An upbeat YA underdog story from a future where people race with prosthetically enhanced bodies. Poor teen from wrong side of tracks with gift for hacAn upbeat YA underdog story from a future where people race with prosthetically enhanced bodies. Poor teen from wrong side of tracks with gift for hacking mods risks her tuition fund on the big race. Moves along at a brisk pace with likable heroine. ...more
An entertaining enough collection of PKD stories. Plenty of strangeness here, and lots of PKD's love of fakery and misdirection.
I always like to lookAn entertaining enough collection of PKD stories. Plenty of strangeness here, and lots of PKD's love of fakery and misdirection.
I always like to look at older stories for their technology. Lots of such passe tech in these, no one the whole, PKD is far from a hardSF author; he throws out technological ideas and the occasional paranormal telepathy/psionics to play his little games of “what if”.
How Do You Know You're Reading Philip K. Dick? • (1987) • essay by James Tiptree, Jr. One of the things that struck me reading the introduction by Alice Sheldon (aka Tiptree), noted feminist author, for collection of stories that is so very 1950s in its role for women. And yet she doesn't mention it at all. ("How do you know your reading Philip K Dick?" The only female characters are serving coffee to the men.) Reading this collection, I was really surprised by how totally secondary PKD treats the rare female character that appears. I noticed that the male characters are all addressed as their last name, whereas the womenfolk are all first names. "Captive Market" is the only story with a female lead character. And, Mrs. Berthelson isn't a nice person, though she's the only female character addressed by a last name.
Autofac • (1955) The story is an automated factory running amok at peak production after the war is over. The remaining population of earth would like to these autofacs to stop before they exhaust all of natural resources.
The factories make regular deliveries of supplies to the surviving settlements, and the residence try various ways of getting the attention of the factory, in the hopes of talking it into stopping. Some of the ideas are clever, and they do eventually manage to get through to Customer Service — automated, of course. When that doesn't help, they try more interesting techniques.
In the notes, Dick mentions that one reviewer suggested this was the first ecological sci-fi, but Dick himself viewed it as a tale of automation (these days we might call it AI) evolving to take on other characteristics of the life it imitates, including self-preservation and eventually reproduction.
Service Call • (1955) A clever story of an ordinary man who meets an extraordinary situation, makes an interesting deduction based on scant evidence, and drops everything to investigate.
Courtland is a man who makes his living literally watching paint dry. A repairman arrives at his front door to repair his swibble. A business card left behind suggest the repair man was from post-1965 (which is the future for this 1955 story.) Acting on that really, really thin evidence, Courtland assembles a collection of engineers (and a reel to reel tape recorder :) to subtly interrogate the repairman and figure out what a swibble is. (After all, if it's such a popular item in the future, why not get a head start on the industry?) I liked the whole concept that Courtland immediately saw this as a business opportunity, even though his only evidence is an "impossible" date on a scrap of paper.
I liked the whole concept that Courtland immediately saw this as a business opportunity. (Also amusing is the idea that in the future customer services quite punctual due to the use of time machines. :)
Then, in the course of his interrogation, Courtland figures out that the swibble isn't necessarily a benign device. It's apparently a loyalty detector, like something that could decide if an immigrant wants to "share our values" or secretly hopes to impose sharia law on us.
Interestingly, the future repairman mentions at one point, "It's ironic, isn't it? After the '61 war there was really only one contrary ideology: those who opposed the swibbles….. So the swibbles differentiated those who didn't want to be differentiated by swibbles." So, swibbles have become self-perpetuating: if you don't want a swibble, you're suspect. (Which strikes me as similar to the slightly modern argument that anyone who objects to government surveillance must have something to hide.)
Note 1955 was the tail end of the McCarthy era, which were Sen. Joseph McCarthy's effort to root out "disloyalty" in the US. So a swibble would really help Joe.
Orwell imagined the government would impose Telescreens to dispense propaganda and keep an eye on citizens. In the modern world, we purchase our own Smart TVs, XBoxes, & Alexas to watch us with cameras and listen to what we say, the way Dick imagines in this story.
Captive Market • (1955) The only story with a female protagonist.
