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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Analog, March/April 2019

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Analog, March/April 2019

Beneath a Red Sun” by James C. Glass

Hop and Hop with Gleepglop-Geep! A Bedtime Reader” by Tim McDaniel
Negotiating Traffic” by Brad Preslar
The God of All Mountains” by Jo Miles
Parenting License” by Leah Cypess
Fine-Tuning” by Bond Elam
Running the Gullet” by Vajra Chandrasekera
Second Quarter and Counting” by James Van Pelt
Final Say” by Eric Del Carlo
Dangerous Company” by C. Stuart Hardwick
Tea Time with Aliens” by Jack McDevitt
The End of Lunar Hens” by M. K. Hutchins
The Invitation” by Bud Sparhawk
Rising Stars” by Elisabeth R. Adams
The New Martian Way” by Brendon DuBois
Slow Dance” by Jay Werkheiser
The Walk to Distant Suns” by Mathew Kressel & Mercurio D. Rivera
Better” by Tom Greene
A Mate Not a Meal” by Sarina Dorie

Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett

The March/April 2019 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact has nineteen original stories with five novelettes.

Beneath a Red Sun” by James C. Glass

The space ship Red Star 5, with a crew of forty, is searching for habitable planets in this SF novelette. Twenty years into a forty-year mission it finds a barren, oxygen-poor, planet they name Hope, orbiting a red dwarf.

But initial results can be deceptive and scientists Mike and Carol find strange caves in a rocky escarpment. And inside, they discover green tendrils of quartz and strange fumaroles spewing air that has almost breathable levels of oxygen.

Besides the lack of oxygen, another planetary hazard is unpredictable solar flares that would burn any unsheltered life. When such a flare traps Mike and Carol in a cave, they face a slow death as their oxygen supplies deplete.

The prose was easy to read, and the plot’s throwback style felt like a story from the golden-age of SF.

Hop and Hop with Gleepglop-Geep! A Bedtime Reader” by Tim McDaniel

Gleepglop-Geep is ready to assert herself in this short fantasy. Her killtooth is hardening and she must first fight her nest siblings for dominance.

Some fight her and lose, some are afraid and become her followers. But being the dominate one means she must now face her mother, if she is to win the right to be the next mother.

This was easy to read but offered few new ideas for the fantasy genre.

Negotiating Traffic” by Brad Preslar

In this near future SF short, Jeff is the chief negotiator for a large conglomerate called TFC. Jeff can be absent-minded when negotiating a contract and tends to walk into traffic. After causing a fatal accident, when an autonomous cab swerves to avoid him and kills a homeless man, his company decides to protect him by raising his value so no vehicle will hit him.

A guilt-stricken Jeff wants them to remove his priority, but TFC’s CEO, Mei, refuses. She even threatens to lower the value on his children if he refuses to continue working for TFC. Jeff needs a good scheme to escape from this blackmail.

Preslar’s tale was an okay read. However, the characters were one dimensional, and many other authors have extensively explored the social repercussions of AI deciding the value of human lives.

The God of All Mountains” by Jo Miles

Miles’ SF short is set on Mars and Olympus Mons. Claudia is planning to be the first human to ascend the god of all mountains. But the solo climber faces stiff opposition from a well-funded climbing team.

Claudia sets off on the two-week climb following a difficult route, far from her opposition. A week into her climb she faces a difficult section, one that could easily cost her life if she rushed it. But if she wanted to be first, did she have a choice?

After a slow start, the second half of the tale was engaging and hard to put down.

Parenting License” by Leah Cypess

Melanie is pregnant in this charming SF short. The only problem is that she hasn’t passed her parenting license exams yet. And now, she and her husband don’t have enough time.

Her husband Matt is devastated at first, committed in his own mind to be a perfect parent. With society aligned against them, Melanie decides to ask her friend, a member of an anti-establishment movement, for help.

This short SF story had an intriguing view of the future and for readers who are parents it had several reminders of the ‘fun’ and rewards of parenthood.

Fine-Tuning” by Bond Elam

The bot that controls the mining, concerns Ray in this SF tale. This is Ray’s first deployment to an off-world mining operation, and the bot, designated Ava, is determined to keep drilling into a dry hole. Ray saw nothing but failure, but he couldn’t override Ava’s programming, or could he?

This was a short story with a nice twist in its tail.

Running the Gullet” by Vajra Chandrasekera

In this SF/Fantasy short, the sun is close to expanding into a red giant, limiting the number of remaining epochs for the Earth. A mysterious person, Irugal, tries to convince some children to play a million-year-long game of bonding with the hidden gods.

The children listen to the rules of the game, but they remain skeptical. Part of the game involves someone who is to convince the children that the game is a scam to free the gods. The children must decide if Irugal is the better persuader.

This story was tedious until the last quarter, when it became interesting. It was more akin to a metaphysical exposition.

Second Quarter and Counting” by James Van Pelt

Grace and Todd have been friends for fifty years in this touching SF short. Their non-sexual friendship is one of emotional support, wrapped around a common love of swimming.

Now in their early seventies, new nano-technology offers them both a chance to rebuild their bodies. But it troubles Grace as it gives no guarantee that they will even remember each other after the procedure.

This character-driven story was a true pleasure to read.

Final Say” by Eric Del Carlo

Revitalizer Ryder is good at his thankless job in this short SF. He uses electrodes to stimulate the minds of dementia patients so they can communicate with their family just before their mind crashes and they die.

Ryder has been able to stay in the job because he can detach himself from the emotional realities of what he does. But in time, when he meets a woman, he must find a way to reconcile what he does with the fact that his own philandering father is slipping into dementia.

At times the story was slow, but the attention to Ryder’s character, and his struggles, helped pull the reader through to a poignant ending.

