OR: Analog Vol CXXII #2

A review that originally appeared in The Fix #3:-


As someone who has difficulty telling his quarks from his quasars and could never see what all the fuss was about re Schrodinger’s cat, I’ve always felt life has enough opportunities to make me feel stupid without reading hard sf. In a nutshell, I didn’t really expect to like Analog, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The latest issue contains two short stories, a novella and the second instalment of a four part serialisation, not much on the face of it but all first rate material.

Mia Movray’s ‘Powered By Water’ reads like a modern version of the kind of stories William Tenn used to write in those good old days, with a harassed scientist playing catch up by making everyone else immune to the stimulant effects of caffeine. It’s a witty tongue in cheek piece, with many an ingenious twist before a denouement that’s as gratifying as it’s apt. A similar feel good factor permeates ‘Dumptown’, Mark Rich’s tale of a rebel sculptor thwarting the machinations of big business, though this is more seriosu in tone than the Movray, with solid characterisation and intriguing glimpses of a richly textured society. Cats play a big part, but thankfully not Schrodinger. Edward M. Lerner’s novella ‘Presence of Mind’ is more what I’d expected from Analog, stepping into a world of neural interfaces and computer viruses, but the science doesn’t get in the way of the story, which is a well-written and compelling slice of technological detective work with an element of romance to sweeten the pill.

The best thing here though is the ongoing series, Robert M. Sawyer’s ‘Hominids’, which rings new changes on the parallel worlds theme by populating its alternate Earth with a culture descended from Neanderthals. One of these, a quantum physicist called Pointer, is brought to our own world, while back on Pointer’s world his mate is put on trial for murder. Sawyer effortlessly interweaves the two plot strands in a credibly paced story filled with quirky ideas and memorable characters, plus a whole bundle of subplots simmering nicely in the background. In particular his depiction of how a Neanderthal society might work is an intriguing excursion into realms of what if.

Analog‘s non-fiction isn’t as consistent. Stanley Schmidt’s editorial about false perceptions is insightful and rewarding, as is Richard Lovett’s article on ‘Living at Extremes’, but John Cramer’s piece about particle accelerators assumes a familiarity with technology many readers simply won’t have (here’s where I started to feel stupid). Tom Easton’s review column is the biggest disappointment. As an example of why, he gives us over 70 lines re L. E. Modessit’s lates book, all the details about who does what and to whom, then by way of comment concludes ‘Modessit has a good hand with both characters and plot. This one is very satisfying and well worth your attention’, which ain’t reviewing, but synopsis with add-ons. To be fair, Easton gets more picky when dealing with non-fiction.

Analog? Like the man said, very satisfying and well worth your attention.

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