Analog, January/February 2009

Rajna Vajra. Doctor Alien.

A story from an Analog regular very much in the usual Analog vein – not a challenging read in terms of writing style, unless of course you are awkward sod who finds an easy to read writing style difficult to read. I fall into that camp – I managed just one page of the first Harry Potter before giving up on that basis. And it features a scientist (psychiatrist) face to face with aliens (who aren’t really that alien) and there’s a lot of conversation between the parties, before a problem is resolved.

Leaving aside the writing style, to enjoy this particular story you are also going to have to engage with a (humorous) conceit that the aliens speak a very stilted version of English. If you find this amusing, you’ll enjoy the story. If you find it irritating, like me, you won’t.

Dave Creek. Zeng He and the Dragon.

What if First Contact was made in the 15th Century by one Zheng (Who) He?

It’s a run of the mill First Contact story from an Analog regular, with the alien helpfully able to learn to speak the dialect of Zheng He very quickly. Zheng He has his opinion of the alien beast, and the alien beast has his views.

Richard Foss. To Leap the Highest Wall.

Don’t you just love a story that starts with someone banging their fist on a spaceship instrument panel?

An Alternate History of the 1960s Space Race (about 10 years after a raft of such stories). Here a disastrous failure of Apollo 8 has had NASA fall behind the race to the moon, and the Russkies have got there first.

The twist in the tale is that having got to the Moon, the Russian cosmonauts very publicly criticise the Communist regime of the USSR and vouchsafe to return to the USA rather than their homeland.

Hmmmm. As a pastiche of a story from the 1950s, with a view of the USA as a shining beacon to all the oppressed peoples of the world, the story would work well. But I’m not sure that it is intended as a pastiche.

John G. Hemry. Rocks.

Hemry traces the uses put to of an asteroid through the ages, from the first hominid who has the 2001: A Space Odyssey moment of inspiration, through various stages of homo sapiens development, ending, full circle, in orbit, being dropped to Earth, this time with military intent.

Richard A. Lovett. Excellence.

An older athlete decides he is willing to risk the medical consequences of a radical new method of drug cheating. It doesn’t make him a world-beater, but he almost gets there. And he pays the price.

As with the Creek story above, it’s an issue that has been covered many, many times before.

Edward M. Lerner. Small Price.

Scientist fiction which looks at nanotech, monopoly control of such technologies, and challenging those technologies.

The undergrad science student uses his nanotech expertise to chat up an attractive girl, enabling Lovett to explain a lot about the tech through the conversation between the two.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The Recovery Man’s Bargain.

A lengthy botanical lead-in will be welcomed by the botanists amongst the Analog readers who doubtless feel that their branch of science is under-represented in the magazine.

The botanical hunting drama, in which the protagonist fails to recover a very rare specimen, results in the person who commissioned the Recovery Man being so upset at the failure of the mission as to besmirch his name across the Galaxy to the extent he will never work again. This puts him in a position of having to take a much riskier deal from aliens, in recovering a human who they perceive as being guilty of genocide against their race.

Rusch raises some interesting ethical issues throughout, which are fundamental to far future science fiction : just how do you deal with radically different views from different species as to what is right and what is wrong; what is sentient and what is not; whether a clone has the same rights as the person who has been cloned; how different legal species and attitudes can come into conflict.

The main protagonist is a Wolfe-an character, not particularly likeable, looking after number 1 throughout, and willing to make instant judgments.

It is ambiguous throughout, which is to be welcomed, as a lot of stories in Analog can be fairly simplistic in terms of setting up a moral dilemma and resolivng it.

Rather surprisingly, the story didn’t grab as much as I would have expected. The story speeds along too quickly for the most part (kidnapping a woman who is trying to hide form her alien enemies is just way too easy), with a couple of characters introduced to illustrate ethical dilemmas and to highlight the main characters moral compasses.

Conclusion.

Rusch the pick of the bunch.

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