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Analog, July/August 2000
Analog, July/August 2000
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

This impressive double issue kicks off with Catherine Asaro's novella, "A Roll of the Dice." Asaro, a Hugo and Nebula nominee, is best known for her science fiction romances set in the Skolian Empire. "A Roll of the Dice" revisits the Skolian Empire, where gender roles have been reversed and taken back a couple centuries. Women are the leaders and warriors, while men are kept in harems and valued for their ability to play a mystical game called Quis.

The story centres on an off-worlder named Jeremiah, a graduate student studying Dahl culture. An estate manager named Khal kidnaps Jeremiah when she discovers his skill at Quis. Against his will, he is sworn into the Calanya, an elite group of Quis players. Though played with dice, Quis seems to have more in common with the I Ching than with Yahtzee, and the Calanya wield considerable power and prestige despite their lack of freedom. Jeremiah befriends his fellow Calani and learns the secrets of Quis as his relationship with Khal takes some unexpected turns. Jeremiah has no desire to accept the new life imposed upon him, and though escape looks impossible, he continues to pray for rescue. Far from a cruel captor, Khal tries to ease Jeremiah's pain and aid his transition, but her efforts only deepen his homesickness. "A Roll of the Dice" grabs your attention from the outset and never dithers. The characters are complex, human, memorable, and sympathetic. As the plot progresses, the relationships deepen and expand in surprising and satisfying ways.

Sci-Fi Hall-of-Famer Larry Niven offers up "The Wisdom of Demons," a brief "be careful what you wish for" parable. A human xenosociologist interviewing aliens at a cosmopolitan interstellar tavern runs into a technologically advanced creature that offers the scientist a wish. This theme has long since descended into cliché, but Niven leaves the outcome ambiguous. Was the wish worth the price paid? Niven offers no easy answers.

F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre's "A Real Bang-Up Job" is a humorous time-paradox parody. A time-travelling shyster named Smedley Faversham sets up camp in the desert near Roswell on the day of the infamous flying saucer crash. He intercepts fellow time-travellers dropping in to observe the crash and suckers them into his scheme. Eventually, a buxom time cop named Julie Anne Callendar arrives to bust up Smedley's racket. The end comes roaring in a funhouse series of head-spinning time loops. It's a cheeky tale told with wonderful ebullience.

Mike Moscoe, perhaps best know for his Lost Millennium trilogy, contributes "A Day's Work on the Moon," a novelette-length wish-fulfillment tale. Thirteen year-old Nikki becomes obsessed with piloting remote-control moon rovers, and ropes her computer-hacker boyfriend, Jer, into jury-rigging a control station for her. After a few months' practice, she lands a full-time job as a rover pilot where her wild driving earns her the nickname Rocket Girl. When a crisis arises on the moon, Nikki's rover is the only one in position to help. Nikki's spunky narration provides the perfect tone to this wondrous, upbeat tale.

Analog regular Michael F. Flynn's "Built Upon the Sands of Time" is a heart-rending time-paradox tragedy. Set in an Irish pub filled with an assortment of colourful characters, the tale starts off with pathologist Doc Mooney asking for help locating a missing artifact. When a bar patron named Owen fitzHugh draws a connection between the missing artifact and the Big Bang, the bartender plops down a beer before fitzHugh and demands that he explain the connection. FitzHugh's narrative begins with a complex lesson in temporal physics. His theory of temporal reality has chilling implications, and his tale ends in tears. It's a haunting story of loss.

John W. Campbell Award-nominee Shane Tourtellotte's "The Hanoi Tree" tells the tale of a forbidden friendship between a human boy and an alien child. On a distant colony world, Humans and Thruhas peacefully coexist, but communication between the species is strained. A chance meeting between ten year-old Kevan and a Thruha child named Yinalu leads to a blossoming friendship. When Kevan's parents discover his secret companion, his mother forbids him to see Yinalu again. But Kevan's father works for a diplomatic committee attempting to improve communication with the Thruha and arranges clandestine meetings for Kevan and Yinalu. Eventually, the friendship forces the races to confront their fear and ignorance. It's a poignant tale of childhood innocence and camaraderie.

James Gunn's "The Abyss" is a sequel to "The Giftie" and "Pow'r." An orbital work crew assembles an interstellar spacecraft from instructions sent to Earth from an unknown alien intelligence. When an engine test reveals a minor incident of sabotage, everyone comes under suspicion.

Joseph P. Martino's "To Have What it Takes" is a tale of test pilots and the women who love (and fear for) them. During a test flight for the SF-83 fighter prototype, Captain Mike Sweeney's aircraft experiences several mechanical failures. Meanwhile, his wife Carolyn is busy consoling the widow of another test pilot when she gets the news that Mike is in trouble. It's a familiar theme, but Martino blends in authentic military flavour, accurate engineering detail and skillful character development.

The issue concludes with Robert R. Chase's "Cheetahs." Chase creates a complex universe within the brief span of this novelette. Earth has been abandoned and humans have spread out, seeding the stars with numerous colonies. The Meji colony, ravaged by a plague, sends out a distress call. Nearby Terranova colony sends the crew of the Albert Schweitzer on a rescue mission. The trip to Meji, however, takes 50 years. The relief workers stay in communication with the colony, but by the time the ship arrives, the situation has changed dramatically. The Schweitzer's anti-matter reactor has become unstable and will melt down unless the crew can get help from the Mejan colonists, but the Mejans cut off communications and warn the Albert Schweitzer to stay away. It's a nice bit of high-concept space opera, with an emphasis on intrigue and suspense.

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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