Dick saves explaining (or at least itemizing) Mrs Berthelson's ability to the end of the story. At first she seems able to cross over into the future at only one point, out at the end of an isolated road. But by the end we find out she can sense a multi-verse of future timelines and examine them, and cross over to them pretty much wherever. Ahe also has a sixth sense for finding customers. So these lone survivors of a future apocalypse make an excellent captive market in which she has a monopoly. She is the Goddess of Capitalism!
It's interesting that the survivors expect her back because they think she jinxed them, whereas really she's just hunted through the multi-verse for the timeline where they failed in a nonfatal way (though she's gleeful to have found it; one person's misery is her financial gain.)
The Mold of Yancy • (1955) The gambit here seems to be to establish the nonexistent virtual Yancy as everybody's friend by confining them mostly to platitudes, in anticipation of using him later to direct public opinion.
When I read the story, I was thinking of a folksy voice with a bit of a drawl, a sort of Will Rogers character, someone like Paul Harvey. I was really surprised when reading the Notes that PKD had modeled him after Dwight Eisenhower (who was President of the US in 1955 when the story was written, still in his first term.) PKD even writes "Obviously" in front of that, though it's not obvious to me at all!
The Minority Report • (1956) In the future, harnessing precognition allows police to arrest people before they commit their crimes. The head of pre-crime, Anderton, finds himself accused of pre-murder.
The interesting take away here is that even though Anderton is a "victim" of his own pre-crime unit, he continues to believe in prophylactic policing, and even commits the murder he's been pre-accused of just to maintain the public credibility of pre-crime.
The story looks at the idea that merely knowing the future alters it. (PKD makes the interesting argument that if the pre-cogs couldn't see alternate possible timelines, pre-crime would be futile, since it would prove you couldn't change the future. Clearly, pre-crime has already altered many futures by incarcerating individuals before they commit their crime.)
Recall Mechanism • (1959) As the story progressed, I was thinking it was headed along the lines of “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, like it was headed for some sort of repressed memory story.
I thought the fact that it turned out to be a “pre-memory” was an interesting twist. The 2nd story about precognition in the collection. I also noticed that unlike “Minority Report”, it's apparently not possible to change the future in this story's incarnation of precognition.
The Unreconstructed M • (1957) Machine that not only can commit murder but plant false evidence to frame someone else. CSI, circa 1957: No DNA, which would've made narrowing down the suspects a lot easier.
I love the idea of a robot originally created on colony planets to kill poachers and make it look like wild animal attack. Punishment beams you across the galaxy. Interesting way to fob your criminals off on somebody else. Means you don't have to get your hands dirty with executions or prisons, lets you feel like you've been humane while not incurring any inconvenience. Unless of course someone else is doing the same to you.
In both this and Minority Report, there are established procedures for investigating crime, determining guilt, administering “justice”. And in each story, those procedures are challenged by the discovery of something new that suggests it's possible for the “system” to convict the wrong person. Both stories let the system manages to step outside itself and provide an approximation of actual justice, but the powers-that-be preserve the status quo. Nobody wants to change or reform the justice system in reaction to revelations.
Explorers We • (1959) One of those odd, mysterious stories that declines to offer an explanation. Twilight Zone stuff.
Something keeps re-creating a spaceship and crew that are long dead. From the initial POV we, the readers, know these characters think they are real. Earth keeps incinerating them each time they return, because Earth knows they aren't "real". The impulse to destroy the unknown seems irresistible.
Differs from a traditional ghost story because there seems an obvious physical manifestation, especially the spaceship. Question: if the FBI didn't kill them, would they keep coming?
War Game • (1959) The product safety commission evaluates some imported games. One is really elaborate and requires weeks to play through its entire scenario. Given that it was a PKD story, once it was clear there were multiple toys being evaluated for approval, the most complicated and elaborate one would turn out to be a distraction.
Interesting that the adults just assume the goal of the Syndrome game was to accumulate as much wealth as possible. Even stranger that the kids bothered to read the directions; around here, reading directions is the last resort. ;)
If There Were No Benny Cemoli • (1963) I liked this story. It's got the usual PKD fakery. (Spoilers) In this case the less-powerful but more vested locals have the clever strategy to keep newcomers preoccupied with a search for an entirely fictional dissident, freeing them up to do their other work. Great strategy, pointing to tiny specks of tinfoil as distraction so no one sees what you are really up to.
