Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September-October 2017

A pretty good issue; most of the stories were at least pretty good, a few were very good.

My Fifth and Most Exotic Voyage • novelette by Edward M. Lerner
Gulliver describes his latest travel - to the future. Future scientists wanted to capture a person from the past, and they got the Gulliver, who claims he himself wrote the famous book about his travels. The scientists don't believe him, as he clearly isn't Jonathan Swift. And he claims that his travels are true, not fiction. Did they capture a madman? A very good story, once you get past the oldish writing style. There was one very stupid scientific mistake, though. The carbon dating tells the age of an object - not the year it comes from. There is a difference, especially if your dealing with time travel. An object brought from the past should seem new, if it were tested by C14 dating. It is almost a spoiler for me to say that very a similar plot idea was used earlier by Larry Niven. ****-
I Know My Own & My Own Know Me • novelette by Tracy Canfield
The story is told as chat logs. An expedition tries to find out why a colony of humans has reverted to almost mindless animals, whose brains don't even accept brain implants. Someone has used an implant for a cat, who can now take part in the discussions in broken language. And it has eaten all of the lab rats. A pretty nice story, but perhaps a tad too long for the idea. ***+
Ghostmail • short story by Eric Del Carlo
A man is connected to his wife, who is fighting in a war, through some sort of direct subspace link. Then his wife is killed in action. To his surprise, he continues receiving messages. Is he mad? A pretty good and moving story. ****-
The First Trebuchet on Mars • short story by Marie Vibbert
A short story about what the title says. It turns out that there is a use for such a thing in Mars. A short and amusing story. ***
Climbing Olympus • short story by Simon Kewin
Another story about Mars. A man whose father was an avid mountain climber also used to climb mountains, but they never did it together, as they were never at the same skill level. Now he is taking part on a Mars expedition, and tries to climb Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in the solar system. A pretty good story, which explores a failed father-son relationship. ***+
A Tinker's Damnation • short story by Jerry Oltion
The nano-machine which was supposed to create all of the required high-tech items on a colony on another planet is broken beyond repair. It was supposed to be able to create almost anything, with the correct instructions. But, as it isn't working, the colony must use old-fashioned methods to survive. An apprentice for the mechanic of the colony has tinkered with it, but it seems to be beyond repair. A good story, but with such strong Luddite overtones that I wonder why such people would have moved to another planet. ***½
The Old Man • novelette by Rich Larson
A criminal is thawed out from cryostorage. He is made an offer: if he hunts down an even worse criminal, he will get a pardon. He knows the criminal intimately and hates him; the criminal in question is his father. Not bad story, first seemed like a retreated old movie, but ended up being something really different. ***+
Orphans • novelette by Craig DeLancey
A mission to Betelgeuse 2 is approaching a planet. It appears to bear a lot of life, but there are no signs of intelligence. They discover subterranean lines, which appear to be artificial, but there are no other signs of civilization. Several probes they sent to the planet failed soon after landing for unknown reasons. And then there is an accident. Another pretty good story, where the "enemy" is unexpected, but the crew is very clueless and makes extremely stupid risks. ***+
The Absence • short story by Robert R. Chase
A smart man has succeeded in almost everything. Now he is building a space elevator. It turns out that, as a student, he took part in an experiment which was designed to boost brain activity. It seemed to be a failure, but now some participants have reported some strange and worrisome effects. A bit of a fractured story. I didn't really get the connection between the drugs and impending catastrophe. ***-
Arp! Arp! • short story by Christina De La Rocha
A marine biologist examines why a sea farm, which is supposed to produce high-quality algae extract that can be fed to animals, used as food, or even as fertilizer, is failing. She finds what is going on, by a very big coincidence. And the guilty ones apparently did what they did mainly because they are evil. ***
The Mathematician • short story by Tom Jolly
Life among aliens who are essentially immortal, but are able to combine their bodies, but usually lose their memories and knowledge in the process. One manages to circumvent that partially. A too-short story, which was fairly hard to get, as a lot of the pretty unusual life cycles were crammed into too few pages. **+
The Sword of Damocles • novelette by Norman Spinrad
The Galactic Eye is a giant telescope which is built in space. It is tended by people who have been modified to live in free fall. The main purpose of the telescope is to find alien civilizations. And it finds several of them, but all seem to be restricted to their own solar systems. There are no interstellar empires. Why? There isn't a lot of story here. The novelette is mainly fairly philosophical discussions of the main theme, but it was good, nevertheless. ****-
Heaven's Covenant • novella by Bud Sparhawk
A planet has been colonized by humans possibly centuries ago. They ready to use the old colony ship to send a new colony on another star. The government is apparently ruled by religious fanatics, who are pushing for the extermination of a "lesser" race who is apparently used for menial tasks who are called Folk. Even the moderate factions have not the slightest doubt of their inferiority. A woman whose family has died is tending a large farm. She takes good care of her Folk, but she meets a man with whom she falls in love. She is also asked to take part in the new expedition. At the same time, the more strict factions are pushing for the genocide of the Folk. A well-written story, but a bit too long, and the racist and narcissistic husband was very grating. There were some hints that the normal humans were Folk, and the protagonists were members of a “better” race, but that was not stated explicitly. ****-
Abductive Reasoning • short story by Christopher L. Bennett
An advanced alien must land on Earth to make repairs to her ship. She encounters a UFO fanatic conspiracy theorist whose theories about aliens make her think that humans must be lunatics. A fun little story. ***½
Coyote Moon • short story by James Van Pelt
A poor couple, who works at several jobs at the same time and still can't make the ends to meet, sells everything to get a place on a clandestine flight to the Moon. They hope that, since they will be some of the first people there, they will be in a better position. Well, the exploited usually will be exploited. The story could be slightly longer. The emotional attachment to the characters isn't powerful enough. ***
Invaders • short story by Stanley Schmidt
A man goes to a remote hotel to watch a total eclipse of the Sun. Some of the other inhabitants of the hotel seem slightly strange. It turns out that a total eclipse is really rare, and some of the watchers come far away. A nice humorous story. ***½

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