OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #19, Oct./Nov. 2010

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Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show #19
Oct./Nov. 2010

“Expendables” by Orson Scott Card
“Right Before Your Very Eyes” by Matthew S. Rotundo
“Schadenfreude” by Michelle Scott
“Deathsmith” by Pete Aldin
“Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived” by Keffy Kehrli
“Express to Paris by Dragon First Class” by Tom Crosshill

Tales for the Young and Unafraid
“Growing Pains” by David Lubar

Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell

“Expendables” by Orson Scott Card tells the tale of Ram Odin, a spaceship captain, the only man awake during a voyage expected to last more than a decade – and that’s if things go well.  His role is to do what only a human can.  He’ll play a hunch, making the decision of whether to send his ship into a space-time fold.  His fallback lies in the computers that guide his ship and in a robot, called an expendable.  It seems anything but.  

When his ship enters the space-time fold, the unexpected happens.  Space-time goes quantum, both behaving like light and creating a reactionary effect.  It impacts his ship’s position in space and time, sending him both backward and forward.  As the computers act and react, nineteen copies of the ship are made.  Only one can survive.

This story is a slow starter, but one with a fascinating premise.  Perhaps because it’s so detailed, a few things struck me as unlikely.  Ram fails to give his sole conversant a name.  It remains ‘the expendable.’  Especially given his isolation, I found that odd.  There’s also a strange leap made from postulating the existence of copies to being able to communicate with them, instantly.  The story line makes that seem improbable, and there’s no explanation.  Even so, I remained intrigued.

In “Right Before Your Very Eyes” by Matthew S. Rotundo, Barrett Webster, a magician, has finally made the big time.  He’s playing Vegas to packed houses, thanks to his new assistant, Violet.  Webster has three problems.  It’s not sleight-of-hand he’s performing.  He sees demons in the audience.  And he knows his time is running out.  Violet is the power behind the act, and they’ve made a deal.  When Violet demands payment, she tells him she’s from another world, exiled, and his last trick will be to send her back.  He knows there’s something she’s not telling him.  

When another magician gets suspicious, Webster murders him, but it isn’t his will behind it.  That shows him how ruthless and dangerous Violet is.  On the night of his final performance, he puts all the clues together.

This is an enjoyable story.  It starts fast, keeps the pace, and the ending fits, wrapping things up nicely.  

In “Schadenfreude” by Michelle Scott, Chad is a performer in a world in which the finding of humor in another’s pain is the entertainment of choice.  Nanobots are supposed to provide anesthetic and healing, but they aren’t working for Chad.  Yet he’s willing to endure, even to risk his life, for his art.  Until another performer dies.  Then he reconsiders, teaming up with a washed-up former star.  Their reinvention doesn’t go as planned.  

This, too, is a well-written story, though one with a less satisfying ending.    

“Deathsmith” by Pete Aldin is a cautionary tale.  Aris is the deathsmith.  He owns an amulet which allows him to control the action of magic wisps that’ll do his bidding and protect his life, as long as he adheres to the terms of their agreement.  He can kill for money, but not out of his own desires.  

Aris enjoys a comfortable existence, meting out death from afar in return for coin.  His only frustration is with a girl who won’t stop bothering him.  Though she does chores in return for food, and even sends business his way, he doesn’t warm to her.  When she says she wants a contract to kill the man who sired her, and implies it might be him, Aris takes matters into his own hands.  Unfortunately for him, she has a few surprises to offer.

This one kept me reading to the end.

In “Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived” by Keffy Kehrli, a cloning goes awry.  It’s a world where lost loved ones can be replaced.  Twelve-year-old Sara has been recreated, two years after her death.  But something’s gone wrong.  There were errors in the transfer.  Though someone’s awakened in Sara’s body, she’s not Sara.  She has no idea who she is.  Sara’s family takes her home in the hope familiar surroundings will restore her memories.  All they do is increase the girl’s certainty.  Finally, the doctors reclaim her.  

This is yet another strong story.  

“Express to Paris by Dragon First Class” by Tom Crosshill tells of Jima, a dragon who flies the skies, carrying passengers, until she and her kind are replaced by airplanes.  Jima raised her children and worked until she was retired, but she didn’t lose sight of her dream.  Nor did she fail to plan.

It’s short and cute, but not much of a tale.

In “Growing Pains” by David Lubar, a seventh-grader, short for his age, practices diplomacy when he finds himself in an assembly, sitting beside Augie Blockner, the school bully.   The large football players on the stage extol the usual virtues of eating right and avoiding drugs.  Afterward, Augie drags our hero backstage in a bid to meet the players.  They’re gone, but Augie finds a bag they’ve left behind, and in it, a bottle.   Although it says ‘Growth,’ and the main character would like very much to do that, he knows better than to try it.  Augie isn’t as clever, with disastrous results.

Although it has a message, this story has a light, tongue-in-cheek tone, poking fun at all those over-earnest school assemblies.  It’s delightful.  So many tales aimed at kids are like liver and spinach – maybe good for you, but hard to swallow.  With fare like “Growing Pains” offered, maybe more will discover the joy in reading.  

I’m impressed with this publication.  I’ve reviewed several others, both print and online.  Many have left me feeling they’re mining a poor vein, one long since played out.  Perhaps their editors should buy subscriptions to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, to see how it’s done.