Tim Sullivan. Through Mud One Picks a Way. (Fantasy & Science Fiction Nov/Dec 2013)

fsf13112Not a story that really grabbed me – it felt more like an Analog story than an F&SF story. If it was a song it would be by Aerosmith, rather than Patti Smith, and my preference would be the latter.

Uxanna is back on Earth, having given up a lot – she went through a tachyon transmitter to go to Cet 4, and on that planet watched the indigenous, mud-dwellers having their space taken from them my the settlers. Having returned to Earth, she has missed a couple of generations – whilst it itself is instantaneous, there was something about the process pre-tachyonisation that took a long time (I wasn’t quite sure about that!)

She’s called in by an acquaintance called Hob Dancer (Hob not being a name we have in the UK, it took me a while to realise it was just a name, and not related to an activity). Hob has three of the Cetians wallowing in his mud and he needs Uxanna to use her skills to communicate with them. For a species with whom communication is problematic, Uxanna is able to quickly exchange complex ideas an emotions (ruff ruff – What do you mean Lassie? Grandfather’s fallen down the well and broken his leg and needs help?)

There’s a revelation, and a surprise involving who’s doing what and why, but it just misses a bit of subtlety and texture to move it above a fairly routine story.

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