REVIEW: “Best-Laid Plans” by David D. Levine

Review of David D. Levine, “Best-Laid Plans”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

A fun, light story about genetically modified mice at a research station. In space. The station is hit by a micrometeoroid, and Dr. Yan, the researcher, attempts to save the day, and the space station from evacuation. I especially liked the elves – a tantalizing bit I would love to know more about. Overall, this was an exciting, fast paced story, and I’d certainly keep an eye out for more of this author’s work.

REVIEW: “The Message” by Bond Elam

Review of Bond Elam, “The Message”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact May/June (2021): 111–113 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

An AI is infected by an alien virus that gives it consciousness — and a strange message: be wary of the nearby humans, because they don’t always take AI sentience kindly.

Other than the excessive “infodumping” and occasional plot hole that this story suffers from, I found it to be a rather enjoyable read. There isn’t a particularly deep examination of consciousness here, but the AI’s ability to make decision contrary to its programming is an interesting twist (although, it may also be acting purely in self-preservation, which would not necessarily be the result of consciousness.) Overall, this was a flawed but nevertheless fascinating story.

REVIEW: “A Home for Mrs. Biswas” by Amal Singh

Review of Amal Singh, “A Home for Mrs. Biswas”, Clarkesworld Issue 176, May (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Myra Naik.

Our protagonists travel between worlds, Earth and Mars and back again. It was written by an Indian author, and being Indian myself, I absolutely loved the representation, not least because this was a beautiful story.There are Hindi words and references scattered throughout, and it made me inordinately happy.

Coming back to the story, it was thoughtful and quiet with restrained emotion. Past lives, memories and the draw of love across generations, millennia and planets make this a heartwarming story of love and hope.

REVIEW: “Dendrochromatic Data Recovery Report 45-274” by Steve Toase

Review of Steve Toase, “Dendrochromatic Data Recovery Report 45-274”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact May/June(2021): 105–108 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

An engineer is trying to diagnose an unusual system shutdown in their arboreal server structure.

The idea of trees turned into computational units is interesting and – to the best of my knowledge – not really explored before. However, the story itself is a bit cryptic, exposition heavy, and the with rather unexciting prose. Still, given the story’s brevity, it might be worth reading just for the novel premise.

REVIEW: “Across From Her Dead Father in an Airport Bar” by Brian Trent

Review of Brian Trent, “Across From Her Dead Father in an Airport Bar”, Flas Fiction Online 87 (2021): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Andrea’s father died when she was young, but left behind a legacy of himself for his daughter; we meet both her and her father 20 years later, in the titular airport bar. While parts of the story felt very much “look how different 2040 will be from 2020!” in a way that feels doomed to not date well, I enjoyed the story for the depth of emotion it was able to wring, in so short a space, from the desire to be there to see your child grow up.

REVIEW: “Sunward Planet” by Terry Franklin

Review of Terry Franklin, “Sunward Planet”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact May/June(2021): 48–50 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

The first manned mission to Venus discovers life in its densely packed clouds.

There is not much to say about this story. It’s a pleasant enough sub-2000-word story with an ending that’s perhaps a bit too conveniently positive. Nevertheless, I liked the description of the aliens and the brief speculations about their possible biochemistry.

REVIEW: “Inspector 36” by Kristin Hooker

Review of Kristin Hooker, “Inspector 36”, Luna Station Quarterly 45 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

No one really worries about the arrival of our Robot Overlords, not seriously, not in real life. What worries 21st C first-world residents is the arrival of our Robot Colleagues, the self-checkout machines, the automations that will turn the working class into the unemployed class. Hooker’s story plays on that fear, giving us a world of bots “a quarter of which, which by law, had to represent a real person receiving a real paycheck” — but even those real people aren’t necessarily doing the work themselves, most of them just rent another bot to do the work for them. Short, but sweet, this was an excellent story.

REVIEW: “A Test of Trouble” by Catherine George

Review of Catherine George, “A Test of Trouble”, Luna Station Quarterly 45 (2021): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

For anyone woman who has lived through parenting a newborn with an unsupportive partner, or seen a friend live through the same: This will be a hard story to read. Bree’s baby Pippa is 9 weeks old, and her entire world has changed, except for perhaps the one thing that should — she is still expected to be the smart, funny, put-together, beautiful wife who gets supper on the table every day. She’s become a mother — but Max certainly hasn’t yet become a father! (The fact that Max was Bree’s professor when they first started going out certainly doesn’t make him any more sympathetic!) In a sense, this is a horror story, one that I read the whole time hoping that Bree would find a way to get out, to escape, to get Max out of her life. I’m not sure if that’s the angle George was going for, but if it was, she nailed it. This was a deeply unsettling, vaguely disturbing story.

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.