Fantasy & Science Fiction

August 2007

Cover image

Editor: Gordon van Gelder
Issue: Volume 113, No. 2
ISSN: 1095-8258
Pages: 162

This was a generally solid issue anchored by a good Albert Cowdrey story, a science fiction story this time rather than his recent fantasy fare. Both book columns were interesting, if unexceptional, and I liked Kathi Maio's analysis of reactions to movie adaptations of books.

"At These Prices" by Esther M. Friesner: Friesner writes great humorous fantasy and this is no exception. A woman who makes a profession of stealing things from hotel rooms accidentally binds a brownie who works for the hotel with the magic of coffee. She's quite content with this situation, but his friends, mythical creatures all, want to get him back. Good for chuckles throughout and a nicely satisfying ending. (7)

"Murder in the Flying Vatican" by Albert E. Cowdrey: Cowdrey takes his solid storytelling into space this time, following an officer called to investigate a murder on an orbital that has been given to a religious community of monks and declared an independent country. One of the monks was murdered during nightly meditations in a way that looks professional. It's a good police procedural where most of the SF comes from an unusual location (mostly important for the climax) and the different political structure of the future world. There are satisfying plot twists and shifts of alliances and a nice set piece ending. Cowdrey is entertaining as always, even at a longer length than his recent stories. (7)

"The Mole Cure" by Nancy Farmer: A hypochondriac with a particular obsession with moles finds someone who claims he can eliminate them. A slight story featuring one of those somewhat unresolved brush with the fantastic endings, but entertaining mostly due to the edge of humor and the over-the-top descriptions of medical fears. As someone who obsessively researches weird body behavior, I can identify enough to laugh at myself. (6)

"A Wizard of the Old School" by Chris Willrich: This is a direct sequel to "Penultima Thule", but told from the perspective of the wizard that Gaunt and Bone met along the way. It's a sword and sourcery tale featuring unusual heroes, and the differences are more apparent here than in the previous story. It has a straightforward plot with a predictable emotional outcome, but even without finding new ground, moments were surprisingly effective. I was impressed that Willrich managed to turn the final danger into more than just a plot device and stuff some strong characterization into only a few pages. (7)

"The Tomb Wife" by Gwyneth Jones: An odd and haunting story about alien archeology, alien culture, and space travel. The twist is a type of space travel that takes place in an instant, but that requires the mental involvement of the crew to guide the ship and creates a phantom sensation of shared reality and elapsed time during the voyage. This interesting, if obliquely explained, idea provides a great opportunity to add fantastic shadings to a science fiction base. The main problem I had with the story is that the ending was confusing and didn't offer quite enough explanation, but as a mood piece, it mostly worked. (6)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2007-10-03

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