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Analog, October 2000
Analog, October 2000
Analog
The pages of Astounding/Analog have been home to many of science fiction's foremost writers and stories. Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Spider Robinson, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Michael F. Flynn are just a few of the prominent names which have often appeared there. Their stories have also won many Hugo and Nebula Awards, and such classics as Frank Herbert's Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight first appeared in Analog.

Analog Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Marc Goldstein

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The October 2000 issue of Analog kicks off with "The Taranth Stone" by Ron Collins. A sequel to "Stealing the Sun" from October 1999. The action takes place on a planet named Quadar. Thirty years ago, an object crashed into the largest of the three suns in Quadar's system. Since then, the planet's meteorological conditions have begun to change for the worse. In the present, a politician approaches a scientist named Baraq to examine the wreckage of the object: the Taranth Stone. Baraq's father runs a powerful industrial cartel, which lends Baraq some useful scientific connections. But Baraq despises his family's racketeering and wishes to be free of them. He knows that if his family got wind of his research, they would swoop in and assert ownership of any new technologies the stone yielded. So Baraq races to uncover the mysteries of the stone and trace its connection to Quadar's deteriorating climate before his family's spies realize what he's up to. "The Taranth Stone" is the closest thing to traditional space opera in the issue. The story is compelling, but ultimately incomplete: a fascinating set-up without a punch line. To be fair, this is because "The Taranth Stone" comprises only a piece of a larger narrative. I just hope we don't have to wait another year for the next installment.

Ashley J.R. Carter's Science Fact article "Limits to Evolution" deserves mention as a highly readable exploration of evolution and biology. Carter busts several assumptions about the nature of evolution, and by extension, genetic engineering. Anyone who has had their interest piqued by the recent breakthroughs in genetic research will find this article captivating.

Sean McMullen's "Mask of Terminus" imagines a futuristic dystopia where DNA treatments make it possible for every citizen to live indefinitely. This state of affairs consequently requires laws severely restricting reproduction. Since few citizens have the patience to wait 3,000 years for their turn to come up in the parenting queue, widespread DNA testing is conducted to ferret out unlawfully conceived individuals. Robotic enforcers promptly execute "mismatches." After seeing a mismatch go out in a blaze of glory, Jason, a 230 year-old citizen, grows restless. The DNA treatments have created a stagnant society populated entirely by senior citizens who fear change. Jason throws himself wholly into tutoring a teenager named Alex and he begins to feel more in common with Alex than the world at large. When Jason gets involved with a subversive underground movement, he discovers that his DNA is changing. With the help of Alex and his underground contacts, Jason struggles to find out what has happened to him before the authorities identify him as a mismatch. "Mask of Terminus" is one of the issue's more serious pieces. Immortality is a well-worn theme, but recent advances in genetic research lend the story a sense of timeliness and plausibility. McMullen seizes the opportunity to weave some disturbing questions into this intriguing thriller.

Kathy Oltion's "Graveyard Shift" is a straight murder mystery set in a medical laboratory. When Kendra, a lab technician performing routine blood tests, stumbles upon an anomalous sample that defies analysis, she doggedly investigates the source of the sample's contamination. "Graveyard Shift" provides a fascinating look at what actually goes on inside the scientific laboratory, but the mystery resolves itself far too easily to be completely satisfying.

James Van Pelt, a 1999 Campbell finalist, contributes "Friday, After the Game." Van Pelt describes a near-future society where, due to a mysterious epidemic, all human interactions occur over the Internet. The story centres on a high school student named Arien. Like all other students, Arien actually attends his classes via the web. The technology has advanced enough to create a sophisticated virtual reality simulation of the classrooms, and even the sports contests. Arien plays defensive lineman on his high school's football team, but finds the experience disappointing. He conspires with a few teammates and rival players to meet somewhere in the real world for an authentic game of tackle football. As they arrive, the players are shocked to discover that the actual people look nothing like their cyberspace avatars. The theme of Internet alienation has been plumbed about dry by now, so Van Pelt wisely keeps the story light-hearted and fun.

Catherine Wells' "The Nechtanite and the Inforat" illustrates a conflict between a meek librarian and a professor who hails from a colonial warrior society that embraces confrontation. It's a cute, flippant culture-clash story.

"Put Back that Universe!" is another episode in the outrageously silly adventures of F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre's time-travelling charlatan Smedley Faversham. This time Faversham travels back in time to the final moments before the Big Bang. His plan: to wait until all the matter in the universe contracts to the size of a tennis ball, then steal it! Perhaps you are wondering how Faversham could even exist before the beginning of the universe? Or how he could possibly hope to capture the universe in his coat pocket? Or even assuming he could steal the universe, who would he sell it to? If these problems seem insurmountable to you, then you sorely underestimate the criminal genius of Smedley Faversham. But to successfully execute his plan, Faversham must first dodge the long arm of the Paradox Police, and endure the gastrointestinal distress of curry vindaloo. Beware: if Faversham can't have the universe, no one can!

The issue concludes with two sentimental pieces: Charles L. Harness' "The Perfumed Heart" and Rajnar Vajra's "His Hands Passed Like Clouds." Venerable veteran Charles L. Harness contributes "The Perfumed Heart," the story of an android named Juliette who can alter her chemical secretions to emit a variety of fragrances. A forlorn scientist originally created Juliette to replace his deceased wife, but has a change of heart and grants her independence. She decides to make a living by designing and marketing perfumes. When she seeks the assistance of patent attorney Paul Kemp, the two quickly fall into a torrid romance. A rival perfume manufacturer challenges Juliette's claim on the grounds that she isn't a human, and therefore cannot legally petition for a patent. Kemp finds himself in the position of arguing for her humanity in court. You know -- man meets android, man falls in love with android, man represents android in patent court. The story's plot and "what is life?" theme are hardly groundbreaking, but it is a pleasant tale. Harness' writes smooth, natural prose, successfully avoids sappiness, and crafts credible, likable characters.

Rajnar Vajra's "His Hands Passed Like Clouds" begins with narrator Gregory wistfully recalling childhood memories of his strange Uncle Joe. Later, as an adult, Gregory returns to his boyhood home to recover from a near-fatal car crash. When he gets well enough to leave the house, he looks up Uncle Joe and the mysteries of his childhood unfold. While the plot is predictable, Vajra's first-person narration helps make Gregory an accessible, empathetic character. The way that the events of the finale knit together feels contrived, but the bittersweet emotions still somehow ring true. The whole story has an appealing ingenuousness about it, which prevents from slipping completely into schmaltz. A relative newcomer, Rajnar Vajra shows promise, and is featured in the "Biolog" author interview.

Copyright © 2000 by Marc Goldstein

Marc is the SF Site Games Editor and the principal contributor to the SF Site's Role Playing Department. Marc lives in Santa Ana, California with his wife, Sabrina and cat, Onion.


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