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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Analog, July/August 2017

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Special Double Review

by

Richard Cartwright

&

Victoria Silverwolf

Analog, July/August 2017

Not Far Enough” by Martin L Shoemaker

For All Mankind” by C Stuart Hardwick
Belly Up” by Maggie Clark
Galleon” by Brian Trent
Across The Steaming Sea” by Rob Chilson
The Fool Stone” by Aubrey Kay Anderson
The First Rule Is, You Don't Eat Your Friends” by Robert R. Chase
Alouette, Gentille Alouette” by Andrew Barton
Fat Bubble” by Tom Easton
Perspective” by Kyle Kirkland
Clarity of Signal” by Holly Schofield
Pitch” by Bruce McAllister and Patrick Smith
Phuquiang: A History” by Uncle River
Blinking Noon And Midnight” by Tim McDaniel
Teamwork” by Eve Warren
Often and Silently We Come” by Ron Collins

Reviewed by Richard Cartwright

Not Far Enough” by Martin L Shoemaker is a well written story about a trip to Mars. That said, there is nothing to really distinguish it from the countless trip-to-Mars stories that seem to be cropping up these days. The science is well done, and if you like what seems to be rapidly becoming a subgenre of science fiction, it is worth your time.

C Stuart Hardwick mixes a bit of alternate history with the real history of the abortive women’s NASA astronaut class of the 60s, along with the plot of the popcorn movie classic Armageddon, and come up with “For All Mankind.” Hardwick deftly spins a great story while illustrating the sex discrimination that excluded women from the American astronaut corps in the 60s. Unlike far too much science fiction these days, the message complements the story rather than the story being overshadowed by the message.

Belly Up” by Maggie Clark tells the story of a war between a planet and a vastly more powerful force called the Allegiance, through the eyes of a character whose ability for combat has been “declawed.” It is a complex story, and one that is overall very depressing despite the author’s effort to leave the reader with an upbeat ending.

Galleon” by Brian Trent is an engaging story about what can happen to an AI over the millennia after interacting with countless humans, and then if left with too much time on its hands. The author provides more than a few twists and turns, making the ending a pleasant surprise.

Imagine if you will, The Wizard of Oz, Ali Babba and the Forty Thieves, and The Lord of the Rings in a blender flavored with the sensibilities of the Looney Tunes cartoons, and you have “Across the Steaming Sea” by Rob Chilson. He uses a conversational style of patois for his characters, which might prove grating to some, but does not distract from the story. Worth a read.

The Fool Stone” by Aubrey Kay Anderson is an interesting take on the tale of the Philosopher's Stone with an Arabic twist. More a story about the price of seeking knowledge than anything else, you get interested in the characters but are left wanting more.

The First Rule Is, You Don't Eat Your Friends” by Robert R. Chase is one of those stories where you see the end coming early on, but the characters are so well written you enjoy the ride. Examining animal intelligence and the best way to study it, the story is set at a remote monastery during troubled times. The characters are well written and the pacing is just right. Don’t skip reading the author blurb for a chuckle.

Andrew Barton in “Alouette, Gentille Alouette” spins a story about recovering the Alouette 1 satellite from orbit for a museum. When faced with having to damage one of its distinctive features to secure it, the protagonist employs a solution well known to any good ol’ boy.

Fat Bubble” by Tom Easton is a very short but pithy tale that both illustrates the perils of mentioning weight to one's spouse and knowing when to get out of the stock market.

Perspective” by Kyle Kirkland tells the story of the last surviving member of the team that has developed a neural stimulator that relieves pain and provides many other benefits, faced with the consequences of the misuse of her invention at the highest levels.

Holly Schofield’s “Clarity of Signal” is a story about a scientist who receives a golden opportunity to gather data to support her theories about an alien species at the risk of her relationship with her spouse. Running parallel to the main tale is a commentary about the consequences and challenges of being “online” all the time as the main character has to be unplugged during her field work. The ending is bittersweet but not in the way you expect.

