Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February 2012

A pretty average issue. It contains the first part of a new serial by Robert J. Sawyer. I am going to read it only when I’ll have at least three parts of the four to come.

"Listen Up, Nitwits" by Jack McDevitt
A voice from Jupiter gives some hints to Earth on the brink of war asking humanity not to destroy itself. It doesn’t agree to answer any question except by those which are asked by one man. The answers he gets aren’t some of the most believable and most of the world pretty much ignores them. A fairly nice story.***+
"Humanity by Proxy" by Mark Niemann-Ross
A history of a mechanical donkey which was first developed by the military and then was adapted for civilian use, presented in reverse order. First the invention is used by a demented old woman in 2114, then by military in 2092 and last we are shown how it was developed 2052. The first segment is very good, the second segment is fairly good, but the last and longest is far too long and boring and heavy with discussion. ***+
"Ninety Thousand Horses" by Sean McMullen
A cyberpunkish tale of an inventor who builds a rocket in Yorkshire 1899 as means to revenge his father. The story is told from the viewpoint a maid (who in reality is a spy working for the inventor's father and has a very good education in mathematics and engineering.) A very good, well written and exiting story, which is easily the best in issue. ****
"Project Herakles" by Stephen Baxter
A story which happens in the Britain in the sixties. The British army (or secret service) has created human giants by selective breeding. Those giants are REALLY gigantic and weight much more than elephants. That apparently took about two or three generations of selective breeding. At the same time a greedy magazine publisher and the king plan a coup with the support of US forces (those who are planning the coup have promised forces for the Vietnam war).Will the people rise to oppose the insurgents? I am not sure what to think about this story. Was it written with serious intent? Or is it some sort of parody of the worst pulps of the 1930s? The biological and scientific details are completely ridiculous, so horribly bad that they surely must have intentionally ludicrous. But there wasn’t any humorous “eye winking” which would have typical for a parody - or at least I couldn't find it. It might very well be a parody nevertheless for all I know. But the writing also seemed to be somewhat clumsy, and I really, really did not like this story at all. Well at least it was easy to read and finish while trying not to drop my jaw from too far from the silliness of most of the details. **-
"An Interstellar Incident" by Catherine Shaffer
A young diplomatic aide must organize a gala dinner with an alien delegation. The trouble is that aliens consider human feeding habits disgusting (cutting dead meat to pieces and putting them openly to the mouth! Disgusting!) and humans aren’t too keen about the eating habits of the aliens (releasing a lot of small live furry animals in the room and bouncing over them). With the help of a corresponding junior aide from the alien delegation they almost manage. A light story with some small stupidities. Perhaps the security would have been a tad tighter for such an event. ***
"Doctor Alien and the Spindles of Infinity" by Rajnar Vajra
A doctor alien story. A psychiatrist who specializes in alien patients first treats a very strange alien with a memory trouble, after that he is invited to another galaxy give his opinion on an important matter. An overlong story which might have benefitted if it had been split in two parts and condensed. There is far too much discussing and describing going on which doesn’t really drive the plot forward. There were some pretty good parts, but they are being overshadowed by the dull parts. ***-

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