Saturday, January 5, 2019

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2019

A worse than average issue. There were many too short stories which didn't explore their subjects well enough - some weren't really stories at all, but rather just short scenes of a larger tale.

Ring Wave • novelette by Tom Jolly
An asteroid has hit Earth and has destroyed it. Thousands of people have escaped in fast built simple metal shells which the ripple effect of the hit has flung into space. (I don’t believe for a second that would be possible - at least the G-forces would have been far too high). A young woman has survived the first few minutes and is in space. But there are some serious threats, including “pirates” who ruthlessly want to steal everything they can get their hands on. But not everyone is a bad person. A very hard to believe scenario, some very stupid actions by the protagonist, but the story isn’t bad. ***½
Love in the Time of Immuno-Sharing • short story by Andy Dudak
There have been several plagues of different sorts and one of them has made it possible to make “immuno-love” - whatever that exactly means (it is pretty poorly defined in the story). That apparently helps to battle infections and a high immuno-divergence is something which is sought. Normal sex is considered to be at best a bit old fashioned and at worst somewhat deviant. The writing and storytelling aim at weirdness: neither really worked for me. **½
A Message from Our Sponsor • short story by J. T. Sharrah
A psychologist has lost his clients as the ad agencies market so heavily over the counter drugs that no one uses psychological help anymore. (Strangely, that assumes that those drugs are amazingly effective). Most of his colleagues have gone to work for ad agencies (strangely, that assumes that clinical psychiatrists could effectively evaluate such things). He finds that his dreams now contain advertisements (by the way, strangely, his home automation contains mechanical clicking relays and is illuminated with light bulbs and phones have no caller id).
The psychologist calls his lawyer friend to fight the dream ads. The story has a very strong very old vibe in it - only a few weeks ago I read a forty- or fifty-years old story where a psychiatrist had run out of work due to medicines and this story also feels like it could have been written in the fifties or sixties. ***-
The Last Squirrel Keeper • short story by Shane Halbach
A human spaceship has been destroyed near an alien planet. Humans and some of their animals have survived and have co-operated with the inhabitants of the planet. Humans and animals, all but one man and one squirrel, have died out. The man lives alone until one young enthusiastic alien comes to meet him. A very short but very nice and warm story. ***½
All the Smells in the World • short story by Julie Novakova
A company tries to create smelling for virtual reality. They use transcranial magnetic stimulation, but it has an unintended side effect on the test subject. A very short story, ok as such, but the effects should have been explored a bit more. ***
The Umwelt of the Shark • short story by John Alfred Taylor
People use a sort of virtual reality system to experience what it is like to be an animal. Many get so hooked on it that the tech is apparently treated like a dangerous, addictive drug. There is a police bust on a virtual reality “cave”. A short piece, more of a scene than a real story. ***-
Forever • short story by Mary Soon Lee
A rich man wants to live forever. He dumps his husband as he doubts if it sensible to use several millions on that goal. Later, after a botched treatment, the rich man seeks out his former husband. The story is far too short and sketch-like, there is no emotional involvement whatsoever for either of the characters. **½
The Narrowest Eye • short story by Howard V. Hendrix
Continues an earlier story. Earth is seemingly a utopia, all problems have been solved, there is universal health care, the environment is in fine shape, there is free wage enough for a basic living for everyone, but is everyone just a computer-controlled puppet? More sightseeing in the future world than an actual story, not as good as the earlier part. ***-
Applied Linuistics • short story by Auston Habershaw
An amorphous alien who isn’t even really sentient functions as a waste disposal for a prison planet. A single prisoner starts to feed it and slowly teaches it to think and eventually speak. It has a mind of a predator and scavenger, though. A very good story which might even be seen as a sort of prelude for Thing. A pretty good story, well told. Waiting for the next (hopefully longer) part. ****-
A Civilization Dreams of Absolutely Nothing • novelette by Thoraiya Dyer
A planet is threatened by constant meteors, as two planets of the solar system have collided and caused a massive amount of debris to fall down as meteorites. The aliens are very interesting, they are able to choose which memories to retain and which to lose. They also are able to connect to each other electronically and during sleep. They are able to use combined brain power of the whole species for computations. But there is a planet made of dark matter approaching. What to do? Will it be the final destruction of their world? The aliens are interesting, but the story itself was very irritating and science sounded stupid beyond belief. The planet is supposed to be on the edge of the galaxy, and there is nothing, not even photons, in the “vacuum” of intergalactic space. Also, a new, completely unrelated threat so soon after one cataclysmic event? Is there a superior species which wanted to destroy them or what? The solution was also pretty iffy - 3D printing dark matter which doesn’t interact with normal matter in any other way than gravity? With what? The social relations between aliens were also extremely human - no real alienness there. ***-
Lulu's Friends • short story by Aimee Ogden
A chimpanzee is asked for consent before a medical experiment. A very short “story”. **½
Temple of Children • short story by Jennifer R. Povey
Teen children disappear on an alien planet. The aliens have a completely different life and sex cycle from humans. Aliens were supposed to be almost on the same technological level as humans, but they still behave unreasonably stupidly. Otherwise ok, but an extremely short story. ***
Soft We Wake • short story by S. B. Divya
A man who was cryogenically preserved has awakened. He is still in the resurrection faculty and doesn’t really know what to do, as the future is radically different from his time. Short, simple and nothing which hasn’t been seen dozens of times before. The writing was ok, though. ***
Fingers • short story by Frederick Gero Heimbach
A family lives in the wilderness as they have escaped the “fingers” which grow through anything and cannot be destroyed. A new family comes to live nearby them. It seems the fingers are nanotechnology. Not bad, but one more story in this issue which was too short - the characters were undeveloped - as was the plot. ***
The Fading Pages of a Short Story • short story by Bud Sparhawk
An elderly science fiction author is losing his memory. His children are worried, but his doctor states that it is just normal aging and certainly not Alzheimer’s (Normal aging my ass - they should have changed doctors, at least this neurologist thinks that the symptoms described in the story CERTAINLY are not normal aging). They are considering memory augmentation with a new medical aid developed for the purpose, but it will be expensive and the author doesn’t really see the need for it as he is in denial about the symptoms (a classic feature of organic brain malfunction). There were some good ideas and the relationship between the siblings was interesting, but everything was far too short, the story didn’t really get going at any part. And the end just fizzled out. ***+
A Place to Stand on • short story by Marie Vibbert
A woman who is welding a structure floating in clouds of Venus must climb a balloon which has sprung a leak. A very ordinary “let’s rescue our vehicle” story, really nothing which hasn’t been seen hundreds of times. ***-
The View from Proxima Centauri • novelette by Susan Pieters
Radio emissions have been detected from Proxima Centauri. It hasn’t been possible to decipher them but it was assumed (with really bad reasoning apparently with some very faulty premises) to be generated by aliens. A ship with two passengers is sent to the planet. The radio noise unsurprisingly turns out to be natural phenomena. The earthlings study the planet for a while (and cultivate viruses in glucose :-) - “slightly” iffy science there) and then leave. A story that is too short without much of a point and most of the characters don’t seem very smart somehow. ***-
The Savannah Problem Novella by Adam-Troy Castro
Continues an earlier story. Daikon, a former spy/killer, is still trying to find his former employers as they might have a method of programming people to do everything they wish. A very slow moving story, which is almost all setup. Little happens and mundane details are described in mind-numbing detail. For example, setting a simple explosive charge takes more than half a page and a few hundred words and has no relation to the plot and little to the story. The end was pretty good, but it took far too much time to get there. It seems that every installment of this series is told in a more verbose, slow way, with less actual plot happening. ***-

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