Pitch” by Bruce McAllister & Patrick Smith is exactly what it says it is, a pitch letter for a future movie. I would have liked to see the actual story, but beyond that, there is not much to recommend it.

Phuquiang: A History” by Uncle River is a short story describing the history of a community after Earth suffers a tectonic apocalypse. The best part of the story is trying to figure out where it actually takes place. Otherwise it frankly reads like a history article.

Tim McDaniel writes a story about an elderly gentleman dealing with the smart house of the future in “Blinking Noon and Midnight.” The title is taken from the old joke that you could tell someone was not tech savvy by noticing that the clock on their DVR at home would be blinking 12:00 all the time.

Teamwork” by Eve Warren is an innovative Mars story which treats us to the resolution of an item on a Martian terraformer commander’s to do list. The story highlights the decisions a leader has to make to balance between running an efficient operation and encouraging creativity. The protagonist's solution helps define a unique Martian culture and sport.

Often and Silently We Come” by Ron Collins describes the crisis of conscience of an entity that starts to empathize with the sentient biological specimens that he is vivisecting, which puts him at odds with his inquisitive machine based society.


Analog, July/August 2017

Not Far Enough” by Martin L Shoemaker

For All Mankind” by C Stuart Hardwick
Belly Up” by Maggie Clark
Galleon” by Brian Trent
Across The Steaming Sea” by Rob Chilson
The Fool Stone” by Aubrey Kay Anderson
The First Rule Is, You Don't Eat Your Friends” by Robert R. Chase
Alouette, Gentille Alouette” by Andrew Barton
Fat Bubble” by Tom Easton
Perspective” by Kyle Kirkland
Clarity of Signal” by Holly Schofield
Pitch” by Bruce McAllister and Patrick Smith
Phuquiang: A History” by Uncle River
Blinking Noon And Midnight” by Tim McDaniel
Teamwork” by Eve Warren
Often and Silently We Come” by Ron Collins

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

From the recent past to the far future, from Earth to interstellar space, the stories in this issue offer a wide variety of moods and concepts.

The lead novella, "Not Far Enough" by Martin L. Shoemaker, takes place during the early days of the exploration of Mars. A faulty artificial intelligence system causes a disaster when a landing vehicle flies to the surface of the planet from the mothership. The accident kills one member of the landing party and severely injures others. It also cripples the mothership, which holds supplies needed by the party. The survivors must not only manage to stay alive in a hostile environment, but also figure out a way to obtain what they need from the mothership. Adding to their difficulties is the fact that the artificial intelligence now thinks of them as hostile intruders. This is a fast-moving, realistic adventure story, although some may find the events melodramatic.

Set in the Middle East centuries ago, "The Fool's Stone" by Aubry Kae Andersen deals with an alchemist who comes into possession of a rock that changes other substances near it. It also causes a deadly sickness in those who handle it. The reader is quickly able to deduce that it is highly radioactive, and there are indications that it is of extraterrestrial origin. The author has a good sense for the time and place of the story, but one might wish that more had been done with the concept.

Still on Earth, but in the near future, "The First Rule Is, You Don't Eat Your Friends" by Robert R. Chase presents an order of monks dedicated to healing environmental damage. As part of their work, they also study the intelligence of farm animals. A badly wounded man shows up and is taken in. It turns out that he is a scientist experimenting with the enhancement of animals. (The man's name is Wells, and it seems likely that an allusion to the classic story "The Island of Doctor Moreau" by H. G. Wells is intended.) This is a thoughtful, quiet tale, which makes the reader ponder the issue of animal sentience.

A pair of astronauts with the job of retrieving an old, historically valuable satellite from space are the protagonists of "Alouette, Gentille Alouette" by Andrew Barton. They have to figure out a way to fit the satellite into their spacecraft without damaging it. The solution they find is an unexpected one. This is a light, pleasant story with special appeal for Canadian readers.

