REVIEW: “Little, Little, Little” by K. A. Tutin

Review of K. A. Tutin, “Little, Little, Little”, Luna Station Quarterly 45 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

This is a slightly gruesome story of transformation (if body-mod things squick you out, you might want to avoid this), and I almost really enjoyed it — it was suffused with love and freedom and acceptance. But it was told in 2nd person, and in this context, that POV just didn’t work for me.

REVIEW: “The Adopt a Zombie Program” by Sophia Thimmes

Review of Sophia Thimmes, “The Adopt a Zombie Program”, Luna Station Quarterly 45 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Zombie stories aren’t really my cup of tea, even if the zombies involved “really were sort of cute”. 🙂 But Thimmes managed to find a distinctive premise, which got me immediately interested in the first few paragraphs. (Got bogged down a bit with the info dump a few paragraphs later, but that was a minor blip.) I give this story a thumbs up, and it’s even my own thumb.

REVIEW: “The Acheulean Gift” by Matthew Claxton

Review of Matthew Claxton, “The Acheulean Gift”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2021): 60–68 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

In “The Acheulean Gift,” some children have been genetically modified with DNA from pre-“Home Sapiens” humans, hoping that this will reduce some of humanity’s most descriptive tendencies. The program didn’t work as expected,

I found the “Acheulean genetics” program described in the story rather implausible, in more than one way. It’s hard to suspend your disbelief for this one, though if you are able to, then it is a pretty good story. The writing is competent, the characters were well-crafted, and I particularly appreciated the little touches the author put on the brother-sister relationship (like their playful rivalry in the ax throwing exercises).

Overall, there’s a lot to like about “The Acheulan Gift,” even though I personally could not get past the premise.

REVIEW: “It’s Cold on Europa” by Filip Wiltgren

Review of Filip Wiltgren, “It’s Cold on Europa”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2021): 42–48 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

The protagonist is stuck on Europa on a mission to collect ice for Mars, with no one to keep her company but a coworker and her wife’s “construct” (essentially an android with a downloadable personality that needs to be updated periodically). She becomes concerned when her wife’s construct begins to behave unusually strange. Is it her wife growing cold towards her, or is there something wrong with the construct?

The premise of collecting ice from the outer part of the solar system and send it to Mars is nothing new (e.g. Asimov’s “The Martian Way”), although the idea of “constructs” as described in the story is fascinating. The main character’s paranoia is described with great skill and ample tension. The author is really able to get in her head with some delicious internal monologues. The ending felt somewhat rushed, however, and perhaps a little disappointing. What started as a great psychological examination of protagonist life in deep space ended with a simple “brawl in space” – an ending more suited to a typical pulp adventure tale than something like this.

Despite that, this was still a very enjoyable read.

REVIEW: “Second Hand Destinies” by Marie Vibbert

Review of Marie Vibbert, “Second Hand Destinies”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2021): 139–145 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Tatiana is troubled young woman living with her brother and grandmother on a battered space-station that barely works. She is not the real Tatiana, but a tentacle creature – a symbiote/parasite – that has taken her form. Her brother and grandmother know this, but are happy to have her in their lives. One day, a damaged spaceship carrying a royal fugitive lands on their station, bringing all sorts of trouble for the unorthodox family.

Vibbert is great at establishing mood and this story is no exception. There are a few great moments in the story that create a rich and complicated universe in just a few paragraphs (or a few line of dialogue). However, after a rather tense climax, the author opts for a conveniently “happy” ending that doesn’t quite land, in my opinion. Still, this is very much a story worth reading.

REVIEW: “The Pond Who Sang” by Charles Hand

Review of Charles Hand, “The Pond Who Sang”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2021): 132–135 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Due to a plane crash, a scientist’s revolutionary neural network device falls into a pond where it interacts with the local flora and fauna to become sentient. A perplexed musicologist who lives nearby attempts to understand the sounds that are coming from it.

“The Pond Who Sang” has a poetic quality about it that I enjoyed very much, even though I don’t think the artificial neural networks described in the story are accurate at all. Otherwise there’s little that stands out about this piece. It’s a nice little tale about nature, AI, and the fateful convolution of the two.

REVIEW: “I have loved the stars too fondly” by James Van Pelt

Review of James Van Pelt, “I Have Loved the Stars Too Fondly”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2021): 129–131 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Earth (or perhaps America) is starting to colonize the Moon, and the homeless are among the first to get there. It’s a chance to start fresh, though not everybody believes in this chance.

A thoroughly enjoyable story, even if it does not necessarily have a sense of direction. It feels more like a snapshot of a hypothetical future, rather than a proper narrative. Nevertheless, the snapshot that it presents is very compelling and the story makes a strong case for the humanity of its characters (e.g. the references to old poems by the main character, etc.). Despite the story’s brevity, there’s a lot of depth in Gregory’s character, whose optimistic view of the future leaves the reader hopeful. Much like a lot of us in these difficult times, he can’t help but see an end to his struggles in his new endeavor.

REVIEW: “THH*SH*THHH” by Aimee Ogden

Review of Aimee Ogden, “THH*SH*THHH”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2021): 78–79 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Teller attends the funeral of a member of a near-immortal species, who died unexpectedly as result of of an accident. The rest of the species have a hard time coping with that being’s death.

The author employs a variety of linguistic tools to emphasize the “alieness” of the “THH*SH*THHH” species (such as different pronouns), which I found more distracting than immersive. By the end, the story doesn’t offer much to help the reader empathize with the alien’s struggle to accept death.