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Eight Stories for April 2000

These reviews by Locus Online editor Mark R. Kelly are adapted from his column in Locus Magazine.

David Ira Cleary, ''In the Squeeze''
(Science Fiction Age May 2000)
The magazine's final issue offers the usual variety of stories. The longest is this novelette set aboard a spaceship that lugubriously sails across the Colorado plateau into Utah. A cataclysm in this future has warped space-time, bringing about the ''squeeze'', an phenomenon that enables ships like this to run but that has deleterious effects on people. The ship's medic/navigator Kurtz gets embroiled with pirates trying to steal ''space'', a drug that counteracts the effects of squeeze, from the rich Company and give it to the masses. The plot is familiar, and the nature of squeeze and space a little vague, but the images evoked of ships and desert are striking.

Eric Brown, ''The Crimes of Domini Duvall''
(Science Fiction Age May 2000)
In a familiar ''Vermilion Sands''-style artists' colony (though set on another planet), sculptor and widower Luke Chandler becomes involved with a newly arrived woman named Domini Duvall. He hears reports implicating her in the death of her husband -- but she seems sincere in denying any knowledge of it. The surprise explanation involves a clone, a clever variation on a standard SF idea that here provides an especially ironic, and tragic, resolution to Luke's romance.

Paul Di Filippo, ''The Reluctant Book''
(Science Fiction Age May 2000)
When a Master Biobiblioplexist dies, his estate and book collection are turned over by his heirs to the fiendish Kratcho Stallkamp, who plans to overwrite the books, wiping out their brains. In this conception books are live creatures, three feet tall and with large heads, who sit upon library shelves until summoned. And they breed, producing new texts that blend their sources. Alas, the story doesn't fully explore these ideas -- its resolution is abrupt and perfunctory -- but it's still a delight for the verbal wordplay that is Di Filippo's hallmark.


Eileen Gunn, Andy Duncan, Pat Murphy, and Michael Swanwick, “Green Fire”
(Asimov's April 2000)
The cover story (here apparently slightly revised) appeared last year in the webzine Event Horizon -- here's the link. It's an entertaining adventure about how Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, (and Grace Hopper) were involved during World War II with the infamous 'Philadelphia Experiment'.

Robert Reed, ''The Prophet Ugly''
(Asimov's April 2000)
Aliens called 'uglies' have come to Earth bringing gifts, including implants that make learning so easy and fun that the schools have closed. When one of the uglies moves into a local school, teenaged Alex is excited, but his stepfather and other old people in the neighborhood are hostile. The aliens' ugliness may be the reason -- they're really Homo erectus, descendants of samples taken from Earth millennia ago and raised by aliens. A tense confrontation at the school reveals a grandiose 'uplift' scheme among successive intelligent species, but in the end it's visceral emotion that rules the day.

Cory Doctorow, ''At Lightspeed, Slowing''
(Asimov's April 2000)
Leo travels to Costa Rica to find his brother, Bryan, who is living in a farming commune, perhaps cult. Their contrasting perspectives represent bustling technological society vs. rural agrarian harmony, but Doctorow avoids cliches about either by alternating the story's point of view between that of each brother, gaining our sympathy for both sides of their argument.


Tanith Lee, ''The Eye in the Heart''
(F&SF March 2000)
''The last place I saw was Venice'' begins this brief, unsettling tale narrated by a woman who, in this society, has been trained from youth about the responsibilities of marriage. Her sacrifice for the sake of marital harmony is an implicit indictment of a male patriarchy in which women pay so that men can play.

Albert E. Cowdrey, ''Crux''
(F&SF March 2000)
A long story set in a future following a 'Time of Troubles' that caused the deaths of 12 billion. Set in the worldcity of Ulanor, the plot follows a conspiracy called Crux, whose aim is to travel back into the past and prevent the event that triggered the Time of Troubles, and the members of a security team (who spend much of their time in bordellos) trying to stop them. Though the story resolves with familiar time paradox ironies, it spends most of its length illustrating Ulanor's corruption -- in ways that avoid familiar SF cliches, but that often rely on easy assumptions about which behaviors are good (adhering to old religions) or bad (hanging out in bordellos...).

© 2000 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.