Amazing Journeys, Volume 2, Issue 10

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Image“Cribs” by Stephen Couch
“Noncompliance” by Dan Manning
“The Lucky Son” by Laura Hawbaker
“Trieste” by Brian C. Petroziello
“The Burning Sadness of Crash-Landed Sleepers” by Alexander Zelenyj
“Discovery on Rios” by Cheryl McCreary
“Electric Man” by Benjamin Boulden
“The Altar of Tigat-piesser” by Steve Cartwright
This issue of Amazing Journeys contains a handful of captivating adventures that are a joy to read. There is also some poetry from Wesley Lambert that is a treat between tales.

“Cribs” by Stephen Couch is the Editor’s Choice Award Winner and darn worthy of the claim. Hamilton attends a local computer software convention hoping to purchase a Crib to save the A.I. program of his dead wife. The braincase she originally resided in was infected with a virus and no longer operates. At the convention, Hamilton meets Chevy, a sales rep from Breedwell Industries, who offers to check out Hamilton’s broken wife. The man seems pleasant, eager, and open, but he has an ulterior motive.

Couch weaves a tale full of mystery, intrigue, and genre jargon. I felt like I could sell Cribs as well as Chevy from what I learned. Couch does not slack on character development either, though little more than a morsel of Hamilton and his wife’s relationship when she was alive is revealed. By the end of the story, I didn’t know who to root for: Hamilton or the Cribs. A great experience to kick off the issue.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about Dan Manning’s “Noncompliance,” a cat-and-mouse chase tale.  Greg Boyer is being pursued by Federal Sam for subscribing to an illegal magazine that allegedly spreads lies and rumors about the government and thereby breaking compliance. He makes a run for safety, but with intelligence thriving on every street, survival becomes a challenge.

My main problem with “Noncompliance” is Greg’s thought processes throughout the story, starting with his initial decision to run. He claims to know so much about the government: how they operate, how fast they capture criminals, the billion ways they can track civilians, etc.  However, the story presents Greg as an average Joe, a man bullied by Federal Sam. So why does he believe he can outsmart them? 

I’ll admit the story is fun to read.  Greg’s narrow escapes are exciting and take place in a vividly-developed, new-age world.  But in the end, it is someone else who does the saving.  We’re left with Greg, a man who decided to run so the story could be told.

In Laura Hawbaker’s “The Lucky Son,” Kye is the luckiest member of his family.  He has been placed in the Tower program—class-setting sessions that seek out the strongest and prettiest best-of-the-best to keep society populated with similar offspring. Kye watches as others are dropped because their physical appearances don’t please the Tower representatives as much as his. He is allotted three visits to his family, but he must use them wisely.

The three visits are what hooked me on “The Lucky Son.” Hawbaker takes the reader home with Kye each time, lingering in the background like shadows, and watching the sadness of their lives clash with the spoils of Kye’s new life. Hawbaker does not shrink from showing people at their worst. Hunger is a strong theme in this story, and at times a dangerous one. This was a poignant tale of a future that could come about if society continues to favor physical attributes over mental.

Brian C. Petroziello’s “Trieste” turned out not to be what I thought it would. Taking place on the icy planet of the story’s title, a crew doing survey missions for the Interstellar Mining Company encounters a hidden species. Dennis Raker takes part in saving one child of this species from the bitter cold. But will this discovery ruin their entire mission?

What I thought was going to be an action-filled tale on a snow-covered planet turned out to be something rather quieter. I have no problem with character-driven stories, and while Petroziello’s characters are very likable, I found them to be too likable. There’s no spark between the crew, nor any conflict.  All of them unanimously agree to save an unknown creature at the bottom of an icy crevice.  I’d expect that in reality, the result would be quite different. In a magazine like Amazing Journeys this tale of holiday hope and cuddly critters stands tall, proud, and out of place.

Two teenage girls, Christine and Sharon, love the thrill and excitement of sneaking out in the dark hours of early morning in Alexander Zelenyj’s “The Burning Sadness of Crash-Landed Sleepers.” During one night’s excursion, they notice the hills and fields are smoking, and as it transpires, the hills aren’t just hills.

A captivating journey into the mysteries of the night, Zelenyj crafts his words compellingly and with passion. He describes the scenery with ease, allowing the reader to follow Christine and Sharon on their A.M. caper. The language is beautiful, and the story is a must-read.

Cheryl McCreary’s “Discovery on Rios” involves a survey team on the planet Rios. Gracilyn and Luis trail after a herd of alien life that they hope will lead them to answers about the sustainability of Rios for other lifeforms.

Though a bit short in length and plot, “Discovery on Rios” was an easy read with appealing characters who want to uncover the aliens’ secrets because they’re scientists, not because the story demanded it. My favorite aspect was that McCreary depicts the aliens as both intelligent and animalistic, showing societal structure in a herding pattern. The interesting mix made for compelling creatures and storytelling.

Benjamin Boulden’s “Electric Man” dabbles in the I, Robot world created by Isaac Asimov. Robots are integrated into society and programmed to act human. Hicks, from the ARU (Android Recovery Unit), interrogates a Frank Tomlinson, also known as Fortex Model 77-b/06745, hoping to get a confession so he can terminate the model. Fortex Model 77-b/06745 is too perfect, and the city’s people are outraged and scared at how human he is. But Tomlinson believes he’s a man, knows it deep in his heart.
I was turned off by the cliché opening. The robot interrogation has been done.  But as I kept reading, I soon became immersed in a deep and complicated world. Boulden doesn’t do the usual; he goes one step more and takes it to a new level, which is what makes this story work. Without this, “Electric Man” would be the same old, same old robot/human conflict tale. 

I’ve never particularly liked stories told in a series of letters or postcards or e-mails. Christopher Barzak’s “Dead Letters” in the February 2006 issue of Realms of Fantasy was a struggle to get through and even more of a struggle to like. The problem I had with that story also appears in Steve Cartwright’s “The Altar of Tigat-piesser.” Told as one long letter, an archaeologist, named Randy, retells the adventure he went through at the temple site of the Tigat-piesser, a civilization of mysterious people. Since the story is told in letter format, I thought the writing shouldn’t have been so detailed and verbose. The ideas in “The Altar of Tigat-piesser” were interesting and deep enough to tell a straightforward story, but the storytelling technique ruined it for me.