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 convert. 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.

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 are 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.

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.

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.

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