Oceans of the Mind, Issue XXI, Fall 2006

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“Body Politic” by Philip J. Lees
“The Mix-in” by Resa Nelson
“The Thirteenth City” by Terry Dartnall
“The Athame of Odin” by Cherith Baldry
“Eddie’s Record” by Doc Finch
“Gross Bodies and Light Convertible” by Mark A. Rayner

In “Body Politic” by Philip J. Lees, an anonymous narrator wakes up in another body with a new identity after a mission for the mysterious Company.  Marylise is happy to experiment with her new identity after her memory has been erased.  However, someone seems to know more about her than he’s supposed to.

Lees indulges in the fun of imagining what it would be like to have a new body.  Then things become complicated, and the fun turns into a problematic matter of identity. Unfortunately, just when things get interesting, the story abruptly ends.

In Resa Nelson’s “The Mix-in,” mix-ins are a race humans-alien hybrids. Genevra is the owner and manager of the Saxons, a team of humans and mix-ins, and Harley MixKnight is a mix-in player with a human champion for a father and an alien for a mother.  Like other mix-ins, Harley has learned to put the team and the humans before himself, but cohabitation is hard all the same, and the suspicious attitude of humans towards mix-ins is hard to end.

“The Mix-in” incorporates many tried-and-true science fiction themes such as fear of other as embodied by aliens and the problems of a society that hasn’t learned to accept new members.  These are blended with an unusual setting and issues.  While the result is original, the story tinges toward shallow as a result of  these overdone conceits and is overly pedagogic at the end.

In Terry Dartnall’s “The Thirteenth City,” strange fires burn in Brisbane.  Jack Black, Head of Particle Physics at the University of Queensland, seems to know a lot more about it than he should.  Jack needs to find his old colleagues, but when he does, bizarre things start to happen.

“The Thirteenth City” captures the reader at the start and proceeds to strengthen its hold until its wonderful end.  The arcane elements stay arcane, without the reader ever getting a sense of laboring over a tiresome jigsaw puzzle which frequently  characterizes stories of this type.  Here, the pieces fall into place with ease and grace.  The engaging plot, which alternates from tense suspense to grim surprises, is fittingly complemented by a wonderfully dark atmosphere bordering on the apocalyptic.

In “The Athame of Odin” by Cherith Baldry, Hugo is a detective called to Lancaster from London to investigate a series of robberies all committed by a thief going by the romantic name of White Rose.  Hugo’s attention is suddenly divided when a man is horribly and ritually murdered.  White Rose is suspected, but he is something of a modern-day Robin Hood, and Hugo is reluctant to believe that the thief could have committed murder.

The little clues that tell of a futuristic setting are somewhat superfluous here; a classic mystery, “The Athame of Odin” could be set in any time period.  I must confess to being partial to stories with ritual murders and an atmosphere of mystery, so I was thrilled by the beginning of “The Athame of Odin.”  My delight was diminished by how predictable the end turned out to be.

In “Eddie’s Record” by Doc Finch, Exit Eddie is a great burglar who has a little problem with one part of his job: the getaway.   Once again, he has been caught red-handed, but this time he can’t make bail.  Eddie is trying to come up with a plan when a stranger, Professor Darryl Zandak,  offers to spring him.  The professor is a physicist, and he has an interesting proposal.

Finch successfully blends science fiction concepts with a realistic setting, but Eddie’s lively personality, with its charming and eccentric ambitions, is what drives “Eddie’s Record.”  A light and pleasant story.

In “Gross Bodies and Light Convertible” by Mark A. Rayner, Edgar and his tutor, Duncan, try to catch the mysterious Doctor Klaas Vandermeer in nineteenth-century London.  Vandermeer is a dangerous Dutch spy with paranormal powers promoting the revolution in Europe through terrorist attacks.  Vandermeer seems impossible to catch, but Edgar has supernatural powers.

Rayner succeeds in evoking a foggy, nineteenth-century London in the grip of an epidemic of illnesses and terror.  Breathtaking pursuits, tense encounters, and narrow escapes are skillfully narrated,  resulting is a Sherlock Holmesish atmosphere that grips the reader and holds on tight until the end.  “Gross Bodies and Light Convertible” is lively and enjoyable.