This issue won't hit newsstands for about two more weeks, but here's my advanced review of it."The Roberts" (Michael Blumlein)
Sort of like "The Gift of the Magi" meets Multiplicity
. Robert is an architect who only excels when he has a muse. However, when he's inspired, he spends all his time at work while neglecting his significant other. Finally, for want of the passion to create, he has a parthenogeneticist (makers of fine, vat-grown humans) make him the perfect girlfriend. And she understands his busy schedule, but he feels bad once he realizes that he's neglecting her. So, he gets her the best birthday present he can think of: another him. Though, she gets him a present too, so he won't feel so bad about neglecting her: another him. Now there are three Roberts, and all the joy and drama associated with that. A strange not-too-distant-futuristic tale whose cover art really didn't match the story (though the cover are was pretty whiz-bang, to overuse such a term). 4/5 "Fullbrim's Finding" (Matthew Hughes)
Hughes' stories used to bore me. This was because I "didn't get" them. Though, after discovering that Penultimate Earth happened some time after Vance's Dying Earth
, it all started to make sense. I'm glad that I learned this point, as otherwise, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed this story as much. In "Fullbrim's Finding," we follow Hapthorn (a sort of Sherlock Holmes meets Sam Spade, only in the distant future) in his efforts to find a wayward husband. It takes him to a small, lesser known world, where he comes to an inn full of ascetic living. Not to give away the zinger of this story, but I was reminded of So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish
by this story. Hughes gradually becomes my favorite F&SF regular contributor. 4/5 "Poison Victory" (Albert E. Cowdrey)
Cowdrey returns to the pages of F&SF, and this time with a story not set in Louisiana. "Poison Victory" is instead an alternate history set in Germany. The alternate bit is that Hitler won the war, and lived until 1949, where he later succumbed to some disease and died. The main character, married to a woman deemed below him, racially speaking, must deal with his existence as a Nazi war hero, and a sympathizer for human rights. A neighboring German on high standing is murdered, and his serfs (and wife) are suspected, and interrogated. He must decide where his loyalties lie, and find a good use for the bounty of poison gas he has access to. Not really sci-fi or fantasy, I thought. I'm not sure why alternate history is liked by the same fans of other specfic (unless it's featuring Oswald Bastable and company), but it is, which is why it didn't surprise me terribly to find it in the pages of this magazine. It was an interesting story, but not my cuppa. 3/5. "Reader's Guide" (Lisa Goldstein)
There's something to be said of metafiction. I felt like I was reading the diary of someone in a Borges story. There's a library that contains every possible story ever written, and there are a team of people who maintain it. When an author writes a story, they check out a book and make it their own. These books change with the author, and are eventually reshelved by the loyal shelvers. Our hero, a shelver, is tired of hack writers writing hack stories with sappy love storys, heavy-handed simulacrum, and way too much metaphor and similie, so he starts writing Reader's Guides in the front of the books, akin to the reader's guides one would find in book club editions of books. The story is told through one such reader's guide. Wonderful telling. 4/5 "Enfant Terrible" (Scott Dalrymple)
You know those smart kids, those child prodigies? What if their intellect had a draining effect on the intellect of the grownups around them? What if that was due to a parasite, and the only way to keep mankind safe was to remove these children from their surroundings? Written in second person, "Enfant Terrible" (should that be in italics too?) reads like a linear choose-your-own-adventure story (as that genre seems to have the claim on second-person), as well as an interesting use of pronouns. 4/5 "The Dinosaur Train" (James L. Cambias)
Imagine Jurassic Park, only it's run by Barnum & Bailey. That's what the "Dinosaur Train" is all about. Though the circus has fallen on hard times, and now their star dinosaur has become ill. A grandson must decide: save the dinosaur and risk his grandfather's (the owner of the circus) wrath, or let the dino die, and watch his family's business flush down the crapper. He decided to do what's best, and learns a valuable lesson or two in the process. Realistically written alternate history with an element of sci-fi (dinosaurs, duh). 4/5 Plumage From the Pegasus: "Galley Knaves" (Paul Di Filippo)
Di Filippo's Plumage articles are hit or miss for me. This one, though an interesting concept, missed me. A reviewer is given a book to review, only it's delivered in a mock-up corpse. This encourages other publishers to deliver their copies in other equally creative ways, which causes grief for the reviewer, who must dispose of all the packaging material, as well as sift through unimaginative prose. He finds a way to get back at them, though. 3/5 Best in Show: "Reader's Guide"
What can I say? I love books.
Crossposted in The Eventide Knave
and The Gangster of L'Oeuf