Analog, March 2005

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"Acts of Conscience" by Shane Tourtellotte
"Alphabet Angels" by Ekaterina Sedia & David Bartell
"Dark Peril" by James Glass
"Copernican Principle" by Robert Scherrer
"General Tso's Chicken" by Carl Frederick
"The Stonehenge Gate (Part II)" by Jack Williamson

ImageThe March 2005 issue of Analog includes the second part of Jack Williamson's serial, "The Stonehenge Gate."  There is also a "Probability Zero" short-short by Robert Scherrer, which I found worth a chuckle.

Shane Tourtellotte's "Acts of Conscience" examines the ethical implications raised by the ability to selectively modify personalities.  Lucinda Peale is a researcher whose team is working on such technology, primarily for use with mental illness or pathology.  She is approached by an actress who hopes to make use of the technology to change her political views to ones that would be a better fit in Hollywood, and Lucinda finds herself embroiled in various messy ethical and political dilemmas.

My difficulty with the story stemmed from a lack of clarity as to what exactly these dilemmas were.  I never found the issues, or who was on which side of which issue, to be very clear, nor did I find the characters particularly compelling or pleasant, so I had little incentive to try to figure out what was going on.  There are a lot of interesting questions raised by the story, but it didn't explore them very successfully.

"Alphabet Angels," by Ekaterina Sedia and David Bartell, is an amusing tale of pet shops and emergent behavior.  Jessica, a researcher in a genetic laboratory, meets Gus, a pet shop owner.  A few months after they start dating, she discovers that he is in fact Gus Lanley, a brilliant scientist who dropped out of academics to run his pet store.  In his spare time, he's been breeding angelfish, tweaking their pigments to spell letters.  One day, Gus and Jessica are startled to discover that their angels are starting to spell words on their own.  There's not much else to the story beyond Jessica's attempts to figure out what's going on while still keeping her romance with Gus afloat, but it's well told and entertaining.

James Glass' "Dark Peril" is a rather turgid tale of interstellar danger.  The worldship Cassandra I, on its long voyage to Eridani Blue, launches two shuttles to investigate a gravitational anomaly.  The crews on the shuttles quickly find themselves in unexpected danger, and the rest of the story is devoted to their attempts to get back alive to Cassandra I.  Much of "Dark Peril" is taken up with long lectures on exactly what the nature of the anomaly might be, and how best to escape it, and I found the story lacking in tension and the characters rather flat.

I did not greatly enjoy Carl Frederick's "General Tso's Chicken," which tries for wacky humor.  QWest and Eastern Star are space stations, and Commander Hendrix on QWest has to deal with a trio of middle-school geniuses who have gotten into a scrape during a visit to the Chinese Eastern Star, run by the eponymous General Tso.  Some wackiness ensues, but neither the plot nor the characters clicked with me.  It read a bit like a shaggy dog tale whose ending never wagged.