Working at a flea market in South Pasadena, Anna is an artist who specializes in making adorable stuffed dragons. Robert, who clearly has a thing for her, has the booth next door where he sells cool-looking armor and swords. When Anna decides to take a break, she discovers another vendor who sells some of the most beautiful material she has ever seen. Thinking the material is too expensive, the vendor agrees to give her the luminescent fabric as long as Anna promises to not only make dragons out of them, but to insert a piece of brimstone within each one. With the help of her friend, Mae, Anna makes good on her promise but wakes up the next morning to a brood of living, fire-breathing baby dragons! Little does she know that the vendor, Kalsaru, who sold her the fabric is more than she lets on . . . as is her neighbor, Robert. Will they come to her aid or try to take the dragons she has grown to love away from her? As with all magic, there is a price to be paid.
Back on Sampson, Iffy and Andy are introduced to a small human population that has survived right under the noses of Mother and her minions. Iffy figures out why pretty quickly which is annoying to the village elders, yet timely. Meanwhile, Mila, Telsa, and the crew have made it to Phages where Mila is attacked by the “ghosts” who are really gas-based life forms, but they are in for a surprise. Quon has survived and become part of the machine-world. Surprised to see a Bandit who has been damaged, he offers to repair the small, affable robot, hoping it might lead them to finding the Descenders. What happens next is pretty cool.
In a combination of alternate-history, secret society with a little steampunk thrown in, The Clockwork Dynasty tells the dual story of June Stefanov (an anthropologist who specializes in ancient technology) and the mechanical being Peter. After having found a unique automaton doll, June is unwittingly dragged into a centuries-long conflict between two warring factions of a world she never knew existed: a group of automatons who have been living among us for what might be over a thousand years. Rescued by Peter after she finds out that the automatons exist, June learns they are dying, and she and Peter must rediscover their primary power source in order to preserve their future. But the real question is: who made them and why?
Reminiscent of SAGA, this issue begins from Mila’s point-of-view. Mila, Telsa, Mizard, Bandit, and the rest of the crew that escaped Sampson are bound for Phages which is also known as the ghost planet. During their travels, Mizard attempts to teach Mila magic, but she’s more interested in playing with Driller and Bandit. Meanwhile, Andy and Iffy have survived the vampire attack with the help of a farmer turned warrior of God; his mission is to destroy the monsters that killed his family. On Amun, Mother - under the control of her sister - lays the groundwork to eradicate the UGC.
Next up on the review list from the Hugo Awards is N.K. Jemison’s Emergency Skin, the winner for best novelette for 2020. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Jemisin, she is a multiple Hugo Award winner for her Broken Earth novels, as well as other accolades too numerous to mention. Emergency Skin is part of the Forward Collection (Amazon Original Stories) which contains a total of six stories from Veronica Roth, Andy Weir, and four others. The editor, Blake Crouch, came up with the idea of asking some of his favorite authors to write about emerging technologies and how they may affect the earth, our society, and who we are.
I’m so glad I took the time to read the prequel series, Descender, because it seriously pays off in this latest issue of Ascender. I’m not going to ruin it for you, but if you started to read this series without reading the previous one, then I highly suggest you dive into it before reading issue #12. Now, on to the show…
When I started reviewing this series, I had a feeling my husband would like it, so I ordered the prequel Descender series. (I was right. He did enjoy it.) It also gave me a chance to catch up on the background story of this epic tale. I’m so glad that I did, as in issue #11, the story merges a past storyline into the current one, bringing back a few important characters from the previous series: the old creepy wizard from Planet Woch along with Driller the Killer.
As I plow through the list of the 2020 Nebula Winners, I was very happy to see that Cat Rambo had won for Carpe Glitter. I hadn’t read it yet, but I had met her at the Nebula Conference last year and had taken a couple of her online courses, which I recommend. Carpe Glitter was the winner of the novelette category, and now that I’ve read it, I understand why.
It is the late 1800s, and Creeper is a thirteen-year-old orphan girl who lives on the streets of New Orleans and gets by stealing in this alternate history of America. Through a hard-fought battle at the end of the American Civil War, New Orleans is the only place where people of color are free, and Confederate and Union soldiers can socialize without coming to blows. Creeper hopes to escape her hand-to-mouth existence with the help of an airship captain, but life becomes more complicated when she overhears that the Rebels plan to kidnap an important Haitian scientist whose knowledge might destroy her beloved city. But Creeper has a secret. Deep inside her lies the old African God, Oya, who can be a bit capricious. Will Oya and the airship captain help her stop the Rebels, or do they have an agenda of their own?
In an alternate near future, the United States has walled itself off from the rest of the world. Known as the “Sealing,” no one outside the walls had heard a word from inside the USA until thirty years later when a pandemic called Sky rages across the globe. Two political entities, Alliance Euro-Afrique (AEA) and the Pan-Asian Prosperity Zone, pick up a message from a Dr. Sam Elgin, inviting them to America to help them deal with the plague. A team is assembled consisting of two diplomats, a journalist (Valentina Sadoval), an epidemiologist (Charlotte Graves), her brother, Major Graves, a Col. Bukowski, and an American History specialist (Dr. Kenyatta). Their mission is to fly a pre-approved path to Colorado to meet with Dr. Elgin who was once part of a project called Aurora.