Fantasy & Science Fiction

April 2005

Cover image

Editor: Gordon van Gelder
Issue: Volume 108, No. 4
ISSN: 1095-8258
Pages: 162

This is definitely the best F&SF issue I've read yet. A very solid set of stories, with a couple of rather memorable ones, and a really good book column from Robert K.J. Killheffer. I hope this is a sign for things to come; this one was a definite improvement.

"The Secret Sutras of Sally Strumpet" by Paul Di Filippo: I think this is the first Di Filippo I've read, despite having heard quite a bit about him. I really enjoyed it. The story, about a novelist whose writer persona is as made up as the story, isn't that memorable, but it's well-written with a light, sarcastic tone. And the underlying idea is a great take on the question of writers as gods and the reality of characters. (7)

"Domovoi" by M.K. Hobson: I have a soft spot for stories about mythological creatures in modern settings and a character who cares deeply about buildings and the construction thereof, so this story was custom-made to hit several of my personal loves. It's a great story about the spirit of places, about urban renewal, and about character in buildings. I loved it; I think it's the highlight of the issue. (8)

"The Secret of the Scarab" by Ron Goulart: An enjoyable private eye mystery whose main appeal is in the witty protagonist and the light tone of the writing. Nothing particularly exceptional in the plot, but I thought it was fun. And I loved the magician who popped up to give forboding clues. (7)

"Black Deer" by Claudia O'Keefe: This is the one story in this issue that really didn't work for me. Okay, I understand the ending, but I don't understand why that ending fit, or how that twist came out of the rest of the story. And the story itself isn't really interesting; it's that sort of short story that lives and dies by the twist at the end. Since that didn't work for me, neither did the rest. (4)

"A Friendly Little Oasis" by Harvey Jacobs: A pure humor story about why vampires prefer the big city. Mildly amusing, particularly for the parade of brand names, although not particularly memorable. (6)

"The Gospel of Nate" by Michael Libling: Past life regression has become the new fad, with regression beds scattered about the city like yuppie gyms. However, there are a few people you're just not allowed to be, because otherwise everyone would claim to have been them in a past life, and the consequences of them being believed just don't bear thinking about. So when the girlfriend of a night attendant ends up discovering some interesting lives in her past, things get strange very quickly. The ending of this story didn't work for me, but the idea had me completely hooked. (7)

"Finding Sajessarian" by Matthew Hughes: This is another private investigator sort of story, although one with an unusual mission. The main story is a little odd, with a very confusing ending. However, the scene-stealer here is the extra-dimensional companion of the private investigator and the game that they play. Unfortunately, it doesn't play a large role in the story, because I want to read a lot more about that game. Even the hints here were tantalizing. (7)

"The Harrowing" by M. Rickert: I'm not sure I really got this story. The setup is suitably creepy, as are parts of the story, and it's reasonably well-written, but the punch line seemed strangely opposite of what I was expecting based on the rest of the book. Odd. As a result, the story fell somewhat flat for me. (5)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-07-30

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