Analog — March 2011

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Analog, March 2011

“Rule Book” by Paul Carlson
“Falls the Firebrand” by Sarah Frost
“Hiding from Nobel” by Brad Aiken
“Julie is Three” by Craig Delancey
“Astronomic Distance, Geologic Time” by Bud Sparhawk
“Taboo” by Jerry Oltion
“Betty Knox and Dictionary Jones in the Mystery of the
Missing Teenage Anachronisms” by John G. Hemry

Reviewed by Bob Blough

Analog for March has a number of stories that will be enjoyed by longtime Analog fans, plus one or two for those of us who do not read it as religiously.

The first story is not bad by any means but pretty much what I have come to expect in Analog. Paul Carlson takes us to the near future in “Rule Book.” It concerns a trucker by the name of Claude Dremmel. Claude is asked to take home a robot in order to see how it interacts with humans. It is a new model that has a lot more creativity when it comes to making choices than past models. Claude is not very interesting as a character and the story, which involves a possible hypocritical politician, is not very memorable. This one just did not work for me

“Falls the Firebrand” by Sarah Frost is another story that, except for the female protagonist, could have been published any time in the last 50 years. That makes it a little too derivative for my tastes. The characters are serviceable and the alien culture is interesting enough. It concerns a human probe that lands on a new planet. The planet contains sentient aliens. The linguist/generalist of the probe mission believes that the aliens have something important to tell her. How this belief works itself out with the three humans that are on the probe is the arc of the story. It is solid, if uninspired, work.

“Hiding from Nobel” by Brad Aiken has a little deeper character development. It concerns a man who is travelling to meet friends at a summer camp that they attended together 25 years ago. We know from the start that something tragic happened at the first summer camp, but exactly what is skillfully told through flashbacks. The camp sequences, I felt, were more interesting than the SF explanation. Not because the explanation is uninteresting in and of itself, but the ending seemed rushed and told off-stage as it were.

The next story is very moving and one of my two favorites in this issue. “Julie is Three” (whose name brings to mind both Sturgeon and Ellison stories) turns out to revolve around a faltering marriage instead of a scientific discovery. Craig DeLancey sets up a very good SF underpinning that, while not hard to figure out, still gets the mind thinking and the heart responding.

Julie is a seven year-old girl who has survived a car wreck that killed both of her parents. Her aunt comes to collect her but the hospital psychiatrist has determined that there is something different about the child that possibly came from trauma other than the car wreck itself. He wants to hold her for observation. The hospital director wants her sent to the psychiatric care hospital as soon as possible. The Doctor is torn–should he return her home to be looked after by her aunt, or has she been psychologically traumatized by her parents? If so, he needs to call in social services. Three various options and none of them seem to be for the best of the child. What he discovers and the decision he finally makes dovetail neatly with his past and present difficulties in his marriage. It is understated and therefore all the more powerful. This is a very good story.

The next story is quite short, but I enjoyed it as much as the previous one. “Astronomical Distances, Geologic Time” by Bud Sparhawk is a completely different kind of story. It is exactly what the title indicates; a study between the incalculable time scale of astronomical distances and the fragile but precious human timeline. It speaks of the grandeur of the cosmos and the relative smallness of human life. But the importance of life, no matter how short, is poignantly displayed. I needed to read this. Thank you, Mr. Sparhawk.

Nebula winner Jerry Oltion next gives us “Taboo,” which features Edward and McKenna in the near future. Longevity of life has been discovered but memories are lost after too long a time of living. This is a world of no privacy in which interesting situations are watched by anyone through a descendent of the internet. Why this couple is pursued by the “media” of it’s time is the whole point of the story. I found it to be neither particularly interesting nor surprising.

The final story with the ungainly title of “Betty Knox and Dictionary Jones in the Mystery of the Missing Teenage Anachronisms” is fun. The author, John G. Hemry, has concocted an enjoyable tale of time travellers stuck in their own teenage bodies trying to save the world from their future (which, of course, is the time travellers’ past).

The future will be been ruined by the raping of the natural world that continues to grow. Betty and Dictionary Jones have sent their minds back in time to try to change what we have done ecologically. There is a conspiracy involved as well as teenage hormones. It moves slickly along to a happy ending. This is another uncomplicated story, but it is enjoyable enough.

This Analog is a good example of what this magazine publishes. Try it, as it might be just for you.