Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Magic, Star Wars and Zombies

Land of the Burning Sands
Rachel Neumeier
Orbit, Jun 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316072793

The Kingdom of Casmantium used griffins and the magic of fire to annex territory from its neighbor Feierabiand, but the subsequent war ended in abject defeat (see Lord of the Changing Winds). However, inside Casmantium, the loss has led to a power struggle as the fuming griffins have filled much of the void and are overtly hostile to the other sentient species especially the last surviving mage.

Convicted to a life of slavery Gereint Enseichen also believes the debacle has given him a chance to escape from his servitude. However, instead of freedom across the border, he finds himself caught in the middle of trying to prevent the griffins from turning the kingdom into a graveyard of burning sand as they are doing with the city of Melentser; ceded to them during the peace treaty. His mentor Amnachudran rescues Geraint from his botched plan; he and his wife send Gereint to Bredichboden to become an assistant to their brilliant absent minded scientist daughter Tehre. Back in his home city, the adventures continue as Gereint fears he will be caught while the King tries to save his throne.

While the griffins who starred in the first book take a bit of a respite, Gereint picks up the mantle of driving the story line as he tries to stay free. The story line is fast-paced from start to finish and the aftermath of a bitter defeat is made worse when everyone expected the glory of victory which is the vivid focus of this terrific fantasy. The middle Griffin Mage Trilogy thriller is a terrific entry as the action never stops coming while the cast is superb especially the convicted slave and the scientist. Harriet Klausner

Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Siege
Karen Miller
Del Rey, Jul 6 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780345509000

Strategically, the planet Lanteeb is a nothing microdot in the Outer Rim; far from anything of minor significance. Yet for some unknown reason in the minds of the Republic, the Separatist Alliance has invaded this meaningless orb. Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker travel undercover to learn why.

The truth lies with research scientist Bant'ena Fhernan, who is being held captive by Separatists demanding she work on a super virus to cause a pandemic never seen before. To fuel this biological weapon of mass destruction, the Separatists require damotite found deep in the mines on Lanteeb. Thus Separatist General Lok Durd and his force enslave the beleaguered locals. He also knows Jedi are on the planet and hunts for them with pleasure while the prey are alone as the natives cannot risk helping them and their communication with their allies are severed by the their adversaries.

The second book in the Gambit duology (see Stealth) is an exhilarating Star Wars entry as Obi-Wan and Anakin risk their lives to prevent a pandemic disaster that could leave the Republic teetering on the brink of extinction. Fascinatingly the audience sees deep inside Skywalker as he struggles with the end justifying the mean pondering “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic” (Stalin) since the Lanteebians may have to be sacrificed for the rest of the Republic. Fast-paced and loaded with action, readers will enjoy this solid military science fiction in spite of being somewhat similar in tone to its predecessor with the heroic Jedi Knights going beyond exhaustion with no aid in sight and everyone after them, but ironically should read Stealth first to understand the set up. Harriet Klausner

Joan Frances Turner
Ace, Sep 7 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441019281

After not buckling her seatbelt, she died at fifteen in a car accident and was interred in a zone void of humans. She wakes up inside her coffin and though she has only one good arm as her right was almost severed off in the accident, she pushes her way out of the coffin and digs through the dirt. The teen immediately knows what she is: a revenant (zombie) and joins a pack of her kind. They live in a human-free zone where they hunt animals for food.

Jessie is an undead who does not suffer from zombie amnesia as she remembers her previous mortal life though nine years have passed since she passed. She has feelings for those she considers family (past and present) though humans lock them away with putting electrical security fences their homes as if they were illegal immigrants and the police have standing orders to kill at first sight. However an inexplicable plague arises like none before as this pandemic disease can kill human and revenant. If a miracle cure is not found soon, both species will go way of the dinosaur turning into fossils and Dust.

This is a first rate urban fantasy that “humanizes” zombies who are not mindless shark like predators, but a different sentient life form with feelings for others. Jessie is a strong willed resolute soul who thrives on coping with whatever splitter fastball life throws at her head. Readers will root for her while enjoying Joan Frances Turner’s sensual revamping of zombie fever. Harriet Klausner

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