Analog, November 2007

Barry B. Longyear. Murder in Parliament Street.

Further adventures of Jaggers and Shad, detectives in the SW of England, one of whom takes the form of a duck. Have read one of their stories in last month’s issue, I have had what my old nan referred to as ‘an elegant sufficiency’ and will pass on another portion of duck.

John G. Hemry. These are the Times.

Time Travel adventure, set in Boston in 1775, which is populated by dozens of people from various times in the future, some attempting to record exactly what happened, others attempting to intervene, and others attempting to circumvent the interventionists. The protagonist is attempting to find out who fired the shot that (evidently) triggered the whole affair, and you don’t have to have read much SF of this type to guess what happens in the denouement.

Carl Frederick. Yearning for the White Avenger.

Young Conradin has a violent step-father, whose behaviour has become much worse after Conradin’s mother fell to her death off the recent cliffs. Fortunately he has a good friend, Henry, whose parents are nice and at whose house he is welcome. The family also have a parrot and a dog, the first which is particularly loqacious, the latter which is particularly empathic. The boys have a wizzard idea, and in a trice they have the parrot trained to speak words matching the dog’s feelings. No really.

Things get bad for Conradin when step-dad finds him on the cliffs, which is a no-go area, and has the boy’s pants down his ankles and is giving him a thoroughly vicious bare-bottom spanking. However, the dog and the parrot turn up, and the parrot squawks out what the dog is thinking : ‘you’re a bad man’. No really, I’m not making this up.

The step-dad freaks out at being thus haranguaged by a canine, and blurts out that it was all a horrible mistake and he didn’t mean to push his wife down the cliff. Then he falls over the cliff, hanging on to life by hanging on to a bit of shrubbery.

Should you Conradin get help? Nah. He heads back to Henry’s house, where the death of his stepdad is soon relayed to Henry’s parents. What is to be done about the now orphaned, relative-less Conradin? Well, they have a word with the local ‘constable’ and decide to adopt him. I do from time to time damn with faint praise, or simply relate the bare bones of the plot. I was going to just put in the story summary, as above, and let that speak for itself. But really I’ve just got to say that this story is just so plain bad on so many levels, not to say so would be an act of cowardice.

Bud Sparhawk. The Suit.

A look at just how problematic having intelligent clothes and furniture could be, as a young man finds getting a new suit particularly problematic, and his attempts to woo a young woman who he meets in the tailors is more hindered than helped by the processing power at his disposal.

David Walton. Permission to Speak Freely.

Scientist fiction for those who enjoy a story in which statistical variations play a factor, as do the politics of industry-funded scientific research in academia.

H.G. Stratmann. The Paradise Project.

Very much Golden Age SF in its telling and characterisation. A humorous twist in the tale, as we finally find out exactly what the alien message carved on a distant planet actually says.

There are some charmingly old-fashioned morals, as the two man-crew are betrothed, but there is to be no hanky panky on the mission at NASA’s orders, and the husband has to wait until they return to get ‘the perks of a wedding night’.

The main problem though is that the story sets up a potentially interesting scenario, with Venus and Mars being moved closer to Earth into the ‘goldilocks’ zone by powerful alien forces, the almost shaggy-dog ending is a bit of a let-down. Clifford D. Simak’s ‘Construction Shack’, with a closely similar twist, was a) published 34 years ago b) was very short – which adds to the frisson of lost opportunity with the story.

Conclusion.

Still the top-selling SF magazine in the world, so clearly delivering the goods for its subscribers.

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