REVIEW SUMMARY: First-rate collection of short fiction.
PROS: Five superb stories
CONS: One mediocre story
BOTTOM LINE: Better than many anthologies!
- To Cuddle Amy by Nancy Kress [short story] (Rating:) [Read: 03/02/04]
- Synopsis: Two disappointed parents contemplate the misbehavior of their fourteen year old daughter.
- Review: Another well-written story by Kress. Although really short, she adeptly conveys plot and emotions, right up to the surprising, “oh, this really is science fiction” conclusion.
- When It Ends by Robert Reed [short story] (Rating:) [Read: 03/11/04]
- Synopsis: A serene planet learns of impending destruction in the form of a massive runaway ship that threatens to hit the planet.
- Review: Good suspense. Interesting account of what might cross one’s mind in the face of imminent death. Cool ending.
- The Ladykiller, as Observed from a Safe Distance by Brian Stableford [short story] (Rating:) [Read 03/13/04]
- Synopsis: A clone confesses to a murder but claims innocence.
- Review: Excellent dialog-driven detective story. Most of the story takes place in the form of an interrogation. Very nicely done.
- The Wurst King vs Aluminum Foil Boy by R. Neube [short story] (Rating:) [Read 03/13/04]
- Synopsis: A stranded meat man gets hired to play bodyguard to a questionably-sane chess champion in order to pay off a huge phone bill.
- Review: Played for laughs and mostly missing the mark, this story just didn’t do anything for me.
- One-Eyed Jacks and Suicide Kings by R. Garcia y Robertson [novella] (Rating:) [Read 03/31/04]
- Synopsis: Set in medieval 1346 France amidst the 100 Years War, a French soldier, Reynard, saves a witch, Amber, from persecution. Amber turns out to be a time traveler from the future who is sent back via a faster-than-light ship to study the Bubonic plague which is set to devastate the world. She uses “magic” to predict events, heal with common medicine by her century’s standards, light a darkened path (flashlight) and perk up tired soldiers (uppers). Defying all rules, Amber falls in love with the soldier and tells him her true identity and purpose.
- Review: Excellent story. Time travel is one of my favorite sf themes and here Robertson expertly uses a historical backdrop to weave his tale. He mixes the fictional character of Reynard with true historical figures (like blind King John of Bohemia) and events (The Hundred Years War) to interesting effect. I’m not a history fan by any means since I like futuristic settings, but this story managed to keep me very interested. The love story aspect, fortunately, is not overdone and the author wisely shows Reynard’s compassion so the reader buys into it at least to some degree.
- Radiant Green Star by Lucius Shepard [novella] (Rating) [Read 03/30/04]
- Synopsis: A circus performer, Phillip, must come to terms with his past and his identity while he decides whether he wishes to kill his mother’s murderer (who just happens to be Phillip’s father).
- Review: Another excellent story. Shepard creates some vivid scenes. Some cool technology too, what with memory implants, uploading consciousness and the like. Interesting subplots include Phillip’s family history and abandonment as a child; the relationship between Phillip and his mentor (the circus owner); Phillip’s romance with his mentor’s niece.
- Awards: Winner of the 2001 Locus award for best novella. Nominee for 2001 Hugo and Nebula awards.
- Available online: Story and artwork
Following are the individual reviewlettes for each story in this issue.