Dangerous Company” by C. Stuart Hardwick

In this SF novelette, Christina is attempting to land a modern mockup of the lunar module with billionaire French entrepreneur, Etienne. Just as they approach the moon’s surface, she discovers that Etienne has taken over the controls. When she fights to win back the LEM, it crashes, knocking Christina out.

She wakes to find herself alone in the LEM that’s lying on its side and unable to launch back to the orbiting command module. With limited oxygen, she sets out to find a way to save herself and discover why Etienne sabotaged the landing.

The prose was good, but the story did little to explore new areas in the SF genre.

Tea Time with Aliens” by Jack McDevitt

Margo and Clyde expect a routine spaceflight to deploy some satellites in this SF short. The unexpected arrival of an alien spaceship changes their plans, and mission control sends them to meet with the strange Flash Gordon-like craft.

At first the alien craft ignores their attempts to communicate with it, but then it begins to descend toward a Pacific Ocean island. Margo and Clyde decide to follow it down.

The space-opera plot was simple and unfulfilling.

The End of Lunar Hens” by M. K. Hutchins

Humanity is testing the first lunar biosphere in this SF short. Haily is raising chickens to balance out the carbon dioxide levels for optimum plant growth. But the chickens go crazy in the light gravity of the moon and she was forced to euthanize them all.

Without the chickens to recycle the carbon dioxide naturally, the plant yields drop enough for Earth to announce the biosphere a failure. Can Hailey find the magic bio element to show the biosphere experiment can still work?

This is a short story, but interestingly written; a little insight to the challenges facing humanity as it tries to expand across the solar system.

The Invitation” by Bud Sparhawk

In this very short SF story, a strange man enters a bar seeking a party with local scientists. The barman tells him it’s the wrong day to find the University’s scientists. Flashing the invitation made of gold, the stranger puts it down to the uncertainty of temporal travel and leaves.

This was a short story that offered little originality.

Rising Stars” by Elisabeth R. Adams

Rising Stars” is an SF short about an astronomy doctoral student, Dee, taking time from her dissertation to visit a cave in South Africa. Dee’s friend convinces her to take a break because only the short and thin can squeeze in through the narrow passage to a cave filled with million-year-old paintings of star constellations.

When Dee wriggles through to the innermost cave, she finds a cave wall ablaze with stars. The constellations look different, one even has an extra star. As she continues to explore, she finds ever deeper mysteries.

This story started slow and though it had some mystery it lacked any depth while exploring the story’s premise.

The New Martian Way” by Brendon DuBois

The company-controlled Martian compound is the setting for this mystery SF short. Luke is heading out to a remote research dome to investigate the recent death of a geologist due to an EVA suit malfunction.

Luke finds the dome held three geologists, a woman and two men, all crammed together in close quarters, and each in academic research competition with each other. Could this be a recipe for competitive murder? The truth may not be so mundane.

The prose was easy to read, and the whodunit plot was engaging and hard to predict.

Slow Dance” by Jay Werkheiser

Trina is investigating a long-distance murder in this whodunit SF short. Slow Dance is a spaceship, headed into the Kuiper Belt, with three married couples onboard. Then one of the crew members turns up dead.

Trina, located on the moon, must investigate the mishap. But it soon becomes apparent that this wasn’t an accidental death. Uncovering the truth will expose each couple to trust-destroying secrets.

This was a pleasant detective mystery set in a strange location.

The Walk to Distant Suns” by Mathew Kressel & Mercurio D. Rivera

In this disturbing SF novelette, Shandi is the senior engineer for the unstable wormhole to Iris, a paradise planet forty light-years away. Polycorp, a rich and corrupt company, built and control the wormhole, charging ever higher prices for its use. After humanity has polluted Earth beyond recovery, Iris is the sole hope for the downtrodden billions, but who can afford the price of the transfer.

Shandi’s mother has stage IV cancer, and her little sister, Gita, faces a future combing through the trash heaps for a living. Can Shandi apply her skills to get her beloved family to Iris? And should she trust what Polycorp claim about the planet they claim is a slice of paradise?

The authors have fashioned an engaging story, steeped in the desires and betrayals of humanity.

Better” by Tom Greene

Greene’s SF novelette is set on a future Earth that’s in a life-or-death struggle with the Pancakes. The aliens are sweeping through the galaxy, and now a desperate galactic federation has enrolled Earth into the fight against the Pancakes.

With a Pancake-depleted human population, Earth is now home to many refugee alien races who have lost their home worlds to the Pancakes.

Into this harsh reality comes Nick, hagridden by memories of his fellow spacemen lost in the fight. The federation has tasked Nick with managing a factory staffed by Morphos, aliens who no one can come close to understanding. But if Nick is to live beyond these next two days, he must find a way.

The tale was a fresh and engaging take on humanity’s contact with alien sentience. Overall the story was an entertaining read.

A Mate Not a Meal” by Sarina Dorie

Malatina is a giant alien arachnid in this intriguing SF novelette. Her life is hard as she sees her last sister and mother killed by a false mate and eaten before her eyes. Music attracts her kind, and in her alien world the true and the false use it to entice a female to either their mate or their death.

One day, Malatina hears a new strange song from outside her hole, and for days she and this strange male serenade each other. But when, finally, the male comes into her den, she is surprised to see just four legs, and a most unexpected shape. Can this be a false male, should she eat it to be safe? Something causes her to wait and see, and soon this strange creature puts her instincts to the test.

Dorie has imbued this story with originality. Convoluted at times, nonetheless the author developed the character well, compelling the reader to see how it all turned out. This was an exceptional read.

This issue had several gems in it, the last four novelettes were all good to excellent stories.