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Jupiter, Issue 34, October 2011

Jupiter, Issue 34, October 2011
Jupiter
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A review by Rich Horton

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The thirty-fourth issue of Jupiter is subtitled Euporie, as ever after a moon of Jupiter. This issue has five science-fiction stories, as usual.

I have long characterized Jupiter as a distinctly old-fashioned magazine. By this I refer to both its focus on pretty much pure science fiction, but also its fondness for tropes and plots that hearken back to the 50s through 70s, more or less. This isn't of necessity a bad thing -- indeed it's nice to have a magazine or two that provides a home for such stuff. Still, there is a burden on such stories to make the old new -- otherwise, why bother? It seems to me that this issue is a particularly good example of this characteristic of the magazine, so I thought I'd look at the stories one by one with that in mind.

"Dark Age," by Alastair Miles, is an asteroid mining story. I'd place its most direct ancestors in the 70s. It's told from the point of view of Joanna, the leader of a five-person team that seems to have struck it rich when pirates attack. The story mostly follows their desperate resistance to the attack. It's all well enough done, but never quite brilliantly done, or -- here's that word again -- "new." There is a somewhat dark twist at the end that I saw coming but didn't quite buy, nor did I think the ending quite earned. Still, a decent effort.

Jack Davidson's "Pilot" is a soldier's story, and again familiar. Perhaps it too recalls the 70s, stuff like The Forever War. It's fairly brief, essentially the account of a man in the future going off to fight a never-ending war, and his failure to adjust on return. This story does try for originality in its prose style, and that's OK, but in the end I found it a minor effort.

"In the Web", by Lee Russell, features Mertin, who lives a privileged life in an arcology, basically, to use the term popular in, yes, the 70s. He learns that when his father gained entrance to the arcology, he could only take one child, and Mertin's sister was left behind. Wracked with guilt, he leaves his new home to find his sister... but life in the slums is rougher than he anticipates. So -- an arcology story, with the common trope of the exploitation of those left behind. Russell's conclusion, when Mertin finally tracks down his sister, is a bit different -- quite original, indeed -- but I was left unconvinced by it.

The one story that doesn't really fit my theme for this review is "Frank," by Martin Ott. The main character wakes up not knowing who he is -- but there are hints, such as his license plate: FRANK1. That name itself is fairly simple hint to his real nature, which he never quite uncovers in a somewhat chilling story. It's okay for its length, not a particularly special piece but entertaining enough.

Finally, Simon Kewin and Dominic de Mattos offer "The Bitter End." The trope this time is "comet hits the Earth," which takes us back at least as far as Fritz Leiber's The Wanderer, from the mid-60s. The story centers on the astronomer who discovered the comet and his pregnant wife -- whose due date is easy enough to guess. They exchange emails as it becomes clearer and clearer that the world is doomed... and as the baby comes closer to term. And that's really all there is to it -- it's a skillfully done story, on the whole, but it never surprises. I really expected something unusual to happen, and I was disappointed, though in terms of writing skill there is nothing about which to complain.

So, a middling issue, all in all. No story here is poorly done -- no story strikes me as one that shouldn't have seen the light of day. But by the same token no story really excited me.

Copyright © 2012 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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