Adam Troy Castro. Unseen Demons.
A touch of the ‘Lecters’ in that a young woman, with some dark secrets in her own past, has to confront a ‘monster’ in the shape of an Earth diplomat. Emil Sandburg, an otherwise dull and simple man, has been slaughtering specimens of the indigineous life form. There is a moot point of law beyond the ethical aspects of his butchery, as the creatures seem to bear no sign of sentience. So is it xeno-murder, or is Creative Xeno Sculpting 101?
The silence of the lambs which haunted Clarice are the cries and then the silence from murdered aliens and humans in her past. Sandburg’s motives don’t really work for me – a simple need to be noticed. Nor does the old trope of the clever protagonist solving the riddle where others have failed. Nor the bickering of the other onplanet aliens.
Kevin J. Anderson and Gregory Benford. Mammoth Dawn.
A touch of the Jurassic Parks here, in that prehistoric animals are being brought back to life. A husband/wife team are forced to defend themselves and their creations against those who are fundamentally opposed to them. Their opponents mount an armed strike on their compound, leaving many of the re-created animals, and the wife, dead.
Rajnar Vajra. The Great Prayer Wheel.
A pleasantly individual story, set several centuries in the past in Tibet. A young boy has found something strange high in the mountains, but this is surpassed by the news that a great wise man is due to visit to see the object himself.
The wisdom of the visitor unlocks the secret of what we find is an alien vessel, and the mystery is explained in the final scene as the aliens return home, their mission accomplished. A far more entertaining and well handled story that the somewhat more routine story by Vajra from the previous issue.
Edward M. Lerner. Iniquitous Computing.
Truly ubiquitous computing proves the bane of the protagonist, who finds his home in the countryside no longer immune from the incessant AI contact. Can retreat into madness provide a Retreat?
Geoffrey A. Landis. Falling onto Mars.
A short and unsettling alternative take on settling Mars. After an initial scientific settlement, the settlers are beyond the pale criminals despatched/deported from Earth. Only the most vicious survive, and it it those who become the Founding Fathers. (Surely Landis wouldn’t be using this as a metaphor for..?)
Larry Niven. The Convergence of the Old Mind.
Another Draco Tavern tale, in which mine host decides a long trip to the far reaches of the universe to watch a potentially singular convergence is less preferable to staying behind his bar.
Tobias S. Buckell. A Green Thumb.
There Ain’t No Cure For The Summertime Blues. Even in an alternate US of A in which the extended Second World War has led to a critical shortage of metals, and automobiles have to be grown. And for kids of a certain age, getting a hold of that first car remains a rite of passage.
Jack McDevitt. Oculus.
A short and quick simple story. The two-person crew of a cargo ship have to evacuate, and thus leave their precious cargo to a slow, but violent impact on the planet below. One of the crew decides that the cargo is sufficiently important for him to risk his life to save it. And, unlike the normal story of this type, his grand gesture is a failure, and, in retrospect, was a wasted attempt.
Shane Tourtellotte. Spoilers.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to the movies and have your pre-knowledge of the plot erased from your mind? Yes? Or would there be drawbacks?
Jayge Carr. The Lone Granger.
A sequel to a story in last year’s double issue, in which aliens are taking chunks of our real estate, including the population.
A mature bookshop owner finds herself thus separated from her husband, and unsure as to what is real and what is not, resolves to enter into meditation and thereby refuse to engage with whatever the aliens are up to. She is stubborn to the point of dying in this way, although she finds herself resurrected, and eventually the aliens try to engage with her directly. When this fails they resort to re-uniting her with her husband. Or is it her husband? The choice is hers.
Ron Goulart. The Robot Who Came to Dinner.
I presume authors don’t have any say in the illustrations that go with their story. If I was Ron Goulart, my ‘say’ with regard to the F. Gwynplain MacIntyre illustration would be ‘not on your f*****g life’.
The story follows on from one in May 2001, and once again we are entertained by Maggie Quincade and the uploaded ‘intelligence’ of her now-divorced husband, which resides in a guardbot. Not a murder mystery, as per the previous story, but a detective-ish story. As per the previous story, it strains just a bit too hard in squeezing in the wisecracks.
Brena W. Clough. Tiptoe, on a fence post.
The first in this series, ‘May Be Some Time’, from April 2001, was voted fifth in the reader’s poll (Anlab), whereas my comments on that story were The experiences of Oates’ time-travelling cloned resurrection in the future is described rather too lengthily and by-the-numbers, with this reader struggling to engage with the character or the plot, to the extent that I ended up skimming the last part of the story
Well, I skimmed the story again, and the same comments apply – you can only go so far in describing the ‘fish out of water’ adventures of Capt Oates, and to my mind, these stories have gone way beyond that point.
Vajra, Buckell, McDevitt, Tourtellotte and Carr provide some solid fare, with Vajra’s touch the lightest.