Orpheus with Clay Feet • (1964) A unique use of time travel: sending people back into the past so they can act as the inspiration/Muse for artists they admire. The latest time tourist seems to have the opposite effect, driving his idle away from their greater destiny. Interesting that Slade works for a consultancy for draft dodgers. PKD was clearly on the leading edge of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
The Days of Perky Pat • (1963) A really odd story in a post-apocalyptic Earth, where what's left of humanity lives in underground "fluke pits" to protect them from the radiation. The adults spend a lot of their free time playing with dolls & dollhouses, specically the Perky Pat™, a reference to the Barbie™ Doll ensemble. The players moving their dolls through a typical day. It uses a spin wheel or dice. The participants put a good deal of effort into creating new accessories: clothes or appliances; one is very proud of the garbage disposal he's fashioned for his Perky Pat. It put me in mind of a game of Dungeons & Dragons™, with the figures & dice & such (though that game wouldn't be invented for another decade after the writing.)
The kids don't seem to understand the adults preoccupation (and neither really do I.)
When they hear about a fluke-pit in Oakland that uses a different doll, they simply must arrange a face-off. They discover that the main difference is Perky Pat is a plastic teenager, but Connie Companion seems to have grown up, gotten married, has a job. They're all quite scandalized because sweet sixteen virginal Perky Pat would never let BF doll get to second base. (When near the end, Norn says of the Connie doll, "Be carefully with her… She's going to have a baby" I really laughed.)
Stand-By • (1963) In the future, a computer is President of the US. There's a Stand-by President job practically everyone's forgotten about, just in case the computer breaks down (sounds a lot like being Vice President.) An alien invasion triggers a breakdown, and the Stand-by President takes over. He's immediately challenged by a popular “newsclown", and begins to abuse his executive powers.
Apparently PKD doesn't care for either news anchors (apparently Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley didn't impress) or unions.
What'll We Do with Ragland Park? (1963) The story is a continuation of Stand-by, with Stan-by President Max Fischer having imprisoned Newsclown Jim Briskin. A rival TV network wants to higher Briskin, but first they have to get him out of jail. To this end they discover a singer/songwriter named Ragland Park, who turns out to have psionic powers: what he sings about comes true.
Oh, to Be a Blobel! • (1964) A Gift of the Magi type of story. Following a war, rival spies for the alien Blobels and humans are left with unstable physiology is mimicking each other's races. A couple of these decide to make the best of a bad deal and get together to marry. Several really funny lines, including the fact that Blobels can "ooze angrily".
In the notes that accompany the story, PKD suggests that he was angling for a message that war turns us into what we hate about our enemies.
NOTES I thought one of the interesting tidbits from reading the notes at the end of the book is about PKD's relationship with the editors. He mentions that Horace Gold (editor of Galaxy), liked his stories but eventually they parted ways over Gold's habit of making changes to stories he'd purchased, though we had a solid relationship with Frederick Pohl (Gold's successor at Galaxy.) Interestingly, PKD says that John Campbell, editor of Astounding (later renamed to today's Analog) and mentor and favorite publisher of Isaac Asimov, thought PKD's stories were "nuts". :) ...more
Not an issue that I enjoyed very much, saved only by the fact that the longest was at least the best.
"Nexus" by Michael F. Flynn — An engaging story thNot an issue that I enjoyed very much, saved only by the fact that the longest was at least the best.
