“Witherspin” by Alexis Glynn Latner
“The Keeper’s Maze” by Joe Schembrie
“Environmental Friendship Fossle” by Ian Stewart
“String of Pearls” by Shane Tourtellote
“Total Loss” by James Hosek
“The Software Soul” by Brian Plante
“Willies” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
“The Teller of Time” by Carl Frederick
In “Kremer’s Limit” by C. Sanford Lowe and G. David Nordley, the year is 2257, and scientific advancements have achieved artificial intelligence and an immortal humanity connected through implants that create a biological “internet.” A team of physicists are about to embark on the next great advancement called the Black Hole Project. But the Consolidationists, led by Senator Lars Reid, will stop at nothing to stop the experiment. Hilda, Sarah, and the rest of the team must struggle against political opposition, sabotage, and even terrorist acts in order to keep the project going. Will they succeed? At what price? The story is a little heavy with techno-jargon, but not to the point of ruining it. The characters are well-rounded, even the antagonists. Overall it was an entertaining tale that gives a glimpse of the impact rapid technological expansion could have on human society. While “Kremer’s Limit” is a complete tale in itself, I did detect an opening for a sequel.
“Witherspin” by Alexis Glynn Latner is a tale of intrigue and adventure. Nia, an Azurean lawyer, and Martan, an ex-Hellhound from Faxe, are enjoying a day off in the orbital amusement/ecological park, Wendis, when old enemies from Martan’s past set a bounty on him. The park, known for its controlled “danger” thrill, soon goes “witherspin” or out-of control and they find themselves stalked by a robot tiger, highway robbers, crusaders, and thugs. The story gives a slow start—3 pages in and I still wasn’t sure where it was going—but the action picks up by page 15. I didn’t care much for the two main characters at first, feeling they lacked personality, but they became more interesting as the story progressed. There were parts where I felt the quality of writing could use some improvement (far too many “-ly” adverbs for my taste, and the word “conversationally” made me wince), and the dialogue could have been better. But the story itself is an entertaining one, provided you have the patience to read through the occasional info dump which, thankfully, are only a paragraph or two here and there.
Intrigue and genetic engineering blend with an action-packed story involving a unicorn, intelligent rat armies, and an A.I.-controlled maze in “The Keeper’s Maze” by Joe Schembrie. Hands down the most enjoyable and fun-filled read in this issue. I highly recommend it.
“Environmental Friendship Fossle” by Ian Stewart reads like an SF Mystery. Mike is a member of the enforcement agency SCITES (Second Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). Now that elephant hunting has been put to a relative end, former traders in elephant tusks trade fossilized mammoth tusks instead. Mike runs into an old Mongolian who mentions how he used to hunt mammoths 30 years ago. After the old man’s death, Mike discovers evidence that he had hunted actual mammoths. Is it a hoax? Is the Triad genetically creating mammoths for people to hunt? Or is it something much more far reaching? The story is full of surprises and red herrings, and Stewart handles the twists in a manner that keeps you eager for the next surprise.
“String of Pearls” by Shane Tourtellote is a character-driven tale about the intellectual side of the human spirit. Earth has made contact with an alien civilization called the Kevhtre Union. The Kevhtre have a business advantage over the humans connected to the humans’ inability to fully decipher the grammatical syntax of Vetra, the language of the Kevhtre. Through a game called String of Pearls, an alien version of Scrabble but with an emphasis on grammar, the humans have a chance to learn Vetra with a fluency they never had before. Marcus is sent to the Kevhtre homeworld under the employ of Bunwadde, who is intrigued by Marcus’s desire to play the game. But can Marcus learn the language, or will he succumb to constant humiliation and defeat? This story is a good read for the intellectual-minded and at the same time can appeal to any reader.
In “Total Loss” by James Hosek, Gary Carter ends up in the hospital after an auto accident. Despite being conscious and recovering, his insurance company has declared him a Total Loss; worse, he only has five days left before they recoup their losses by harvesting his body parts. A comedic story that gives a bleak outlook to our current health care system, this one is well worth a read.
In “The Software Soul” by Brian Plante, Father Thomas Carpenter is a computer simulation of the real life priest long since deceased. No physical churches exist anymore, and it’s been years since anything other than programmed Sims attended “church.” Then a small handful of real people show up in the simulation, seeking reconciliation and forgiveness, for in the real world aliens have come to Earth for reasons unknown. Plante reveals a bleak outlook at the spiraling decay of the Christian faith and also shows the fragility of the human race. This story leaves you with thoughts about humanity, spirituality, and their places in the universe.
“Willies” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff is a typical SF tale of theory and discovery—in this case psychology, more specifically the cause of the “willies.” Characterization drives the story along; however, too many characters are introduced for a story this size and may cause moments of confusion. Aside from that, the story is well written.
“The Teller of Time” by Carl Frederick is a story about time travel but also about second chances. The form of time travel, through the use of synchronized sound waves, is one I haven’t read about before. Definitely, a must read.