REVIEW: "On the Causes and Consequences of Cat Ladies" by Richard A. Lovett

Review of Richard A. Lovett, “On the Causes and Consequences of Cat Ladies”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2020): 143–149 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

Growing weary of people’s interference in her life after her husband’s death, Barbara decides to move into an isolated farmhouse in the countryside. She did not only lose her husband, but also their joint research which was shown to increase intelligence in lab animals. Because of FDA interference, all that came of it was specialized cat food. Barbara hopes to leave all that behind and live the rest of her days quietly and alone. Not long after she moves, her presence in her new house attracts a myriad of stray cats demanding food. Barbara indulges, but she soon realizes there’s more to the cats than meets eye.

This was a great story with a great buildup towards a satisfying conclusion. Admittedly, my experience with Lovett’s writing has been mostly through lighthearted and satirical pieces that the author is well known for. This, however, was different. Despite the title suggesting a more humorous tone, this was a relatively serious tale with dark undertones, verging on outright horror towards the end. The beginning is a little exposition heavy, but all of it proves rewarding by the end.

While, of course, it’s unlikely that smarter cats would so easily turn diabolical, the story plays cleverly with the urban myth of their commonly perceived “indifferent” personalities. I do have one hang-up with the plot: it does not seem the smartest action on behalf of the cats to simply kill the person feeding them, and then starve for days till a new tenant moves in (if at all). Considering their heightened intelligence, it is more likely they’d try something else first.

Granted, this is a nitpick, but it nevertheless stands out in what is an otherwise excellent short story.

REVIEW: "Guns Don’t Kill" by Richard A. Lovett

Review of Richard A. Lovett, “Guns Don’t Kill”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact January/February (2020): 159–163 (print) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

This piece contains three separate stories about “smartguns” — i.e. guns controlled by AI. In each case, the guns prevent their respective owners from doing something bad or stupid, like committing murder or killing deer when it’s not hunting season. Some terrible tragedies are successfully prevented.

There are a few things to like in Lovett’s story. Using AI as a solution to senseless gun violence is an clever idea — perhaps unrealistic for a real world implementation, but clever nevertheless. On the other hand, the plotting and characterization leave a lot to be desired. The first two vignettes were dull and forgetful, grossly overshadowed by the author’s obvious attempt at a message. The third vignette works a little better. The alternating points of view between Ethan and the cops went a long way into keeping the tensions high. I only wish the final twist (AI conversing with itself) was not there, as it accomplishes nothing but enforce an already heavy-handed message.