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

Lightspeed #7, December 2010

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Lightspeed #7, December 2010

“In-Fall” by Ted Kosmatka
“Jenny’s Sick” by David Tallerman

Reviewed by Rhonda Porrett

“In-Fall” by Ted Kosmatka begins with two men whooshing across space in a ship that isn’t a ship. An anchor connected to the hull by an unbreakable filament is fired into the center of a black hole. Gravity pulls the ship closer to its doom. One of the men, a mere boy, is restrained in a chair, bleeding. The other man, his interrogator, wants the names of the boy’s accomplices in a war that ravages the human race. If the boy reveals his secrets, he will be killed quickly. If he refuses to squeal, he will be engulfed by the black hole where time does not exist, thus robbing him of death and his heavenly reward as a freedom fighter.

“In-Fall” explores what happens when one person plays God by being able to determine the eternal destiny of another. I found the concept excellent and tension good, but the interrogator’s motives for going on the kamikaze mission into the black hole are convoluted. His actions are fueled by vengeance, justice, weariness, compassion, and remorse. The presence of these varied driving forces in such a short story weakens the interrogator. Also, the fate of the prisoner as written is too calm, too clean, and too unrealistic.

The idea of a black hole being a two dimensional time trap is intriguing, but I had a problem with the logic behind the statement identifying a black hole as the inverse of existence and not the opposite or reverse. A mathematical explanation of the differences between inverse, opposite, and reverse by Mr. Kosmatka as they relate to the variables of time and space within the story would have been appreciated.

How do you stand out in a world where everyone is perfect? In “Jenny’s Sick” by David Tallerman, all disease has been eradicated, or so it would seem. When a college man intent on pursuing a career finds his roommate suffering from influenza, gastroenteritis, and other maladies, he discovers she’s been taking pills to make herself sick. He ignores her addiction and moves out rather than try to dissuade her from her self-afflicting tendencies. Troubled by guilt, can he find it in his heart to help his former lover and friend in her time of need, or will his life and career take precedence?

Science takes a back seat to the smooth prose and identifiable characters in “Jenny’s Sick.” Turn the disease-inducing drugs into modern illegal street drugs and the story wouldn’t change . . . much. But there is an underlying current that paints a scary picture of life where everyone can have a flawless body and the boundary between sane and insane is blurred. I recommend “Jenny’s Sick” based on the characters and its thought-provoking nature.