Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2017

Usually the double issues have been pretty good, but not this tile. As a whole, this was a pretty disappointing issue.

The Proving Ground • novella by Alec Nevala-Lee

People who live at a remote island start to build large wind turbines so that they can be self-sustained in a world where sea levels are rising. For some reason, birds start to behave strangely. They start to attack people and eventually manage to kill someone. What is happening and why? A fairly good story, but there were some problems with plausibility. The story has some similarities to technophobic ramblings of the populistic and near racist "tru-finns" party in Finland, which is kind of amusing. ***+
Twilight's Captives • [Only Superhuman Universe] • novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
A diplomat is solving a crisis between humans and aliens on a remote planet. Apparently, the aliens have kidnapped human children. But they apparently have a good reason for that and a plausible plan to diminish future schism between the species. Not bad, but slightly overlong story. ***
Orbit of Fire, Orbit of Ice • shortstory by Andrew Barton
A spaceship might be able to prevent a serious collision between space junk and a space station, but most likely at the cost of the life of the entire crew. Should they do it? A lot of discussion and I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. ***-
Long Haul • shortstory by Marie DesJardin
A pilot gets an alien pet and gets very attached to it during his long solitary trips. It seems to have some empathic powers. On one planet, some custom officials overstep some boundaries, which leads to a tragic outcome. But the pilot gets a new, human friend. A story which is sad, and somehow comforting at the same time. ***+
Catching Zeus • shortstory by Tom Jolly
An expedition is trying to find mineral which would function as a room temperature superconductor. They have a good reason to suspect that it exist in Labrador as a 3D satellite magnetic mapping has produced results which can't really be explained otherwise. The Chinese and the Russians are also trying to find the deposit. And they are not afraid of some rough action. As a story, it was pretty nice, but scientifically it was totally implausible on many levels. ***
Drifting Like Leaves, Falling Like Acorns • shortstory by Marissa Lingen
A remote military base isn't a very nice place. Luckily, they have frogs, which exert psychoactive drug that gives a feeling of wellbeing. There are some apparently modified people who live in trees. The military is considering using them to carry bombs. More of a scene than a story - due to scant backstory it was hard to get into. **½
Dall's Last Message • shortstory by Antha Ann Adkins
Aliens who live in an ocean (on another planet?) transcribe a last message when they die. One alien goes too high and is chased by a predator but is able to make an important discovery. Will he be able to leave the last message? OK story, but bit short for the backstory. ***
The Last Mayan Aristocrat • shortstory by Guy Stewart
The last Mayan princess is spending her days waiting for the return of her father, who is imprisoned by the conquistadors. She is a god of her people, but they are abandoning her more and more by leaving the city and going to the jungle. Then she learns that another "real" god wants her audience. The god is dying, and has a request. A pretty good story about an apparent alien living with ancient Mayans. ***
The Shallowest Waves • novelette by Thoraiya Dyer and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
A scientist is about to send a probe to Europe. A separate story follows a man who is diving in the seas of Europe. Both behave pretty erratically, and there are long internal monologues in the middle of limited action. There was an irritating and careless mistake: if the heart rate is 350 (hardly even possible), there is no way that the blood pressure could ever be 230/120. Such a fast heart rate would cause the collapse of blood pressure, as the heart would have no time to be filled by blood. The writing as such was OK, but the characters were extremely irritating and mostly behaved endlessly illogical way, so I didn't much like the story. **+
Necessary Illusions • shortstory by Tom Greene
A planet has been colonized centuries ago and has apparently been largely forgotten. Now the representatives of a new empire/federation of planets have arrived and want an audience with the leader. They have an ultimatum of sorts. A fairly well good story, but it starts with too scant a background - it wasn't easy to figure out what was going on. ***-
Paradise Regained • shortstory by Edward M. Lerner
A man lives alone. He is observing a flag his father raises every day. If the flag doesn't change daily, something has happened to his father. He goes to find out what has happened and finds his father dead in a derelict spaceship, where they had lived together until the man had reached puberty, when they were no longer able to tolerate their scents. There are humans on the planet, but they live far from others, like hermits – anything else would be unthinkable. A very good story, probably the best in the issue. ****
Briz • shortstory by Jay Werkheiser
A colony ship is approaching the sun. There is a problem, but they might be able to slingshot to another star farther away. The solar system has some strange energy signatures very near the sun, in the hot, inhospitable zone where water might exist as steam, or even as highly-corrosive liquid. The story is a bit too short and scene-like, though it is not bad overall. ***
Split Signal • shortstory by Joel Richards
An author who has been uploaded to a computer asks help from a private detective: apparently, a copy of him has been stolen and used to write books in his style. Is that even illegal? Partly a detective story, and partly a courtroom drama. A fairly good story, which at times felt a bit too straightforward, with things arranging themselves too neatly. Still one of the better stories in the issue. ***½
After the Harvest, Before the Fall • novelette by Scott Edelman
Children are “harvested” and they reach adolescence in a day or so. After that, they wait to be “harvested” once again – their brain is destroyed, and their bodies used as surrogate bodies for rich people. I had some problems with the story: I first thought that it must happen in some sort of virtual world: there couldn’t be any other possible explanation for how the children would grow at least tenfold in a single day. Is it virtual reality or magic? Or poor writing? The story had some thematic similarities with Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It was not as good - but what would be? ***+
Whending My Way Back Home • [Martin & Artie] • novelette by Bill Johnson
Time travelers from different realities live in past. They are trying to influence things so that the future timeline would be changed. For some of the travelers, the timeline they come from has disappeared, and if their reality changes too far, they themselves might disappear. A woman (who comes from the future) gets sick, and a group of others help her. A discussion-heavy and overlong story – I didn’t get into it, just as I haven’t been very keen on the other instalments of this series. **½

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