"Nexus" by Michael F. Flynn — An engaging story that pretty much throws everything into the mix: the time traveler trying to repair the timeline back to what he thinks is "correct", an immortal who's been alive for millennia, an alien disguised as human to take refuge on earth, a different alien scouting for an invasion fleet, a robot also passing as human, and a telepathic detective. Both in the story title and in discussions of “coincidence” in the novella, the improbability of all this is ostentatiously lampshaded, and somehow in its tongue-in-cheek fashion it manages to be an rollicking adventure story. ****
"Eli's Coming" by Catherine Wells Eli is a future businessman who runs time-travel tourism to the past, a bit like Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder", except we are assured time travelers can't change the past. Ignoring complaints from his scientists that the equipment is a little out of alignment, he insists on taking a trip to a new time & place: Herod's Palace. Ignoring scientists never ends well in sci-fi. He ends up in the wrong place and time, on the receiving end of the Roman siege of Masada. This all unfolds like a fairly standard Time travel gone wrong story, though Wells does have one small twist she tosses and at the end. ***
"Europa's Survivors" by Marianne J. Dyson — Space story has several interesting ideas on exploring Europa and studying possible alien life (bacteria), but is cluttered by puzzling elements (animate pseudo-pets who seemed to me more annoying than soothing) and a way too happy ending. **1/2*
"Host" by Eneasz Brodski — A sort of zombie retread (called "Abominations" here) that doesn't offer any likable characters. The horror concept doesn't really work if the reader doesn't care about the victims. **
"Time Heals" by James C. Glass Guy has, under cover of a "business trip", been traveling back in time to try to kill his abusive step-dad. After checking out step-dad's childhood, he apparently becomes more sympathetic. Oh, really? I don't buy it. **
"Plaisir D'Amore" by John Alfred Taylor — I tried several times to get interested in the story and failed every time. *1/2*
"Shakesvilles" by Adam-Troy Castro & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro — Another WTF story about a guy visited by 50 alternate future versions of himself, all warning him of some crucial future decision… Guy eventually decides his life is to empty to save. Meh. **
"The Snatchers" by Edward McDermott – Time travelers from the future and jump back to extract people moments before they die, in the hopes they can produce intellectual property in their time period. Time keeps trying to correct for any anomalies the visitors introduce. A caper story, though I'm not sure what the author was going for with the ending. **1/2*
"Unbearable Burden" by Gwendolyn Claire — An AI, unable to find a reason for living, longs for suicide. Story focused on wrong character. **
"Grandmaster" by Jay O'Connell — Another time travel, girl from future steps back in time to present award to author whose her hero. Roman-a-clef striving for sentimentality, reaches for treacle, ends up a muddle. *1/2*
"Alexander's Theory of Special Relativity" by Shane Halbach — Another time travel. Scientist sends girlfriend into the future, and he's surprised that 10 min. in his time is a decade in her life. She comes back older and wiser, and they spend the rest of the story realizing they've grown apart in their relationship and.... bleh. **
"Concerning the Devastation Wrought by the Nefarious Gray Comma and Its Ilk: A Men in Tie-Dye Adventure" by Tim McDaniel — Intended as a comedy, it really only has one joke and lacks the necessary tongue-in-cheek narration style. Just not funny enough. **
"Ecuador Vs. the Bug Eyed Monsters" by Jay Werkheiser — Sports story in which Ecuador gets to play in the World Cup off world. Some geeky speculation on how soccer would be different played on a rotating torus using centrifugal force to simulate gravity. When Ecuador wins, they get to play the aliens for unknown stakes. The three Ecuadorian players it tries to concentrate on don't develop very interesting personalities, but I give it some credit for the geeky physics. ***
Okay, I liked almost all the stories in this edition.
"Three Can Keep a Secret" by Bill Johnson & Gregory Frost — Entertaining adventure/caper storOkay, I liked almost all the stories in this edition.
