OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #22, April/May 2011

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OSC InterGalactic Medicine Show #22, April/May 2011

“Love, Cayce” by Marie Brennan
“We Who Steal Faces” by Tony Pi
“Exodus Tides” by Aliette de Bodard
“Exiles of Eden” by Brad R. Torgersen
“The Long Way Home” by G. Norman Lippert
“The Bus Stop” by David Lubar

Reviewed by Rena Hawkins

This month’s Intergalactic Medicine Show begins with “Love, Cayce” by Marie Brennan. What better way is there to bond with the children of your parents’ old adventuring buddies than to go off seeking adventures of your own? The exploits of this next-generation group of quasi-heroes is revealed through letters sent to her parents by Cayce, the story’s main character.

The story is intended to be humorous fantasy and succeeds in several sections. However, I’m generally not a fan of stories told in letter/journal form because they almost always grow tedious to me or have an oddly distant feel to them. I experienced both in “Love, Cayce.” The humor wore thin for me about halfway through and I found myself wishing the author had chosen any of her many wonderful ideas and written just one fleshed-out story.

Next is “We Who Steal Faces” by Tony Pi. The author has created an engaging spy thriller melding science fiction, fantasy, and historical drama. Flea, almost immortal and possessed of the power to assume any face he wishes, is a member of the Elect and a spy for Queen Elizabeth. When Flea’s spy network contacts start to sicken and die all around him, he suspects poison and must find the elusive universal antidote of Mithridates. Flea soon realizes the holder of the antidote and the enemy he battles are both more powerful than he ever suspected.

“Exodus Tides” by Aliette de Bodard is the tale of Emilie, who longs for the sea even though she was born after the merpeople were driven into exile onto dry land. With her odd physical appearance, Emilie can’t hide her ancestry and feels forever like the proverbial fish out of water. Adding to her distress is her inability to get any answers from either her human father or her merwoman mother about life in the sea. Emilie’s only friend is Jamila, a Moroccan girl dealing with her own difficulties in adjusting to a foreign culture.

I liked the subtle ecological message hovering under the story’s main tale of isolation, loss, and the desire to belong, The author offers a fantasy extrapolation of what might happen after one too many supertanker accidents and exploding oil rigs.  

In “Exiles of Eden” by Brad R. Torgersen, we are introduced to the Swarmers, bad aliens who destroy any sentient life they locate outside their own species. Why do they do this? We don’t really get an answer, they’re just bad. Humanity has seemingly been obliterated except for a few dozen post-humans who have downloaded their personalities into manufactured bodies and travel the galaxy searching for any remaining signs of human life.

The post-humans are stunned to find a planet named Eden to be inhabited by real, live humans. They conclude that Eden has been spared the wrath of the Swarm because the humans there have achieved only a primitive level of existence.

I won’t give away the twist of the story, but the ending puzzled me greatly, since it seemed to be in direct conflict with the reason the inhabitants of Eden managed to survive in the first place. Obviously, the Prime Directive doesn’t apply in the author’s universe.

“The Long Way Home” by G. Norman Lippert admittedly took me by surprise. This story of a man who survives the awful memories of his childhood by refusing to remember them started out very slowly. Somewhere around a quarter of the way in, the story finds its footing and I became engrossed in understanding exactly what happened when Henry was a boy that turned him into the emotionally closed-off man he became. I thought I had this time travel tale figured out, but the author happily surprised me.

“The Bus Stop” by David Lugar is a very short story that appears under its own designation as a “Tale for the Young and Unafraid.” I think you’d have to be very young for this bus-takes-you-to-unfamiliar-place tale to scare you.

All in all, a strong issue of IGMS, one I think readers will enjoy.