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Jupiter, Issue 24, April 2009

Jupiter, Issue 24, April 2009
Jupiter
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Time for my quarterly Jupiter review. Issue XXIV is subtitled Iocaste. The feel of the magazine remains constant, but I thought this was one of the better issues.

To begin at the end, with the shortest story, Gareth D. Jones offers an enjoyable snippet, a little character sketch, in his Roadbuilder sequence, "Dog's Best Friend." Continuing from the end, James McCormick's "If You Can't Beat Them ..." speculates on an accommodation reached by two crime lords, one of whom has chosen biological enhancement, the other mechanical enhancement, to the point they've reached a stalemate in their rivalry. In the end I thought it an OK idea weakened because I really didn't care. Another story that didn't quite work for me opened the issue, "Black Water," by David Conyers, set in a future Africa in which pure water is fabulously valuable. The hero plans to steal water from Zanzibar, using his artificial legs as carriers, but is morally challenged when the privileged white woman who accompanies him on his visit gets into trouble. There were again hints here of interesting ideas, but the story first failed to make me believe in the main character, and secondly failed to make me believe in several central premises: the outlandish value of pure water, the draconian punishments for theft of same, and yet the relative ease of the protagonist's plan to steal the water.

In "Sides of the Coin," Gustavo Bondoni tells a sort of dark fable. On what seems another planet, terrible creatures emerge from a sealed cube every "few hundred generations" and battle the otherwise peaceful natives. This story follows one such battle, in which various forms of magic are tried against the attackers, who learn more every attack. It's a curious story, which holds the interest, but alas doesn't quite convince. Andrew Knighton's "Our Man in Herrje" is set on another planet as well, on which humans have a slight presence, along with many other aliens. The title character does public relations for the human embassy. As the story opens, a human library has been destroyed in an attack... but the story really concerns the narrator's assignments in the wake of that destruction: damage control and the like. He himself is a raffish character. And all this comes to a sort of head when he is assigned to deal with aliens called Gatherers, who hate untruth of all sorts -- lies, political lies, euphemisms, even fiction. Knighton contents himself, more or less, with presenting the issues here -- the Gatherers have a point, of course, in hating political lies, but when they extend that hatred to Shakespeare...? Not a bad philosophical piece. And finally, A. J. Kirby's "The Ninth Circle" is another curious story, quite absorbing if, in the end, not wholly successful. Centuries in the future, it seems that the remains of humanity are split in two -- effete scientists and brutish soldier types. A spaceship on a never well-defined mission has recovered a long surviving android, with some memories of the pre-plague times. One of the two scientists has been shoved out the airlock, and the survivor desperately tries to figure out from the android what really happened. Kirby plays some linguistic games, and comes to a somewhat bitter conclusion that doesn't seem quite earned. But the story does keep one reading.

Jupiter as with many semipro magazines doesn't really have access to the very best new stories. But it has established a consistent personality, and a distinct devotion to mostly fairly straightforward SF, and the magazine generally manages to featuring enjoyable work.

Copyright © 2009 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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