Analog Science Fiction and Fact: November 2011
So it turns out that my post on Asimov’s magazine has been the most popular of anything I have posted so far, so in a blatant attempt at cashing in on this with a sequel, I have decided to also do a full review of the fiction in this months Analog. I know I am a bit slow on this one, and the new one has just come out, but I want to get this done and dusted before the new issue is downloaded to my Kindle, otherwise it will get bumped to the ‘past issues’ folder again, the veritable elephants graveyard of short SF.
Unfortunately, I can’t give this issue a rave review as, on balance, most of the stories here fall under the ‘distinctly average’ heading, but there are a couple of good stories, and one short story that stands out as particularly intriguing.
With Unclean Hands, Adam-Troy Castro
A dying race of pacifist aliens wishes to trade technology with the human race in exchange for taking over custody of a murderer. Andrea Cort, a hated ex-juvenile offender, is in charge of supervising the deal and ensuring that the prisoner is properly looked after. Trouble is introduced when Cort befriends one of the alien young.
A properly science fictional tale of aliens and other worlds such as have been lacking in my recent short SF reading, the story is well thought through. The character of Cort is sympathetic and engaging, and the narrative is strong with just enough possibilities opened that the ending of the piece is not obvious. Very well written and thoroughly deserving of its headline place in this months Analog.
Ian, Isaac, and John, Paul Levinson
A time travel story in which a descendant of David Bowie takes a very closely monitored trip back in time to slightly alter a mix of one of Bowie’s records in order to improve his historical standing a little, allowing the traveller to cash in on his enhanced reputation. The author is obviously American as he states that Bowie is ‘not quite a household name’. Maybe where you are, son…
A tightly written, engaging story that doesn’t faff too much about mechanics, but does unfortunately get bogged down a little in paradox towards the end, leading to an ultimately unsatisfying conclusion. A good, well thought out story that simply got away from the author.
The Boneless One, Alec Nevala-Lee
A biological research vessel discovers a shoal of bioluminescent octopi. Fairly soon thereafter there is a murder on the boat. This story reminds me of nothing so much as The Thing on water, although that is just the atmosphere, not the plot. The narrative draws on some interesting features of cephalopod behaviour, and is original and carefully produced. The claustrophobic feel of life on board a yacht could have been better taken of advantage of, but that is only a very minor gripe with what is otherwise a rather riveting piece of work. Good stuff.
Dig Site, Jack McDevitt
Building work on a small Greek island turns up the remains of an ancient temple containing a puzzling statue. This tale of lost, ancient technologies feels a little lightweight to me. The details of archeological investigation are glossed over somewhat, and the statue feels less like ancient technology and more like an illustration for an early copy of Amazing Stories. This story just felt unconvincing, and at times a little forced.
The Buddy System, Dom D’Ammassa
Two childhood friends end up creating and running two massively powerful predictive computer systems, which eventually realise each other’s influence on world events and end up locking themselves into a destructive loop. A reasonably original take on the all-powerful computer system trope in that there are two of them, but the logic behind the actions they take is more fuzzy than one would like, with too great a reliance on hand waving to feel true. Good characters, but shame about the plot.
Rocket Science, Jerry Oltion
A man builds a home-made, peroxide-fueled, one man rocket intended to take him into low earth orbit, thereby kickstarting a grass roots space movement. An interesting study of the lone scientist as barmy inventor, but doesn’t really reward the reader beyond that.
Chumbolone, Bill Johnson
A campaign manager is struggling to get his candidate re-elected in the face of corrupt opposition. He is approached by some rather shady figures with a proposition that could just help him out of his situation.
Johnson has taken bits from a variety of genres here, the political thriller, horror, and SF, and created something unique. The mix is unusual but works extremely well and does not feel at all stitched together as all the characters support and help to drive the plot forwards. Probably the most intriguing of the stories in this months issue, and the author I would most like to read more of.