"Three Can Keep a Secret" by Bill Johnson & Gregory Frost — Entertaining adventure/caper story and the style of an interplanetary Mission Impossible TV episode has a master of disguise and misdirection keeping a few steps ahead of an assassin, though the story keeps the reveal of what the actual goal is until the very end. ****
"A Singular Event in the Fourth Dimension" by Andrea M. Pawley — A very soft, entertaining story from a robot’s PoV. Olive isn’t isn't very smart but is at least sincere, and quite likable in her naïve and childlike way. She's been adopted by “Mama”, over the harsh objections of Grandmother, who want to send Olive to the recycling bin. I thought this story worked really well. ****1/2*
"Number Thirty-Nine Skink” by Suzanne Palmer — An AI machine wanders a planet creating new life forms to augment the xeno-ecology. Abandoned by her crew, it also seeks to understand its original mission. Entertaining and imaginative, with a bit of a leap for an ending. ****
“Tao Zero” by Damien Broderick — A bold title, (sort of) homophone of Poul Anderson's classic Tau Zero, though this story seems to have nothing to do with that at all. In this fantasy, the Dow family has devoted exhaustive study to Tao, to the point where they can take advantage of it and even manipulated, like some all-powerful Force flowing through the universe. A bizarre premise, moderately entertaining story with a couple of likable protagonists. ***
"Soulmates.com" by Will McIntosh — Internet dating goes awry, because on the Internet nobody knows you're an AI. Engaging story. ***1/2*
“Invasion of the Saucer-Men" by Dale Bailey — Mildly amusing, self-aware cheesy 50-style SF that enjoys playing with the old B&W movie tropes. Just doesn't play with them enough to be really brilliant at it. ***
"Cupido" by Rich Larson — A future alchemist uses genetics and chemistry to create the scientific equivalent of a love potion for clients. Until he becomes infatuated with one of his targets. **1/2*
"After the Atrocity" by Ian Creasy — Interesting story idea. Prof. invents a way to 3D-print duplicates of people (right down to memories), and finds Homeland Security has an unexpected and highly classified idea for how to use it. She proceeds to debate its morality with her own clone. ****
'We Regret the Error" by Terry Bisson — Quite funny, quite short, "story" in the uniquely imaginative form of a series of corrections to newspaper articles. ****
"Goner" by Gregory Norman Bossert — Odd story I didn’t entirely grok about a trans-human transformation to create spaceship pilots, and some kid with psychological problems I didn’t care about. **
"The Wisdom of the Group" by Ian R. McLeod — Really annoying story about mildly amusing cheesy mildlnes the Wisdom of Crowds hypothesis and uses a high-tech Gestalt mind meld to direct finances, sort of like a mystical investment club. But the story gets lost in cocktail parties on yachts and love interest and, really annoyingly fails to deliver an intelligible ending and left me wondering, “what the fuck was that about?”. * ...more
Definitely not one of Willis's better books. One of her weird comedies features a young high school graduate who discovers she's been admitted to theDefinitely not one of Willis's better books. One of her weird comedies features a young high school graduate who discovers she's been admitted to the Space Academy, even though she didn't apply and emphatically doesn't want to go there. As with many Willis comedies, she's beset by a supporting cast with strange quirks and obsessions of their own.
Unfortunately, the first difficulty our heroine encounters is so totally telegraphed, it doesn't seem a complication at all. And subsequent problems just aren't enough to put things back on track....more
A pretty good issue where I actually enjoyed all the stories to one degree or another.
"Assassins" by Jack Skillingstead and Burt Courtier — In a storyA pretty good issue where I actually enjoyed all the stories to one degree or another.
"Assassins" by Jack Skillingstead and Burt Courtier — In a story translating a tale of player-killers in MMORGS into the augmented reality game world. ***
"Prosthetic Daughter" by Nin Harris — A somber, far-future story of a far-flung humanity, all with cybernetic and bionic augmentations. It turns out, if you store your memories in the cloud, identity theft is somewhat more serious. ****
"How Bees Fly" by Simone Heller — Post-apocalyptic story has primitive survivors who raise "bees" and fear wandering "demons", neither of whom are what they initially seem. Ultimately, it's one of those "hatred is caused by ignorance" touchy-feely tales that's still entertaining even if it's overstated messages trite. ***1/2*
"Rain Ship" by Chi Hui, translated by Andy Dudak — In the far future, humanity has disappeared, and a race of intelligent rats have arisen to take its place, exploring humanity's archaeological relics. Exploring a giant human ship whose technology still seems to be functioning, Pirates (relic raiders) and archaeologists have a lethal argument over salvage. Story is imaginative and a bit clever. The exposition seems a bit awkward, since it's relegated to over two dozen footnotes about rat society, but I still found it in engaging read. ****
"Dragon's Deep" by Cecelia Holland — A fishing village, impoverished by Royal taxes, ventures into forbidden waters in hopes of beter catch. Turns out there is a reason for the name. ***
"The Dragonslayer of Merebarton" by K.J. Parker — With Parker, it's often not the story so much as the telling that's enjoyable. His often wry observations and understated humor enliven this droll tale of an aging knight called upon to slay dragon praying on a neighboring village. (I originally read this story in Fearsome Journeys.)***** ...more
"Starship Day" by Ian R. MacLeod — If you're skeptical why the day an interstellar starship is scheduled to awaken itsOK, much better than last month.
