Analog, January/February 2008

Joe Haldeman. Marsbound.

The first part of a three-part serialisation gets the double issue underway.

J Timothy Bagwell. Tangible Light.

A story that reads very much as being from a novice writer. It just needs more work in most of areas to get beyond a couple of interesting premises and settings. A young man has been sent off by his dying father to research his phenome in a galactic library. We find out background through the young man remembering events – such as his father dying from a particularly nasty parasitic worm (save that for another story, as it gets in the way of this story).

In the flashbacks there are some jumps forward, and it gets a bit clumsy at times (‘In a few months time, he began to wonder who the person was who he had been when he arrived’.) Rather than following him as he finds out the bigger picture, it is infodumped on him in a lengthy posthumous email from his father. He then makes the breakthrough and saves the Earth. All rather too quickly and easily, and the final few paragraphs, in which his message back to Earth is revealed, is done so through the eyes of two scientists new to the story, an aged retainer from the beginning of the story, and a third character.

Geoffrey A. Landis. The Man in the Mirror.

Classic Analog storyline – a spacesuited minor on a distant planetoid has to get himself out of a fix with only the his own cunning and knowledge to hand.

Landis handles it well, smoothly progressing from the finding of an anomalous structure on Sedna, to having one guy sliding down a virtually friction-free huge concave mirror embedded in the Earth, initially at a loss as to how to get out. He runs through the emergency drill, and fortunately has enough time to draw on the text books he has online, and his childhood memories of trying to get as high as possible on garden swings with his brother.

Fortunately Landis handles the main character well, which got me to the point of realising exactly the kind of story it was, but I kept with the scientific reasoning and problem solving, but only just! The in-story reference to a previous SF story is not something I really like to see, as it invariably shatters the suspension of disbelief. But I’m guessing that many of the Analog readers will remember the story to which he refers from first time round.

Don D’Ammassa. The Natural World.

A young woman is out a-stroll in the fresh air with her young sister, trying her best to avoid the newly-pious young man who is accompanying them, intent on a-wooing her. He eschews Mr Darwin (the story is set in the late 19th C), and pontificates on God’s intent, but is somewhat peturbed when the three stumble upon some very strange bug-like creatures, busy creating a ziggurat hive for themselves. In stamping on one of the bugs, the young man is attached by them, and does not escape quite unharmed. The young lady is disturbed to find him changing, and in visiting him some weeks hence, finds him more than changed, seeking to follow in the subterranean footsteps. She manages to escape, but her younger sister unwittingly lets loose one of the bugs, and she herself is set on a similar path.

The story doesn’t quite grab, and for my money would need a tighter ending invoking a bit more of the horror element – such as a clearer embracing of the new life by the heroine alongside her suitor, as opposed to having her escape his clutches, only then to fall afoul of the bugs by accident.

Carl Frederick. The Engulfed Cathedral.

I approached this with some trepidation, so poor was Frederick’s last Analog contribution. The good news is that IMHO this is someways better. The story benefits from having an adult relationship at the heart of the story, as opposed to children and animals, and make an attempt to look at some big issues – fundamental religious zealots (christians in this case), and genetic modification. The setting is a cathedral all-but consumed by the rising waters caused by global warning, which hosts a service at which the main protagonist is able to spot the zealot about to blow up all and sundry. In saving the day, he and his wife (genmod to have cat-like eyes, but which had the unintended and irreversible consequence of making her deaf) come to terms with each others views on whether their progeny should be genmod. It’s a lot to take on in a short story, but Frederick manages it for the most part.

Ron Goulart. Conversations with my knees.

Goulart has been writing for a long time – he’s now into his fourth quarter-century. His lightly comic stories have featured in Analog and F&SF for quite some time, and regular readers will doubtless have come to a conclusion as to how they view these stories. Me, I can take them or leave them, which generally means leave them. The story begins with a man whose replacement knees start offering him advice. Doubtless if you’ve been reading these for the best part of 25years (or maybe even 50) it will be like being pleased at meeting a dear old friend once again.

Wil McCarthy, How the Bald Apes Saved Mass Crossing.

In which the Salamander People of Antares IV put their faith in artificial intelligence to a worrying degree, and come across the differences between data, information, knowledge and opinion. I always thought the fourth in that sequence was wisdom? Anyhoo, over the millenia the history of the Salamander People is unfolded, against a lengthy galactic time frame, until they come across the Bald Apes of the title. Rather unbelievably, the contribution of humanity to the debate is the introduction of the idea of ‘guns’, which the Salamander People and their many AIs hadn’t even considered. Hmm.

Jerry Oltion. A New Generation.

On a distant planet, a reptile hatches from its egg. It has not only instince, but species memory on which to call, and is thus fully equipped from bith to deal with not only that which her species has struggled in the past, but knew and unknown threats such as the human explorers which imprison it.

Oltion has us follow the reptile from hatching out, but rather signally fails to give the reader any kind of impression that we are viewing events through the eyes of an alien reptilian creature. In coming across a sharpened stone, the creature realises that it would be better as a knife than a spear – English words. And in hearing the words of the humans, we are told what those words are – the alien doesn’t understand them, of course, but surely the story would have been much better with the words spoken being unrecognisable to both the reptile and us, the reader?

Mia Molvray. Low Life.

A plumber on Europe has to solve the conundrum as to how an e-coli infection is persistently afouling up the water system in the base. He has to do this with a boss who is on his back, and some crewmembers who are less than helpful, and one who, it would appear, could be sabotaging the water system, and his career. Molvray makes the characters mostly well-rounded, which is welcome, and the story ends up with the right culprits identified….

Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross. A Deadly Intent.

Finding a dead body on the lunar surface and having to solve a conundrum as to how it got there is a plotline that has appeared more than once in the past. The locale is changed for this story – the Antartic wastes. A near-nude female explorer is found, very dead, outside her tent. She is wearing only her turqouise panties. I’m not sure why turqouise? and why does she have to be wearing something – to spare the reader from any immodesty? Mind you a bit of an improvement over Terry Bisson’s ladies clad in orange underpants I spose.

The poor gal has died for one reason : to present a condundrum. Why is she outside of her tent, near naked, but also very hot to the touch?.

It transpires that rather than fleeing a Lovecraftian horror, or being dragged out by a murderer, the poor gal has ingested some nanites designed to keep the tent warm, but not designed for human consumption.

Barry B. Longyear. The Purloined Labradoodle.

More investigative shenigans of Daggers and Shad.

Conclusion.

Nothing to really standout from the regular Analog fayre, good news for those that regularly feature in the letters page who have been loyal readers for decades.

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