The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 2007

Alexander Jablokov. Brain Raid.

Jablokov wrote some strong short stories in the 80s/90s, being one author who I watched out for in his appearances in Dozois’ Annual Collections. This is a strong story – providing an American counterpart to the Indian rogue AI stories that Ian McDonald has impressed with in the last couple of years (in both short story form and his novel ‘River of Gods’). Jablokov’s story doesn’t have the richness of those stories, and has a touch of American tv cop shows (Jablokov should be pitching this story to some TV companies as a pilot). It features a crew going in to bring to book an AI in a shopping mall that has been exceeding the strict boundaries imposed on these intelligences. However, the extent to which it has been breaking those boundaries is a surprise to the team, who are only licensed to deal with lower level transgressions.

There has been some double-dealing, and the team have to not only deal with the AI, and try to turn the tables on the higher rated AI hunting company who have set them up.

William Browning Spencer. Stone and the Librarian.

An altogether more literary story, in that Spencer provides a clever melange of Robert E. Howard and Marcel Proust, with ballsy Ernest Hemingway coming to the rescue of a youngster who has dreams of being a be-muscled Conan but who is encumbered by more effete writers of suffocating prose.

Matthew Hughes. The Helper and His Hero.

The first of a two-parter bringing to a close the current sequence of stories featuring Guth Bandar.

S.L. Gilbow. Red Card.

A first published story for Gilbow, in which suburbia is the setting in which murder is licensed through lottery, by the random allocation of red cards which allow the holder, provided they follow procedure, to mete out justice as they see fit. Linda Jackson has a card, and plays it, with fatal consequences for her philandering husband, and turns into a very James M Cain femme fatale.

John Morressy. Fool.

A posthumously published story, in which a young man born badly deformed, is able to eke out a living until he is able to find a position in a great house. Armed with his native cunning, and a magicke scroll giving him the power of life and death, he is able to rise to a higher position. I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy stories of this nature at the best of times, and the story seems to lack that little something to mark it out from the rest.

Conclusion.

The issue starts of well, particularly for those of you, like me, who lean towards SF rather than F, with Jablokov’s ‘science thriller’. But, with my skipping the Hughes story, as is my wont, other than the Spencer story there wasn’t a whole lot else for me. If you prefer fantasy, then you doubtless would get more from the issue with the Hughes and Morressy tales.

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