This double issue contains a mix of stories ranging in quality from Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s excellent novella to a one-joke piece of flash fiction. As usual for Analog, many of the stories feature space explorers, scientists and engineers.
At the end of “Death & Dancing in New Las Vegas”, by Ernest Hogan, the reader is informed that this is a sequel to a story published in Analog in 2001. Perhaps if I had read the first story, the sequel would have made more sense. It is set in the city of New Las Vegas on Mars, and follows the exploits of a mariarchi band entangled in the machinations of a nanotechnology company. It sounds like the setup for a comedy, but I’m not sure the story is intended as a comedy. At least, I didn’t find it funny. The basic premise-that a world-controlling corporation would go out of its way to influence a mariarchi singer didn’t strike me as at all plausible and I found it hard to understand the significance of much of what happened in the story.
“Energized”, by Edward M. Lerner, is part two of a four part serial dealing with the implications of a global energy crisis. The second part is far more enjoyable than the first part, as things actually happen in this part of the story. Various factions struggle to control the remaining sources of energy and indulge in a bit of industrial sabotage to ensure they keep their energy monopoly. There are still too many characters in the story, and Lerner suffers from the practice of dumping a character’s backstory into the narrative as soon as the character is introduced.
“Coordinated Attacks”, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is by far and away the strongest of the stories in this issue. It follows a police investigation into a murder and bombing on the moon that is somehow connected to a series of political assassinations. The police details and the world-building are interesting, but it is the complexity of Rusch’s characters that makes the story come alive. The strength of the characterization shows that Analog doesn’t have to restrict itself to one-dimensional characters. Hopefully more of their stories can combine the same mix of hard sf and complex characters. The only downside is that given the length of “Coordinated Attacks”, there is still a great deal left unexplained at the end.
“Plus C’est la Même Chose”, by Arlan Andrews Sr., is listed as a special feature (the Probability Zero section) rather than a short story, but it is an essentially a flash fiction piece with an awful unfunny one-joke premise. I thought professional magazines had stopped publishing these kinds of things years ago.
The main character in “One Out of Many”, by Kyle Kirkland, is a scientific regulator dealing with the implications of a new drug that has mind control properties. The plot moves forward at a reasonable pace, but the characters and world-building are all pretty flat. A group referred to as “retros” that seek a return to the good, old days play a key role in the story, but they come across more as a plot device than as a believable movement.
“In A Witness to All That Was”, by Scott William Carter, an unhappy husband and wife team of scavengers discovers a lone survivor on an alien world. The story is let down by a fairly obvious ending, its struggle to rise above the level of melodrama and paper-thin characterization.
“Jak and the Beanstalk” by Richard A. Lovett, is an amusing tale of an obsessed man who decides to walk up the entire length of a space elevator. At first the story reads like a non-fiction biography, but then the plot takes a sudden and interesting twist. The details of the climb are integrated into the story in a manner that makes them seem authentic without becoming tedious. The quirkiness of the main character makes it a fun read.