"Starship Day" by Ian R. MacLeod — If you're skeptical why the day an interstellar starship is scheduled to awaken its frozen crew is an unmissable holiday event all over the world, you just have to keep reading... What seemed like a story that was wandering really hold itself together. ****
"Later, Let’s Tear Up The Inner Sanctum" by A. Merc Rustad — Superhero group and their nemesis aren't all what they seem to be. An interesting take of superpowerdom. ****
"Lady Antheia’s Guide to Horticultural Warfare" by Seanan McGuire — A quirky telling of an alien (plant people) invasion said in a steampunk London. Modestly amusing, entertaining enough. ***1/2*
"The Last Garden" by Jack Skillingstead — Post-apocalyptic tale, astronaut returns to be the last woman on Earth; a robot takes care of her (whether she wants or not.) Hope springs eternal. ***
"Probably Still the Chosen One by Kelly Barnhill — A different take on the magic portal to a parallel world story. Remember all those years between trips to Narnia? Waiting is hard when you're only 11, but it's worse when you're a 22 year old single mom who now wants to know if Narnia has child care. A well told tale with an engaging if perplexed protagonist. ****
"The Memorial Page" by K.J. Bishop — The depressing story of a utopia, destroyed, reborn, destroyed,... it's hard to build the "perfect city". ***
"Six-Gun Vixen and the Dead Coon Trashgang" by Ashok Banker — An author from India writes a story about a gunfighter woman from India in the American Old West. The “six-gun” title is also a quirky joke. The highly proficient gunfighter is hired to clear out the “Dead Coon Trashgang”. A straightforward adventure tale. ***
"The Elixir of Youth" by Brian Stableford — This might be considered a horror story if it had been written in a slightly different tone. As it is, it comes off as a kind of fairytale, though full of some pretty gruesome events. Entertaining enough, anyway. ***1/2* ...more
Generally a good issue with almost every story enjoyable.
“Homecoming” by Rachel Pollack — One of the continuing Jack Slade stories, a series I recallGenerally a good issue with almost every story enjoyable.
“Homecoming” by Rachel Pollack — One of the continuing Jack Slade stories, a series I recall only vaguely because installments are pretty far apart. Jack is Harry Dresden in NY with a more active supernatural community. In this installment, he retrieved something for a client, then wishes he hadn't. The magic here is of the "whatever the plot requires” style, so it's hard to get too involved in the action. ***
"Vinegar and Cinnamon" by Nina Kiriki Hoffmar — A cute story, trying for "charming" about a tween-aged boy getting turned into a rat by his angry little sister/witch. ***
"One Way" by Rick Norwood — Old-school story about scientist to invents new gizmo, a one-way screen for matter. Then an experiment goes wrong. (view spoiler)[reminded me a bit of a similar story about a micro-blackhole that gets loose. (hide spoiler)] ***
"Dunnage for the Soul" by Robert Reed — An new device detects "persistent electrical signature” in the brain, which for reasons I can't understand gets interpreted as a "soul". One personally normal young man turns out to be one of the 6% who don't show such "PES", and so people begin to shun him as “soulless”. Eventually he believes it himself. ***1/2*
"There Used to Be Olive Trees" by Rich Larson — A future where a few elites live with technology inside a walled enclave outside of which is wasteland. One chosen only decides to leave and see how the other half lives. ***1/2*
"The Regression Test" by Wole Talabi — A replicated personality, when copied, needs to be verified by someone who knew the original person. The test reveals unexpected complications… ***1/2*
"A Gathering on Gravity's Shore” by Gregor Hartman — Highly stratified future society. Naturally there are dissidents on the bottom end. **
“On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies” by Debbie Urbanski — Oddity about world with children being taken away by faeries or something in the night. Told in form of "what to do" pamphlet for parents. I'm sure I missed the point. *
"Alexandria" by Monica Byrne — Old woman spends all her money to recreate the Lighthouse at Alexandria as a tribute to her late husband, and that’s supposed to be a good thing? **...more
For Asimov's 40th anniversary, a lot of their long-term authors contributed. The results aren't so great.
