Charon, spiders, and a visit to Ottawa
The Lampworks Lamplighter SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
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We spent a four-day weekend in Ottawa two weeks ago. We soaked up the ambiance of the architecture, the river, and the canal on the first day. When the wind changed and blanketed the town in thick smoke, we made the next day one to explore many of the city’s fine museums, plus the Canadian Mint. Outside the National Gallery of Canada is a 10-meter-tall sculpture of a mother spider named “Maman.” It’s an imposing presence, but beyond that, it could be an illustration from my short story “Charon,” which is due out in the Gods and Globes anthology in the fall. I’ll leave you with that image until next time.
Sellenria: The Starship and the Citadel
Chuck Boeheim, Daniel Elswit
It came as a shock to archaeologist Stenn Gremm to find that his ancestor had been a warlock.
As a scientist, Stenn didn’t believe in magic. But when a monster from legend ground his equipment into dust, Stenn was forced into roles for which he hadn’t prepared. Apprentice to an assassin for one, advisor to the heir to the throne for another. When archaeological digs were conducted via telepresence, he didn’t expect to get dirt under his nails and blood on his hands. Now his fate hinges on his ability to embrace his greatest role: the new warlock.
Readers have called this a cross between Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, as well as a tale of self-discovery, set in a journey through a fantastic land. All legends have a kernel of truth, but the full story can be surprisingly different.
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Every ten years, the Dragon chooses a girl to serve him in his castle, where he rules the valley and defends it from the malevolent Wood. Agnieszka grows up believing that her best friend will be the inevitable choice of the wizard. When Agnieszka is chosen instead, her entire world is changed. He expects her to serve him, but inexplicably, he also expects her to learn how to do magic.
The Dragon is precise, scientific, methodical. Agnieszka is anything but. They’re at odds with each other until a crisis forces them to work together, and Agnieszka’s intuitive grasp complements the Dragon’s in unexpected ways. Together, then separately, they have to battle the Wood and the unexpectedly corrupt royal court and skeptical wizards.
With a bedrock in Eastern European folklore and timbers of modern fantasy and romance genres, this tale becomes a shared journey of understanding, adaptation, and eventual collaboration. I greatly enjoyed the telling of the tale.
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Several chapters into this book, I had to check the publication date. 2014. The landscape was so familiar that I thought it had to be post-2020: a global pandemic; a highly-contagious influenza; a long-term syndrome affecting a small percentage of victims; politicization of the burden of long-term care. Unlike Covid, this flu caused a meningitis that caused “lock in.” The victims were left alive and aware, but paralyzed and cut off from their senses. They became known as Haydens, after their most famous victim.
The answer was android bodies called Threeps that the Haydens could remotely operate to participate in society. The story begins with Chris Shane’s first day on the job as the first Hayden FBI agent, and the first Hayden-related murder. It quickly develops into a fast-paced buddy cop cyberpunk mashup that’s a great deal of fun to read. Scalzi does a great job exploring the changes that new technology would make to a society. New capabilities mean new types of crime are possible.
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In the second book in the Lock In universe, Chris and partner are called in to investigate a suspicious death in a Hilketa game. In case you’ve never heard of Hilketa, it’s where a team of locked-in Haydens remotely operating android bodies attempt to rip the head off one of the opposing team and run it down the field and into the goal. Axes and machetes are approved equipment. You’re welcome.
If the game is cutthroat, the boardrooms behind the professional sport are even more so. So are the player’s lives, rivalries, endorsement deals, and illicit romances. It’s less a matter of finding someone with motive and more one of finding anyone who doesn’t. Scalzi does a great job extending the technical and sociological changes from his previous novel into the world of professional sports.
Buy on amazon
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Ancient gods, heroes, and aliens clash in an epic battle for Earth in the Bronze Age Mediterranean.
The great human empires of the Bronze Age are locked in everlasting confrontation, with control of the Mediterranean as the coveted prize. Echelaos, prince of Pylos, prepares to wage war against treacherous Trojans to restore his honor and return his bride-to-be, Helen of Hatti. Ninurta-apal-Ekur, king of Assyria, follows the gods to conquer the neighboring tribes, while in Egypt, Khay, a grave robber, awakens the ancient evil.
Meanwhile, the commander of an alien expedition that has arrived to study Earth faces a difficult decision about whether or not to interfere in these terrestrial matters. The expedition members reveal polar opinions, threatening to shape the future of humanity according to their own vision.
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Quinn of Cygnus: Lift Off
Something is wrong at Adzari Net Academy. Really wrong.
It all seemed so right—Quinn’s big chance! She’d leave the mud, giant lizards and back-breaking labor behind forever and gain so much more: skills, connections, a job, a real life.
Then Quinn arrives to find the academy under new ownership and everything’s changed. Mean girls, strict schedules and tough teachers aren’t a problem. Quinn’s got the brains, discipline and training to beat them at their own game.
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Some might give up and fail. But not Quinn. She’s determined to not just survive, but escape and do a little damage on her way out.
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Spiders & Spice
E J Randolph
A new alien species. A valuable harvest. Can a diplomat outwit the invasion force before she ends up 6 feet under?
A diplomat to a new alien species must get a treaty signed in two weeks so the Federation can provide protection. No surprise, she fails. But she can’t stand by as a rogue planet sends soldiers to abscond with the locals’ valuable harvest. She determines to stop the marauders no matter the risk of war within the Federation and the threats to her life.
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City of Tears
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A cursed city shrouded in mist. The power to level an army. A deadly race against demons to find it.
Five hundred years have passed since Naradon, the mad emperor, ruled over the world of Arinthar. Unknown to all but a few, the emperor left behind a deadly legacy—seven towers scattered across the globe, each with the power to lay waste to an army.
Now demons have crawled up from the Abyss and taken one of those towers, using its power to summon more of their brethren. To make matters worse, a second tower has been uncovered and the demons want that one, too.
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