Amazing Stories, #607, January 2005

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"Nowhere in Particular" by Mike Resnick
"The Wisdom of Disaster" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
"Brainspace" by Robin D. Laws
"Jimmy and Cat" by Gail Sproule
"Wishful Thinking" by Greg Keyes

ImageWhile the editor’s name on the masthead lists the outgoing editor as David Gross and the incoming editor as Jeff Berkwits, it is probably safe to assume that Gross selected the stories in this issue (for saying which, I’m sure, Berkwits will contact me and tell me I’m wrong).

"Nowhere in Particular" is another story in Mike Resnick’s "Miracle Brigade " sequence.  This cycle deals with a troubleshooting group which solves problems that the more hide-bound bureaucracy of Resnick’s galaxy-spanning Republic can’t.  This tale is one of a long line of Resnick works which deals with the blindness of colonialism as the Republic faces the overwhelming threat of a mysterious alien place, Maruga.  While it is reasonably clear from the beginning how the Miracle Brigade will solve the problem, the charm of the story comes from Resnick’s ability to tell fables, rather than from the suspense he might build in the telling.

"The Wisdom of Disaster" is an effective story of relationships by Nina Kiriki Hoffman.  Focusing on an older couple, their recently discovered granddaughter, and two strangers who happen into their house, Hoffman portrays a compassionate, caring family.  The couple, Irene and Naples March, are able, and even willing, to put aside their own problems to help the strangers, Jeff Silverman and Lilia, although eventually blood proves to be more important, in more ways than just the obvious. Hoffman doesn’t explain many of the mysteries raised in her story, but they are not important to the understanding of the work.

Advertisers are constantly trying to make inroads into consumers’ subconsciouses and  Robin D. Laws examines the ultimate ad campaign in "Brainspace."  For all the horror of his set-up, the situation remains reasonably benign even as his narrator realizes what is happening.  It is only as the story ends that Laws paints the true horror of the situation.  Written as a journal, the story has a nice progression, although, strangely, given that each section is dated, there is little sense of time passing as the story unfolds.

There are myriad dystopian science fiction stories in which the protagonist lives in a caste system which relegates him to living in squalor.   Gail Sproule provides a unique vision of this world in "Jimmy and Cat" by having Jimmy, the story’s narrator, content with living that life without any desire to "better" himself.  His companion, Cat, however, had a better life before being relegated to Jimmy section for the crimes of her foster mother, and wants to improve both her own and Jimmy’s lot in life.  It isn’t until his concern for Cat’s welfare becomes overriding and he has something to lose that Jimmy considers ways out.  The story is interesting and well written and one of its strongest points is that it makes the reader want Sproule to write the exact same story from Cat’s point of view.

One feature of the revived Amazing is called "One Thousand Words" in which an author is commissioned to write a story, exactly one thousand words in length, about a painting.  This issue’s painting is by Blake Flynn and the author challenged to write about it is Greg Keyes.  In a story called "Wishful Thinking," Keyes postulates a future in which humanity has gained greater control over the environment and as Byron explains in the story, humanity has taken on the guiding role of Gaia. Much of the story is the exposition about the Gaia hypothesis and discarding both it and the concept of the Earth Mother.  While Keyes provides an ending that could have been horrific, too much of the lead-up is given to scientific discussion rather than building the tension of the tale.