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

Analog, March 2004

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"Camouflage, Part I" by Joe Haldeman
"Greater Fleas Have Lesser Fleas" by Grey Rollins
"Babel" by Steven Utley
"Draft Dodger's Rag" by Jeff Hecht
"Storm Front" by Larry Niven
"Promises, Promises" by Mia Molvray
"The Uncommon Cold" by Jerry Oltion
"Distant Fire" by Richard A. Lovett
"The Color of Pain" by James C. Glass The issue opens up with part one of Joe Haldeman's serial "Camouflage." Since this only forms the first third of a story, if you want to read a review, you'll have to wait until the third part is finished, because I won't be reviewing story fragments at this time. So moving on to the authors who have complete stories published in the March issue of Analog, editor Stanley Schmidt has provided a nice range of authors, from Grey Rollins to Larry Niven.

Rollins provides the first complete story with "Greater Fleas Have Lesser Fleas." In this story about farmers trying to find a place to farm, Rollins manages to capture a certain feeling of Damon Knight's classic story "To Serve Man." Even as the reader sees the parallels to that story, Rollins is not content to simply mirror Knight's earlier work in his tale of settlers on the alien planet Organala. Rollins's farmers question their luck in finding a place to farm, even if they don't seek out their answers, partially because they are too busy making a life for themselves. When the answers to their questions are discovered and not entirely to their liking, the farmers are actually willing to try to reclaim their freedom.

Steven Utley parodies scientists who believe in the literal word of the Bible in "Babel," but in so doing also parodies the more mainstream scientists. The piece is written as the transcript from an interview show, including callers. Utley uses the format to demonstrate that no matter what your opinion is, there will always be people whose opinions are far more radical, and who you view as an embarrassment. The story also points out the difficulties between people who put faith in a system ahead of physical evidence.

Even as the United States is engaged in what many people believe to be an unjust war, Jeff Hecht's "Draft Dodger's Rag" looks back at our involvement in Viet Nam with a story of a pot head who doesn't want to go to war after seeing what it did to his best friend. Hecht takes the clich├ęd idea of time travelers going back in time to fight in wars and turns it on its head to look at how that idea can be used by a draft dodger. While the outcome of the situation is reasonably predictable, Hecht's way of dealing with it isn't, but also isn't entirely satisfactory.

Larry Niven has produced another piece set in his Draco tavern in "Storm Front." More of a vignette than an actual story, it seems to be a testing piece about a race which lives in stars and the difficulty which the race has when fluctuations make their home star unlivable. While "Storm Front" works as a showcase for the idea, there is little narrative tension in the short piece.

The "Probability Zero" piece in this issue of Analog is "Promises, Promises," by Mia Molvray. A short piece about the Oolians, a race which prizes the social contract, this is the story of election promises made and, eventually kept, a fitting piece to include in an election year issue of Analog.

The timing of Jerry Oltion's "The Uncommon Cold," like "Promises, Promises" is quite apt, in this case because the March issue of Analog is published at the height of cold season and nearly all readers will be able to commiserate with Greg and Rita. Oltion's characters look into the trends of the common cold and apply some thought as to how it has evolved and look to where that evolution will end, providing some unconventional thought to result in a rather unpromising future for mankind.

Richard A. Lovett successfully creates the romantic feeling necessary for "Distant Fire," a story of a love that spans the ages. The characters, however, are never really fleshed out, nor is the reader really shown their relationship occurring. Instead, Lovett has adopted the distant voice of a third party narrator which makes it more difficult for the reader to relate to the characters, their relationship (such as it is) or their predicament.

"The Color of Pain," by James C. Glass is a first contact story in which farmer settlers are confronted by Worms, a native life form on the planet. Cameron has been sent in to determine if the Worms are sentient, as some believe, or simply animals that the settlers can exterminate. The story opened with the potential to be a powerful statement of colonization and land ownership, but Glass chose to explore the Worms' strange way of communicating, which made for some interesting sequences, but not as riveting a story as Glass initially indicated it would be.