Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Zombies

An Officer’s Duty
Jean Johnson
Ace, Jul 31 2012. $7.99
ISBN: 9781937007690

Powerful Space Force Navy psychic Ia can slip in and out of the time streams and see centuries into the future. Knowing that three hundred years from now, a near invincible enemy enters the galaxy destroying everything in their hunt for energy, Ia finds only one time line in which the destruction of the Milky Way does not occur. Thus she enlisted in the military when she turned eighteen as the first step towards insuring the one positive outcome happens (see A Soldier’s Duty).

Ia returns to her heavyworld home, Sanctuary, in order to insure the safety of her family and makes sure her brother wins the lottery at a time when religious disputes begin to turn hostile. The money will be used to for Sanctuary to survive one of the wars in which her home world plays a pivotal role. Ia plays a role in a series of armed conflicts with her goal to save billions of lives if every step in the time stream happens. Ia is a part of the Blockade Patrol keeping the amphibian race the Saliks blocked up in their sector. However, she knows they plan to break through the blockade; she must prevent this from happening because if they succeed her efforts to follow that one time stream ends in the earliest stage.

Known for her romantic fantasies (see the Sons of Destiny), Jean Johnson continues to display the width of her talent with her second exciting Theirs Not to Reason Why military science fiction thriller. Fans of Honor Harrington will appreciate heroic Ia who gives up the life she wants and the man she loves to prevent a futuristic galactic wide catastrophe, which, if unimpeded, would occur after she is dead. Fast-paced with terrific battle scenes and deep characterizations, Ia brings a sense of urgency to this deep tale. Harriet Klausner

The Unraveling of Wentwater
C.S. Lakin
Living Ink Books, Jul 16 2012, $14.99
ISBN: 9780899578927

In Wentwater, village matriarch Arlynna begins the naming ceremony of the baby just born to Iris when Ursell, the banished marsh witch, arrives. Ursell proclaims that the unnamed infant will unravel Wentwater one thread at a time until by the time she is eighteen the village will be no more. Before leaving Ursell tells them to exile the mother and put the babe to death. The superstitious frightened villagers make the parents leave and set the cottage on fire with the babe inside.

All who were witness remain haunted by the incident. Now seventeen years later, Teralyn, from the science-based Heights, arrives at Wentwater with her lap harp to play at a festival. She meets Iris’ two sons Justyn - who left for the Heights and Fromer - who stayed in the village. She and Fromer fall in love, but an angry jealous Justyn makes a deal with Ursell that leads to The Unraveling of Wentwater vanishing one word at a time; only Teralyn is capable of stitching it back one word at a time over seven years, but that final word is jarred from her reach.

The fourth Gates of Heaven fantasy (see The Land of Darkness and Map Across Time) is a terrific allegorical drama based on the premise that one needs to "Be careful with your words - they have consequences!" With a reverse Sleeping Beauty theme and biblical references on wisdom, passion and faith, fans will appreciate this timely tale of two siblings and the harpist, as sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can harm you too. Harriet Klausner

21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology
Christopher Golden
St. Martin's Griffin, Jul 17 2012, $15.99
ISBN: 9780312605841

This nineteen story anthology follows up on The New Dead with a solid collection based on the premise that death and resurrection is an everyday Z day occurrence. All the entries are well written with no clinkers, but only a few provide freshness (only so many ways you can walk the dead). The best tale is “How We Escaped Our Certain Fate” as Dan Chaon explores the zombie grief cycle starting with the perquisite of love. Exciting “Parasite” occurs in the Robopocalypse world of Daniel H. Wilson. Home, hearth and zombies are a major theme of several contributions like Chelsea Cain’s “Why Mothers Let Their Children Watch Television”, “All the Comforts of Home: A Beacon Story” by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow, “Couch Potato” by Brian Keene and Mark Morris’s “Biters.”

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