"The Speed of Belief" by Robert Reed — LengthFor Asimov's 40th anniversary, a lot of their long-term authors contributed. The results aren't so great.
"The Speed of Belief" by Robert Reed — Lengthy story in which the author seems to want to speculate on an alien life form that resembles a river. The species makes contact with humanity traveling aboard the Great Ship, where humans have divided into upgraded, near-immortal cyborgs and a Luddite natural humans. (From context, there must be a great many other alien species aboard the Great Ship, though they don't appear in the story.) The delegation to the newly-detected alien river-critters has 2 cyborgs and one Luddite, and naturally things don't go as planned. The author seems to take great delight in ordering the sections of the story non-chronologically, the better to obscure the storyline. ***
"Tagging Bruno" by Alan M. Steele — On another planet, an academic hires a guide for a safari to place electronic tags on large, dangerous, carnivorous alien life form. The expedition doesn't go as planned. Could have been an African safari adventure, just a perfunctory gloss of sci-fi. **1/2*
"Fatherbond" by Tom Purdom — Future, advanced humans colonize another planet, only to find an advanced alien race has left a guardian behind to protect the indigenous lifeforms. One of the colonists insists on expanding the human settlements despite alien threats. This seems like it's going to be a solid scifi story about whether humanity has the right to simply displace any indigenous life, but instead it turns into a soggy father-son bonding story and leaves the sci-fi plot unresolved. I really hate shit like that. **
"The Catastrophe of Cities" by Lisa Goldstein — After a couple of pages of boring, watercolor memories of teenagers biking around their hometown, I decided to bail. *
“Still Life With Abyss" by Jim Grimsley — Scientists studying multiple alternate timelines (somehow located outside normal space-time) are focused on one poor guy who's life seems almost identical in every alternate timeline they've studied. One researcher becomes emotionally attached to the poor lonely bastard. **1/2*
"Winter Timeshare" by Ray Nayler — A future where some minds can be saved after death the and computer simulations allows them a few weeks "vacation" every year with a "timeshare" body. Two such (former) women have a regular fling together in Istanbul. Interesting sci-fi worldbuilding background for a romance. ***
"Pieces of Ourselves" by Robert R. Chase — Woman becomes hero during terrorist attack on space station. Afterward, investigators try to figure out how she somehow channeled the personality of the station security officer who died during the attack. Twilight Zone stuff. ***1/2*
"Starphone" by Stephen Baxter — YA set in sealevel-rise refugee camp discusses Fermi Paradox. Feels more like an introduction to a story than an actual story. **
"Blow, Winds, and Crack your Cheeks" by John Alfred Taylor — No real scifi in this story of a storm, beyond some vague hints that it's global warming. * ...more
Apparently Adams had so many submissions to his horror magazine Nightmare, he decided to burn some of them off in the Fantasy section. Sucks.
“Rates OfApparently Adams had so many submissions to his horror magazine Nightmare, he decided to burn some of them off in the Fantasy section. Sucks.
