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

Analog -- November 2011

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Analog, November 2011

“With Unclean Hands“ by Adam-Troy Castro
“Ian, Isaac and John“ by Paul Levinson
“The Boneless One by Alec Nevala-Lee
“Dig Site“ by Jack McDevitt
“The Buddy System“ by Don D’Ammassa
“Rocket Science“ by Jerry Oltion
“Chumbolone“ by Bill Johnson

Reviewed by Bob Leishman

Counsellor Andrea Cort is a young officer in the diplomatic corps.  Her work has taken her to a distant planet occupied by an ancient, advanced and non-aggressive race, the Zinn.  Cort is faced with two problems, one involving her own past and the other the request made by the Zinn that she's there to sign off on--the Zinn want one human to be placed in their custody, a murderer with no connection to the Zinn themselves.

In "With Unclean Hands" Adam-Troy Castro creates a character forced to act on her own.  Her past prevents her from socializing with humans normally, but that same past uniquely qualifies her to deal with the situation involving the Zinn and their murderer.  I had to see how this one ended; a nice read.

There are time travel stories about time travel and then there are time travel stories about motive, intention and the ultimate crime of time travel--paradox.  Lannie Jones wants to go back in time to do something that will improve his future with a small paradox which Ian's Ions and Eons finds acceptable.

Ian's Ions and Eons will get you there and bring you back and although they aren't cops they take paradox very seriously.  The trip to the past involves boarding an actual train in the present on a scheduled route and during that journey crossing a threshold to another, earlier, much earlier train on the same route.  Along the way Lannie is aided and questioned by Ian's employees.

"Ian, Isaac and John" by Paul Levinson is largely about the ulterior motive that Ian’s employees assume he has for the journey.  If he has one it would probably involve a second much larger paradox than the one he is supposed to be making the journey for.  It works largely because Levinson does justice to the story through its characters.  Incidentally, Lannie is going to 1975 and is interested in doing something of a musical nature.

The Lancet is a yacht outfitted for research and on a round the world cruise with a small crew to man the ship, three researchers and one journalist looking for a story.  The journalist, Tripp, has joined them en route and needs catching up on the personalities that have been bumping up against each other.   Through him we find out that Ray, the scientist billionaire, wants wealth and fame in that order while Ellis, the other senior scientist wants the major find that will cap his career.  The remaining characters have their quirks as well.

As the story opens an unknown type of octopus is discovered. Sometime later one of the characters is found murdered.  This leaves the survivors trying to find their way home while trying to stay away from each other.  "The Boneless One" by Alec Nevala-Lee works as a detective story with a contemporary science background.  Scientifically, the ducks are lined up on this one, something that I appreciate.

On a small island in the Aegean something as innocent as building a parking lot can have ramifications.  In this case, the finding of an artefact leads to an excavation, more ruins and the discovery of a temple.  "Dig Site" by Jack McDevitt gives us a look at the role of the archaeologist in a contemporary society.

The dig is productive, but the results puzzling.  While the contractor wants to finish building the parking lot the archaeologists obsess with finding some type of meaning in their work, or their lives.  It’s a well written story but I can't say that I really liked it.

Many years ago a movie entitled Colossus: The Forbin Project was produced which featured a relationship established between two computers which resulted in the development of an artificial intelligence.  The computers in question controlled weapons systems.  Now, fast forward to the 21st century where Don D'Ammassa has written "The Buddy System.”

D'Ammassa has written about two cybernetic entities and a relationship, of sorts, which is established between the two. Defence isn't the issue here but the consequences are still global. It's thought provoking and leaves the reader wondering about a possible real life scenario.  I can't say much more without giving it away. A good read.

Brandon has built himself a rocket plane and intends to blast off on a test flight.  He's the everyman who's going to fulfill his dream and start a new chapter in space exploration.  His engine is powered by peroxide and he wears a second-hand Russian flight suit.  He thinks that he's a pioneer and his wife thinks that he's crazy.

In "Rocket Science" Jerry Oltion has described a modern hero with a little too much pride and the story is about where this and his rocket takes him.  Add in the fact that, as everyone who watches the history channel ought to know, peroxide powered aircraft are pretty bloody unstable and you get a little more suspense. Not bad.

"Chumbolone" by Bill Johnson is a story about modern American politics--more specifically politics in the city of Chicago.  In Chicago a Chumbolone is a term used to describe someone who doesn't know how the game of politics is really played.

Johnson's narrator is the campaign manager for the incumbent President of the USA. He desperately needs votes in Chicago but the price is too high--the pardon of the Mayor's nephew.  But, the manager is not out of options.  Through a friend of a friend he finds himself hooking up with some “folks” who hold the key to the political power that he seeks but who also rate as the greatest Chumbolones of all time.

Johnson is gifted in creating characters with special abilities who may be labouring under unique conditions.  He also takes a realistic view of politics without being too cynical.  Mr. Smith is still going to Washington.