Fantasy & Science Fiction

August 2008

Cover image

Editor: Gordon van Gelder
Issue: Volume 115, No. 2
ISSN: 1095-8258
Pages: 162

The non-fiction in this issue is mostly typical, the exception being a rare editorial by Gordon van Gelder introducing Chris Moriarty as a book reviewer based on Chris's work as a Philip K. Dick award judge. That first column is excellent, reviewing a mix of current fiction and genre classics. I hope there will be more.

"Childrun" by Marc Laidlaw: The first story of this issue is a somewhat predictable fantasy about Gorlen Vizenfirthe the bard, whose previous stories were over a decade ago. He encounters a walled village, drawn by the sound of children, only to discover a monster that the village feeds and lives in fear of. From the all-too-obvious road sign on, I doubt anything here will come as much surprise to the average fantasy reader. It's a rather prosaic and occasionally gross story that uses standard tropes of bardic fantasy. (5)

"The Political Prisoner" by Charles Coleman Finlay: I'm not much of a fan of Finley's other work, but this one was a pleasant surprise. Lucky, that, since this very long novella is much of the issue.

This is a follow-up story to "The Political Officer," which I haven't read. Max Nikomedes is a political officer in a very religious colony world. At the start of the story, he's been arrested due to changes in the political winners and losers in the government. From there, matters go from bad to worse, and he ends up in the prison camp system with a group of aliens, genetically-engineered offshoots of humanity that had been a convenient war target to rally the population. It follows the normal pattern of a prison camp story, of desperation and defiance and psychological struggle, but it's well-written, hard-hitting, and didn't become monotonous. The subject matter won't be to everyone's taste, and it's not clear how much the SF setting adds to the story, but it's well-told within its type. (7)

"An Open Letter to Earth" by Scott Dalrymple: This is a great bit of short humor. It's not really a story per se: it's three pages of an open letter from the UFOs that have been kidnapping people, correcting a few misconceptions and explaining a few things. Good for a quick grin and a few chuckles. (8)

"Another Perfect Day" by Steven Popkes: This is a twist on the old time travel paradox idea, where a time traveller attempts to change the past without much success. The difference here is that the story is written from the perspective of Prokofiev, and neither his timeline nor the timeline of the time traveller are the same as ours. The story takes the typical alternate universe approach to time travel, but Prokofiev takes advantage of an inept time traveller to use that his own way. Mildly interesting, but not that memorable. (6)

"Bounty" by Rand B. Lee: A nasty short story about hunting a pervert. It seems clearly aimed at making a point against intolerance by showing an exaggerated version of it, but without subtlety and with an undistinguished mass of redneck hunters as its stereotypical main characters, it read like a bludgeon. (2)

"But Wait! There's More!" by Richard Mueller: The last story of this issue is one of the best. The protagonist is an out-of-work Hollywood writer who takes a job writing advertisements for a man who wants to buy people's souls. The course of the story isn't very original, but the characters are a delight, particularly Erica, the woman who runs the phone banks. Mueller plays with the advertising industry, infomercials, and the practical implications of being able to sell one's soul, leading to a wonderful satirical trial with strange allies. The ending returns to typical material, somewhat disappointingly, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. (7)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2008-10-12

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