“Rates Of Change” by James S.A. Corey — A "Corey" story that isn't Expanse related. (Read this last year in Meeting Infinity.) In the future, it's possible to transplant one's brain into another body. Originally devised for severe injuries, the procedure becomes more common and more elective; and it's no longer limited to humanoid body choices. Different people have different reactions to transplants. The idea of moving consciousness, either physically or electronically (or even magically) into another body has become a frequent sci-fi notion. What's interesting here is how different generations, raised in different phases of the technology's introduction, see the idea differently. ****
“The Whole Crew Hates Me” by Adam-Troy Castro — The crew of a spaceship all seem to despise one crewman, at least according to the crewmen. This story reminded me a bit of Pinback’s complaints in the movie Dark Star, except it's longer, not as funny, and eventually the hated one comes up with a theory to explain why everyone hates him. The theory is interesting, but may be a shorter set up? ***1/2*
“Nine-Tenths of the Law” by Molly Tanzer — When an alien possesses a woman's husband, she decides she likes the alien better. A bit of Tiptree-ish erotic SF. ****
“Tracker” by Mary Rosenblum — A future of genetically engineered, near immortal City people amuse themselves by genetically engineering other sub races of humanity with special talents. I didn't really get a sense of purpose to the story. **1/2*
“Seven Salt Tears” by Kat Howard One of those warm and fuzzy story of mermaids and selkies. (I think I agree with Samatar, selki stories are for losers.) Anyway, it's a reasonable enough take on a girl growing up to mom's fairy tales. ***
“The West Topeka Triangle” Jeremiah Tolbert — Sort of Horror-lite, with kids. Meh. **
“Daddy Long Legs of the Evening” by Jeffrey Ford — Horror story about boy who grows up to be spider-monster prowling city street killing people. I don't really care for horror. No characters of interest, and the setting is so empty I could place it in 18th century to a future dystopia with equal ease. At least it was short. **
“Nine” Kima Jones — Another semi-horror story, this one involving former slaves in a post-Civil War Arizona and some juju curse. Like I said, I don't really care for horror. This one at least has some interesting characters. **1/2* ...more
Modestly amusing story with alien PoV (thought the aliens aren't much different from humans in outlook here, the point isn't exploring unique alien biModestly amusing story with alien PoV (thought the aliens aren't much different from humans in outlook here, the point isn't exploring unique alien biochemistry or psychology.)...more
Solid if uneven issue. I really liked "A Series of Steaks" for some reason:
"The Ghost Ship Anastasia" by Rich Larson — A rescue crew in a spacefaringSolid if uneven issue. I really liked "A Series of Steaks" for some reason:
"The Ghost Ship Anastasia" by Rich Larson — A rescue crew in a spacefaring humanity uses biological-ships is sent to find out what happened to a previous expedition. This is one of those stories where the ending is pretty obvious after the first couple of pages, and it's really just a question of what path the author is going to take to get there. The trip is okay. ***
"A Series of Steaks" by Vina Jie-Min Prasad — I really liked this near-future story in a world where artificial proteins are the dominant food, so food forgery is actually a thing. The two spirited characters are engaging and the writing is entertaining. ****½*
"Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities" by Lettie Prell — A prisoner (crime unspecified) has a bunch of dreams about different kinds of justice systems. Not really sure where all that went. **
"Interchange" by Gary Kloster — A futuristic shortcut to construction is to place the project in a time bubble, let the crew do the work, and then open the bubble only moments after the project began. Not really time travel, supposedly. But on this project, the bubble briefly pops into the future, and something slips in… A sort of angsty sci-fi horror. ***
"Milla" by Lorenzo Crescentini and Emanuela Valentini, translated by Rich Larson — Solo surveyor on a newly found planet picks up an AI within his cerebral implant. Clearly not meant as hard-SF, but more a scolding about trashing our home planet. **½*
"Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance" by John Kessel — Space opera has a thief fleeing with the only copy of a culturally vital set of plays. Plot holes abound. (Like, If it's so vital, why only one copy? And if the plays are performed regularly throughout the star kingdom, how can there be only one copy? **½*
"The Shipmaker" by Aliette de Bodard — Always a pleasure to read one of de Bodard's Xuya story. **** ...more
Entertaining story with some nice humorous touches featuring a witch & a research scientist and their long friendship from childhood. A bit of RomEntertaining story with some nice humorous touches featuring a witch & a research scientist and their long friendship from childhood. A bit of Romeo and Juliet given the magic-types don't like the technologists, and vice versa. Throws a lot of sci-fi tropes into the blender and produces a surprisingly readable story with likable characters....more
The story's description/advertising blurb seemed humorous, so I gave it a try. Alas, the book itself is dull & humorless. (I've put it on my "humoThe story's description/advertising blurb seemed humorous, so I gave it a try. Alas, the book itself is dull & humorless. (I've put it on my "humor" shelf based solely on aspirations.)...more
Steampunk-ish story set in a world similar to her The Clockwork Dagger world, where living biological creatures can be augmented with mechanical prostSteampunk-ish story set in a world similar to her The Clockwork Dagger world, where living biological creatures can be augmented with mechanical prostheses (cfWings of Sorrow and Bone). One woman tries to forge an alliance with an enemy in order to escape war altogether. Tries for an emotional rather than conceptual appeal....more