Monday, September 2, 2013

Review - Analog, November 2013, Volume CXXXIII, No. 11

This is sleepy issue. Only positive exception is Lerner's novella.

“Bugs” by Ron Collins is this month’s cover story. It starts well but it ends quite abruptly and in a cheesy fashion. In other words, it’s a wasted opportunity. The story: John McDonald suffers from heart disease and his condition is worsening day by day. He’s soon going to be dead. Thankfully, he’s approved for a new revolutionary procedure that involves nanotechnology. I am not sure if it’s a story about his love for his wife Carol or about technology. Love and technology are two subjects that could be blended well together but unfortunately it doesn’t happen in this story.

"Make Hub, Not War” by Christopher L. Bennett features a hub in space, different alien races, humans, humanoids and space invasions. It also explores the possibility of wiping an entire race without firing a single shot. Enjoyable enough.

“Deceleration” by Bud Sparhawk is a very nice read. For thousands of years something mysterious cyclically appeared in the sky, Humans always dismissed it as not important and never considered it an immediate threat. If only they prepared themselves…

“Distant” by Michael Monson is quite… useless. A lone astronaut is sent in space and he’s terribly afraid to die. He wants to tell something to his daughter, but he doesn’t. That’s it, that’s the whole story.  WTF.

"The Eagle Project" by Jack McDevitt is a short depressing story. Scientists send a few nanorobotic probes in a different constellation system in the hope of finding some proof of alien life.

"Copper Charley" by Joseph Weber is an interesting short story about mining with the use of "smart" cyber plants. And also a story of lawyers. Likable.

"Redskins of the Badlands" by Paul di Filippo is one of this two month's novelettes. In a future in which Earth has been badly ruined by environmental change, some if not all humans live with an artificial enhanced skin that basically is a life size condom.

“The Matthews Conundrum” by Edward M. Lerner is an ingenious novella. Saying that this is the best story of this issue (by far) would’ve been a much better compliment if the other works weren’t so low-to-average quality. This novella is a part of a long going series of which I am not familiar with. This means that I probably missed a few references and back stories. It’s not really a problem since the work is very enjoyable. Joshua Matthews is the historian for the ICU (Interstellar Commerce Union). He suddenly disappears and then he comes back after about a month. Apparently at his return he is so drunk he can’t even stand still; to make things worse he can’t remember what happened.  This causes him to get fired from ICU. Unfortunately for him, he becomes a sort of planetary meme. He’s the talk of the week, everyone treats him as someone who belongs to AA. Unfortunately, no one understands how his theory, the “Matthews Conundrum”, is revolutionary. He noticed that something in interplanetary history doesn’t really make sense. Earth is right in the middle of an eleven-planet system, each one evolved on its own. However all the planets gained more or less the same technological level. Other than that, it appears that nothing else in the galaxy bears signs of intelligent life. The various planets and their species even share folkloristic tales, such as Frankenstein. How could planets separated by several light years be so synchronized? Very nice indeed. Thank you, Mr. Lerner for making the issue a worthwhile reading.

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