Cover by Bryn Barnard.
Jerome Cigut. The Rider.
A fast-paced near-future (Jennifer Aniston is on the tv in an ‘old’ show) thriller, in which the protagonist has an AI ‘riding’ with him. There’s a lot of (internalised) conversation between the two, and dramatic action and tense card-playing amongst gangster and Baddies, but the story didn’t really grab me.
Phyllis Eisenstein. The Caravan to Nowhere.
Editor Gordon van Gelder doesn’t appear (as much as you can ever guess from text) to have tongue in cheek when he says that readers might recall the previous stories featuring the bard Alaric, and refers to issues in 1971 and 1998! This story was originally commissioned for and appeared in the Dozois/GRR Martin anthology ‘Rogues’ and whilst Best SF is a BardFree Zonetm for fantasy fans I’m sure you can be assured of this story’s credentials.
Oliver Buckram. Marketing Strategies for the Apocalypse.
Another short, droll story from Buckram.
Here he posits the helpfulness of a certain bi-monthly fantasy and science fiction magazine in protecting yourself in a post-apocalyptic world…
Jay O’Connell. Other People’s Things.
A lighter touch from O’Connell than his recent stories, as a young man seeks professional help for his life issues – all of which related to his inability to engage with others. He gets some help (professional up to a point!) – will he be able to get his foot off the bottom rung of the autistic spectrum ladder and tread a path with the rest of us??
Another example of O’Connell handling the human angle of stories well.
Dale Bailey. The Culvert.
Dark story from Bailey, in which a twin returns to the town, and the culvert, where last he saw his twin brother, many years ago. There are some great touches in the story (“The culvert beckoned like a dark eye, cloacal and alluring”)
Albert E. Cowdrey. The Wild Ones.
A very black, cynical look at humanity. Earth has been blessed by humanity removing itself from the planet, and has returned to a veritable Garden of Eden. However, some who previously left the planet for pastures/planets new, have returned from those pastures, finding that the grass isn’t always greener, and eagerly embrace the home planet. However, the home planet has other ideas…
Brenda Carre. Embrace of the Planets.
A woman enters a shop and finds it even more intriguing than she had thought – full of old, and strange things, many of which shouldn’t be there. There’s a similarly strange, out-of-place, and very elderly proprietor as well.
The seasoned fantasy reader will guess the ending, so the fun is guessing exactly why – especially with a reference to the works of Jules Verne and his nephew Gaston, part of Verne’s life story which I was’t familiar with (not that I was familiar which any of Verne’s life before a quick wikipedia lookup just now.
Matthew Hughes. Avianca’s Bezel.
Further adventures of Raffalon the thief.
Robert Reed. Will He?
A thoroughly unpleasant protagonist, without any redeeming features. Adleman is an apple who has not fallen far from the tree, fathered by a similarly self-centred, driven and cold man. But Adleman goes beyond his father’s example, and his black outlook on the world in which he lives, and his fellow inhabitants is not something that he can only react against within his own small circle of family, for he has the wherewithal to change the world and fix the problems (as he sees them). Will he, or won’t he??
Ray Vukcevich. The Way We Are.
Finding the right words to open up a woman’s heart has never been easy for men, but doh! when you have to remember a freaking password!!
David Gerrold. The Thing in the Back Yard
Droll troll shaggy doggery from Gerrold.
Slightly more lighter stories than the norm, making the issue a gentle read. The Reed story was OK, but not up there with his Great Ship stories, and the one SF story didn’t really grab.