John Ingold. Sleepers.
A look at faith and belief, through conversations between an elderly man who is a descendant of the ill-fated first (and only) extraterrestrial human colony, and a Christian monk. The elderly man believes that the Centaurans who built the now-disused lightgate through which the colonists travelled, did in fact return with the humans. Are they sleepers, or just an idea in people’s minds. When the lightgate is re-opened, armed with his own faith and beliefs, the monk is able to make the journey. The story doesn’t go beyond that point, so it is for the reader to make their mind up, in a more thoughtful SF story than is often the case.
Lavie Tidhar. In the Season of the Mango Rains.
Reflective two-pager, in which the protagonist looks back on his lost love, who has turned her back on life on Earth, and on him, for a future that is much less secure, much less concrete, and much less human.
Suzanne Palmer. The Ceiling is Sky.
A claustrophobic future, in which short-term contract engineers living in cramped subterranean quarters, dream of a permanent position and job security before they become too old and unproductive, when the euthanise button in their cell-like accommodation will become the only option.
Phill gets an interview for a job contract, that promises tenure, and finds himself supported by a mysterious monk. It transpires that the monk is one of a community which wishes the contract for which Phill is seeking employment, to fail.
Relying on his own knowledge and cunning, with this external help, Phill has to get through the recruitment process whilst also dealing with an ex-lover. There’s a dramatic denouement, and Phill is able to find a way forward outside, rather than within, the system.
The story trots along quickly, offering some ethical issues to give depth to the story.
Jason Sanford. Her Scientifiction, Far Future, Medieval Fantasy.
A lengthy story that didn’t really gel for me.
Princess Krisja Jerome is living in a cod-medieval universe controlled by an AI, serving the whims of viewers/voyeurs who watch the ongoing adventures. But there are other universes, and Krisja herself is entertained by spending times in more sfnal milieus.
The story starts quickly and the pace never slackens, with Krisja witnessing the death of her beloved father, and fleeing the enemy who want her dead. There’s a mystery about her to be solved, and all is revealed in the end, but for me the story lacked depth, with all the characters sketchily drawn. The Princess is a stroppy teen who takes her father’s death very much in her stride, and apart from a flashback to her childhood, she isn’t a three-dimensional character, so it is difficult to engage with the threat she is under.
Will McIntosh. Incompatible.
In contrast to the previous story in the issue, which I criticized for having sketchily drawn characters and settings with no real depth, McIntosh comes up trumps with a vividly realised protagonist and a setting.
Leia is finding solace in a Methodist Church that is having a pumpkin sale. She is under constant stress from dark dots – things that have been plaguing her since early childhood. A chance encounter gives her the opportunity to face these demons, and the reader does care about her, because McIntosh has made her very believable, very human – someone who you believe is a person whose life you are looking into, rather than a character quickly created to tell a story.