assassin and travels to shadow lands learning to kill monsters. All are in trouble at the end, leaving the reader to wait eagerly for the third installment.
    Angela Yuriko Smith & Scot Noel edited tales about Worlds of Light & Darkness (ebook from Uproar Books) selected from  DreamForge and Space & Time literary magazines.  Rhonda Parrish edit a collection of tales about the tarot Arcana (ebook from Poise and Pen Publishing).
    The Nebula award nominations are: Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury US; Bloomsbury UK); The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US & UK);  Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher);The Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk (Erewhon); Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga; Solaris); and Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom).
        Hugo nominations are: Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press / Solaris); The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit); Harrow The Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com);  Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com);  Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury); and The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books / Solaris)
    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.