Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review - Analog Sept 2001

Hi all,

I know it's not the latest edition of Analog - and I still have plenty of earlier editions to read - but I learn a lot from reading older editions of what is probably the world's best science-fiction magazine.

This time around, the magazine had one novella, one novelette, two short stories and part four of a serialised novel.

The magazine began with the novella The King Who Wasn't by Lloyd Biggle Jr. It was a story about a political researcher who is sent to a planet to explore what seems to be a perfect political structure due to its absence of wars and political unrest. Inadvertently the researcher gets caught up in the politics and finds himself the chief advisor to a newly elected King. I enjoyed the story and its comments on what happens with a compliant and ignorant population. The story was more fantasy than science fiction as it could still have been told if the science elements, space ships and communication devices, had been removed.

The novella was followed by the short story Lost Dogs by Christopher McKillerick, where a probe searches for its creators and someone to report its findings too. The probe has attracted a following of alien worshippers as it travels back towards earth, its origin. Meanwhile an alienated boy runs away from a cruel father and the probe and boy eventually meet. The story is one of the weak inheriting the earth. I enjoyed this soft science fiction story.

Upgrade a novelette by Brian Plante followed. It had a twist at the end, so all of what went on up until the twist is setup. It's a story of how a man eventually becomes so fed up with the materialistic wife that in a fit of rage he causes a car accident which kills her. He then has a brain upgrade which, as has been setup in the story, causes the twist. An okay story, but as I have said before, stories written for a twist at the end are not my favourites.

The second short story A moment of Integrity by Jeffrey D. Kooistra was all tell, hardly any show, as a ship lands on Mars and discovers the remains of a nazi rocket ship. I found the story silly and unbelievable and did not care what I was told had happened.

The last piece of fiction was the fourth part of a novel The Precipice. I found the story very unoriginal in that it was another of those stories where space miners are caught up in corporate intrigue. CJ Cherryh's Hugo Award winner Heavy Time written in 1991 is for me the definitive novel on asteroid miners and since then I have read a number of stories and novels including Moonrise with the same theme. As I was reading the novel, I found the main character too perfect - except for radiation poisoning - this, and his mode of death caused by nanotechnology, really reminded me of Moonrise. It was only when I finished reading it that I discovered that Ben Bova had written it and Moonrise. Apart from the all too perfect heroes and all too cowardly and devious villains whose only goal in life was to become wealthier, in both The Precipice and Moonrise, I don't know what it is about Ben Bova's writing that I don't like. Maybe it's too right-wing. Maybe it's his belief that readers what to cheer for gung-ho capitalists racing to bring back resources from space and choke the world with even more goods. The hero was a fool who risked his fragile health for greater riches. He should have stayed at home and read a good book.

Overall, this is the weakest Analog issue I have read. It only gets two out of five stars, not the usual three or more.


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