Analog, May 2006

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

“The Scarlet Band” by Harry Turtledove
“Farmers in the Sky” by Rob Chilson
“Lazy Taekos” by Geoffrey A. Landis
“Slide Show” by Jerry Oltion
This issue of Analog has a diverse mix of stories. From alternate pasts to futuristic fairy tales, near-future visions and “present day” ones; there’s at least one tale in here for every SF reader. 

“A New Order of Things” by Edward M. Lerner is a 4-part serial, and as such I’ve chosen not to review it at this time.
“The Scarlet Band” by Harry Turtledove is a detective story set in an alternate version of the late 19th century. World-famous detective, Athelstan Helms, and his faithful companion, Dr. James Walton, are sent from England to the United States of Atlantis to solve a mystery involving alleged murders committed by the House of Universal Devotion, a rapidly-growing religious cult. They must find out if these murders are done at the instigation of the cult’s leader, a man known only as The Preacher, or just random acts committed by religious zealots. Turtledove delivers a no-holds-barred parallel to today’s religion versus secular conflict, one that shows the ignorance on both sides. While I found many glaring typos (and not just a misspelled word or two) during the reading of this novella, it is a tribute to Turtledove’s ability as a storyteller to make a tale that shines regardless of the blurry eyes of overworked proofreaders and printing snafus.

“Farmers in the Sky” by Rob Chilson shows a future where the vast majority of the mining and farming gets conducted in the asteroid belt. Chilson reveals an interesting method for growing crops on asteroids as well the type of culture and lifestyle necessary to do so. The love triangle between Shanda, Charles, and Ozzy makes it an enjoyable read, and this story will also leave you with sobering thoughts about humanity’s future and Earth’s place in it.

“Lazy Taekos” by Geoffrey A. Landis is like Isaac Asimov meets the Brothers Grimm. Seriously, it’s a SF fairy tale. The hero, Taekos, is brilliant but lazy. He encounters the holographic projection of Phoevus, a pretty young lady who also happens to be an heir to a vast fortune that is controlled by her stepfather until she marries. Unfortunately, her stepfather, not wanting to lose his control of the fortune, has set up a series of impossible prerequisites on which potential suitors must meet before he allows any marriage. The story pretty much runs like the standard fairy tale, with the “magic” being replaced by robotics and nanotechnology, except for the unforeseen plot twist at the end. I didn’t care much for the twist since it sneaks up without any warning, or maybe it’s because I would’ve preferred “and they all lived happily ever after.” But aside from that small nit-pick, the story is a fun read.

In “Slide Show” by Jerry Oltion, Nathan is a photographer with an interest in astronomy. Lamenting the decline of photo slides and their inevitable replacement by digital film, he concocts a scheme to bring slide shows back into popularity. The main plot, while interesting, is straightforward and predictable; however, the subplot involving Homeland Security and “Patriot Act” issues takes this story and makes it something more than mere escapist fiction. Oltion delivers a timely political commentary of interest to any reader, regardless of where they stand on the issue.