Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact, April 2003

Catherine Asaro. Walk in Silence.

One beef I have with many Analog stories is that many could easily have been written 50 years ago. Obviously if your tastes are somewhat catholic, and you have a somewhat reactionary bent, then this can be good thing.

We start off being introduced to Lieutenant Colonel Jess Fernandez, on board the research vessel ‘Silver Tide’, orbiting the gas giant Athena. The poor girl has a heavy cold. Asara at least has the honesty to mention that this is somewhat of an anachronism, and she doesn’t go as fair as having her say ‘I’b god a code ib der dose’ (this was done not that long ago in Analog).

The near-future feel this initally brings is shattered when we are told that we are six thousand years in the future. My interest waned even more rapidly when we are told in very quick succession that in the dim and distant past unkown aliens had taken humans from Earth and plonked them down on another planet, and they are now Cepheans. Stranded on the new planet, they had ‘learned genetic engineering in desperation’ (doh!), then ‘developed space travel’. After some very quick backstory filling, we then meet another of the ship’s crew, who greets Fernandez’ query about the standard of his accommodation with a ‘Top Shape, Cap’n’.

And there, gentle reader, with the story evidently (I skimmed the last few pages to confirm this) plummeting headlong into something not a million parsecs from a creaky Star Trek episode, is where my reading of this story ended, and where this review ends.

F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre. A Deadly Medley of Smedley.

The author’s own illustration to introduce the story sets the standard.

Halfway down the first column, time-cop Anne Callender (we have met her before) chases down the incorrigible miscreant Smedley, and challenges him : ..”anything you say will be taken down and used against you.”

Smedley’s reply : “Your panties!”

Honestly.

No, really, the story does have this dialog.

So at this point I wondered whether to give the story to my 13-year old son to read and review. But I decided he was too mature.

Give it to my 10-year old son to read and review? Nope, he would be too mature.

My recommendation: if your taste in humour is such that Benny Hill tickles your fancy, then this is a story for you.

Kyle Kirkland. Emma.

A contemporary woman lives a long life, and then dies. Some centuries later she is ‘recreated’ through records, with a view to use her experience of parenting and grandparenting to mediate in a global dispute. And yup indeedy, Emma (or the AI based on Emma) manages to solve the knotty problem straight away. Not quite by her homespun wisdom, but by common sense. Unfortunately for the story, the problem was so easy to resolve as to make the whole idea of spending large sums of money to build a simple AI rather weak. Having solved the problem, Emma challenges those who have re-created her to do so to a larger group of people.

The story doesn’t really work in terms of either someone being re-created (Emma takes is in her stride), or the negotiations (over too quickly), or the conclusion.

In terms of SF 101, I would set a ‘compare and constrast’ between this story and that from April’s Asimovs by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, ‘June Sixteenth at Anna’s’, which also approached the theme of the human soul in a digital world.

Mary Soon Lee. Coming of Age.

A far future in which humanity has achieved longevity, health, wealth and happiness. Actually, the happiness is not that easy to come by, as we find from a boy whose 18th birthday party sees him facing up to a long life with little to challenge him. Is this a future that we in SF aspire to?

Rajnar Vajra. Shootout at the Nokai Corral.

The third of a four part novel serialisation. The illustration is desperately poor.

Conclusion.

To my mind the Asaro, Kirkland and Lee stories are virtually classifiable as ‘juveniles’ in terms of their style – certainly ‘traditional’. The F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre is juvenile, period.

The letters page increasingly feel reactionary to me, along the lines of ‘I’ve been reading Analog since the 1920s and remember remarking on young Jack Williamson’s first stories, and can’t be doing with the new stuff’.

Mind you, the cover illustration is pretty classy. So overall, a rather dispiriting read for me.

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