Fantasy & Science Fiction

March 2005

Cover image

Editor: Gordon van Gelder
Issue: Volume 108, No. 3
ISSN: 1095-8258
Pages: 162

A completely forgettable issue until the last story, which was an unexpected gem. Once again, non-fiction is disproportionately represented in the book reviews, which I always find annoying. I like reading the occasional non-fiction review, but I'd like them to be a minority. At least the science column by Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty about the zero was quite good, even though it didn't contain anything I didn't already know.

"The Amulet" by Albert E. Cowdrey: The setup wasn't bad, featuring a mysterious amulet, a curse, and a bit of secret history. Unfortunately, it didn't go anywhere and the ending was obvious. I was left wondering what the point was; it needs to be more than just "trust stories about curses." (5)

"The Wall of America" by Thomas M. Disch: I loved the premise: a giant wall built between the US and Canada, with painters live and working along it, using it as a canvas for huge works. Unfortunately, the premise is entirely setup background and then never really addressed again, other than being played lightly for laughs. All that's left is the familiar theme of why art is created and an unsatisfying ending. (5)

"Ayuh, Clawdius" by Al Michaud: An extended slapstick written mostly in several difficult-to-read, exaggerated dialects. Despite a couple of good gags, the overall effect was boring, pointless, and obnoxious to try to read. Some of the politics and personalities probably have more attraction for native New Englanders, but it did nothing for me. (2)

"I Live with You" by Carol Emshwiller: Emshwiller does domestic creepiness quite well. Told in an unusual voice, addressed to the reader as if they were a character in the story, this was an interesting take on a sort of urban mischevious spirit with a hint of something darker. The sort of story that leaves one slightly ill-at-ease after finishing it. (6)

"Late Show" by Gary W. Shockley: An alien appears on Letterman and acts like a typical Letterman guest. You can probably fill in the whole story from that concept description, but I found it mildly diverting. There's a twist ending that didn't work for me, mostly because it seemed unanchored in the rest of the story. (6)

"Love and the Wayward Troll" by Charles Coleman Finlay: The world-building isn't bad, although I'm not particularly interested in reading this much about jungle hunters and Tarzan children. The promised love story, however, is cliche-ridden tripe, featuring the standard mix of inexplicable love at first sight between opposites that makes no cultural sense, embarassing misunderstandings, and earnest futility. This is apparently an excerpt from a novel that I won't be reading. (3)

"The Beau and the Beast" by Esther M. Friesner: Far and away the highlight of this issue. Told in a beautiful epistolary style, this is Jane Austen meets Cthulhu, with a heavy helping of self-confident, opinionated determination. This by itself would have been enjoyable enough, but the story also doesn't go at all the direction that I was expecting from the beginning. The whole thing moves along refreshingly quickly and none of the letters outlast their welcome. This one is worth seeking out. (8)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-07-16

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