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

Analog, Jan./Feb. 2011

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"Some of Them Closer" by Marissa Lingen
"The First Conquest of Earth" by David W. Goldman
"Multivac's Singularity" by Richard A. Lovett
"Out There" by Norman Spinard
"A Snitch in Time" by Donald Moffitt
"Non-Native Species" by Janet Freeman
"The Frog Prince" by Michael F. Flynn
"Stay" by Stephen L. Burns
"The Unfinished Man" by Dave Creek
"Enigma" by Sean McMullen
"At Cross Purposes" by Juliete Wade
"The First Day of Eternity" by Domingo Santos (as translated by Stanley Schmidt)

Reviewed by Richard E. D. Jones

The January/February 2011 double issue of Analog offers an intriguing mix of short stories and novelettes, as well as a particularly difficult novella, all contained under a lovely cover by Bob Eggleton.

In the short story "Some of Them Closer," by Marissa Lingen, we meet Mireille Ayotte, a woman who makes changes for a living, but is having a hard time adjusting to changes made without her.

Mirelle has returned after 100 years to a changed Montreal, after working for years as a terraformer on a distant colony planet. Lingen does a nice job on this slice-of-life story in showing how it's the little changes that really get under our skin. While the ending was a bit predictable, really it was the only thing that could have happened and it happened well. It was a journey well spent, even if the destination was one we've visited before.

When alien warships appear in the skies over Earth, humanity learns a valuable lesson about ransoming Red Chief and accepting giant, wooden horses in David W. Goldman's amusing short story, "The First Conquest of Earth."

Goldman uses the power of bureaucracy, veiled threats and overconfident incompetence to tell quite a funny story about the fate of the first alien conquest fleet to approach Earth as well as Earth's own fleet of conquest warships. The string of vignettes that make up the story do a great job of weaving their separate stories into a satisfying whole that brought a lot of smiles and a couple of genuine laughs.

Omniscience, boredom and the nerd rapture all combine in a rush of cute concepts pitting religion (of various sorts) versus technology in the Probability Zero entry for this issue, "Multivac's Singularity" by Richard A. Lovett.

Norman Spinard's latest story, "Out There," offers a bittersweet reflection on the meaning of human existence, a reaffirmation of human curiosity as the driving force for our species. As always in Spinard's stories, the dialogue in "Out There" is engaging, thankfully, as it makes up the majority of the story. I quite enjoyed Spinard's ultimately optimistic take on the perseverance of human curiosity and altruism.

Most time travel stories make my brain ache. Unchecked causality winds up a hammer, hands it to the author and says, "Swing away." In "A Snitch in Time," Donald Moffitt weaves a police procedural in and around alternate universes and branching time points to tell an engaging story of one man's obsession.

Lt. Francis Patrick Delehanty is nearing retirement and won't go out unless he solves a 30-year-old murder case. He comes up with the novel solution of traveling back to the scene and time of the crime, thereby creating an alternate timeline, to prevent the murder in that timeline and solve it in his own.

Although there were a few stretches of inappropriate exposition (probably a necessary evil in time-travel stories) and a somewhat weak ending, Moffitt delivered a good story, well worth the headache.

A disguised alien comes to the Australian Outback searching desperately for anything that will kill a voracious species on his home world in Janet Freeman's "Non-Native Species." Too bad for Earth that the only way to test for something to kill the invasive alien species is to turn it loose on its own and see if anything kills it before it begins cloning itself.

Freeman's prose whips us along in a grand style, showing off her research in a very subtle manner. I particularly liked the interaction between the two main characters. My only question was this: Why is it that every alien who visits Earth or time traveler who visits our era always falls in love with beer? Sure, Australia is home to some pretty good beer, but still. . . .

Two heads might be better than one, but as Michael F. Flynn proves in his novelette "The Frog Prince," cramming together a host of personalities inside one brain can be a bit of a challenge. The scarred man known as Donovan is a secret agent for the Confederation, only at some point he managed to tick off his superiors and – possibly as punishment and possibly to increase his value to them – his mind was split into a number of specialized personalities.

Donovan wakes onboard a smuggler's ship, captive of an opposition agent. He must manage to find out why he's been taken captive, secure his freedom and discover the secret of The Frog Prince if he wants to live. I truly enjoyed Flynn's use of somewhat archaic language, juxtaposing it with the futuristic setting in a fantastic manner. I'd also like to compliment whoever decided to use different fonts for the different personalities as it was an inspired choice for shorthandedly letting the reader know who's thinking what.

Aliens can have very strange motivations. Which might explain why they uplifted dogs into sentient beings to replace the people in Stephen L. Burns' novelette "Stay." What starts as a whimsical tale of the canifolk's newly instituted rule over the earth becomes a gripping meditation on the relationship between gods and their creations. Told with humor, grace and a sly wit, this tale was one of my favorite stories this year.

Mike Christopher is an artificial man who's having a bit of a mid-life crisis in "The Unfinished Man" by Dave Creek. Dropping in on a wildly imagined planet to check on an elderly scientist, Christopher needs the old man's help to come to terms with some unsettling news. While the world-building was exemplary, I thought the story itself suffered a bit from the philosophic dialogue. Still worth reading, but not in the top for this issue.

A crew of chimeras from Earth discover the ultimate time capsule in Sean McMullen's novelette "Enigma." The titular artifact is a planet of supreme mystery, devoid of continents and exhibiting only metallic caves and wind. The question becomes: What is it for? That answer, quite logical and actually pretty moving, comes at the hands of a rat-human chimera in this entertaining story.

"At Cross Purposes" by Juliete Wade is an. . . interesting story. We follow a small group of terraformers on a distant planet who meet a group of aliens pursuing their own purposes. While the dialogue was a bit difficult to follow at times, and the story itself a bit long, I still enjoyed the end result: a discovery that following your joy can lead to understanding.

We end by looking at the issue's novella, "The First Day of Eternity," by Domingo Santos and translated by Stanley Schmidt. I wish I were more impressed. This lengthy novella might have made a great short story. However, its length really didn't do it any favors.

The story concerns the arrival of a generational ship full of human pilgrims to a planet mundanely called Earth Two. Much of the story was given over to expositional info dumps, but I'm going to give Santos a Mulligan on that one and assume a lot of the awkwardness came from the difficulty of translation. Still, the story felt like a tale told to an audience, rather than an experience vicariously lived by the reader. While there were several interesting ideas in the story, they did not get nearly the attention they needed to really grab my attention.

Overall, I'd say this is an issue well worth your filthy lucre. Pony up and get a dose of the good stuff. This issue definitely came down on the side of win.