"Fat Bubble" by Tom Easton is a very brief comedy about a new way to lose weight and its economic consequences. The story is worth a smile.

An elderly woman who was a pioneer in the development of a therapeutic brain-stimulating device is the main character in "Perspective" by Kyle Kirkland. She is called to Washington, D.C., on a secret mission. It seems that the President of the United States, who openly admits that he abused the device as a young man, has developed a strange neurological disorder that threatens his ability to carry out his duties. The nature of his problem is a surprising one, and the story is intriguing.

A very different version of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union appears in "For All Mankind" by C. Stuart Hardwick. In this version of history, an asteroid discovered in the 1960s threatens to hit the Earth in the near future. The two superpowers work together on a secret project to send a spacecraft to render it harmless. A Russian and an American are sent on a suicide mission to save the planet. Although the story holds the reader's interest, it's hard to believe that the technology required for the mission could have been developed at the time, or that it could have been kept from the public.

A distant planet in the far future is the setting for "Clarity of Signal" by Holly Schofield. A linguist temporarily leaves her husband to study the planet's aliens. They seem to engage in some form of communication with each other by touching the strange, electrically active trees of their home. One of the aliens is badly injured and likely to die, but regulations forbid her from providing any form of aid. The story deals with many different forms of communication. The speculative content is imaginative and original, and the characters are engaging.

A world in the midst of an interplanetary war provides the background for "Belly Up" by Maggie Clark. The protagonist is a young man who has had his ability to produce adrenaline removed as a punishment for his crimes. This renders him unaggressive and without the ability to respond to threats in a normal way. The complex plot involves his relationship with the son of the woman he killed in his days as a violent criminal. The story has plenty of action, but is a little confusing at times.

"Pitch" by Bruce McAllister and Patrick Smith is a short, satiric tale that takes the form of a synopsis submitted to a film agent in the late twenty-second century. The point seems to be that not much changes in Hollywood, even in a future when humanity has journeyed to the stars and encountered several species of aliens. Screenwriters may be the best audience for this story.

Earth in the distant future, when many changes have taken place in the landscape, is the setting for "Phuquiang: A History" by Uncle River. The events described are ancient and semi-mythical to the narrator, but take place far ahead of our time. This fictional essay supplies many exotic details, but is a bit dry.

"Blinking Noon and Midnight" by Tim McDaniel takes place in the near future. An elderly man tries to deal with the computer system that runs his new house. This is a simple story, but those of us frustrated by modern technology are certain to identify with it.

We return to Mars for "Teamwork" by Eve Warren. The leader of the human colony has to deal with a dangerous new sport invented by those born on the red planet. This tale of the challenges of a new society is realistic, if somewhat sedate.

The protagonists of "Often and Silently We Come" by Ron Collins are very unusual beings who journey from star to star, collecting samples of the lifeforms found on hundreds of thousands of planets, in order to discover the secret of existence. One of the beings makes a disturbing discovery about what they are doing, leading to a radical change in behavior. This story creates a powerful sense of strangeness, but it may be difficult to empathize with characters so bizarre.

The title character of "Galleon" by Brian Trent is a sentient starship. It narrates its own picaresque adventures over a vast amount of time. This tale is colorful and imaginative, if inherently episodic.

Exotic adventure is also found in "Across the Steaming Sea" by Rob Chilson. A treasure map sends a young man on a long and dangerous journey through a world populated by many different variations of humanity, as well as stranger creatures. He encounters con artists and pirates, ogres and demons, and many other peculiar beings. Although this all sounds like myth and legend, there are hints that the story takes place on another planet settled by human beings a long time ago, and that seemingly magical events are produced by ancient technology. This story is likely to appeal to readers of heroic fantasy.


Victoria Silverwolf hopes to see a total eclipse of the sun soon.