Fantasy & Science Fiction

January 2005

Cover image

Editor: Gordon van Gelder
Issue: Volume 108, No. 1
ISSN: 1095-8258
Pages: 162

Nothing particularly wonderful in the regular columns this month, but a better-than-average set of stories that held my attention more than the last issue. Not many short stories this month, with four novelets and only Arthur Porges's very short short.

"The Lorelei" by Alex Irvine: An interesting and somewhat disturbing story about painting, the culture of painters, and artistic obsession. It never managed to really hook me or really go anywhere, but the ending was fitting and it made me think about what life is like for painters who can make a living but aren't famous. (6)

"Keyboard Practice, Consisting of an Aria with Diverse Variations for the Harpsichord with Two Manuals" by John G. McDaid: A disjointed and rambling story in part about music fifty years into the future but really about the nature of performance, the standards on which musicians are judged, and the place of unpopular art. The style takes some getting used to and is occasionally a bit too cute, but the background of a music competition serves as a solid pacing device leading to a nice ending. The best story of this issue. (7)

"Born Bad" by Arthur Porges: An extremely short shaggy dog story that did nothing for me, in large part because it did next to nothing to set up the ending. (3)

"The Blemmye's Strategem" by Bruce Sterling: At the beginning, Sterling seemed to be trying to do something hip and cool with communication networks in an alternate version of the Middle East at the height of the Crusades, but then this story drifted off into a sadly generic medieval fantasy story that reminded me a great deal of Chaz Brenchley, except not as good. It sputters to an ending that I cared little about, and if the attempt to tie things back to the beginning depended on some subtlety, it was one I missed entirely. (5)

"Last Man Standing" by Esther M. Friesner: A nice bit of amusement about the Sumerian afterlife that gets most of its humor from the sarcastic comments of the viewpoint character and his refusal to be cowed by the gods and heroes that pop up. There's a fair bit of poking fun at just about everything, particularly the goddesses, heros, and priests. I particularly liked the sticky heroic aura. (7)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-01-31

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