Sunday, April 13, 2008

Review: Fantasy & Science Fiction May 2007

The May, 2007 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I’m unable to comment on any additional content or layout as I’ve only been sent the five pieces of fiction included in the issue. With that in mind, here are my reviews on what was sent to me:

The Master Miller’s Tale
By Ian R. MacLeod

After an extremely long winded info dump of an introduction, the novella that is “The Master Miller’s Tale” begins a wonderfully told story about Nathan Westover, the son and heir of Burlish Mill on Burlish Hill. His life, his struggle, is a metaphor for the advancement of technology and how it literally and figuratively, steamrolls over the traditions and methods of the past, making what men once held dear and scared, old and antiquated.

Ian MacLeod has a brilliant mastery of the English language which he unleashes in full, as he goes to great length to reel the reader into his tale as he slowly unveils the hidden warnings contained within.

The Tamarisk Hunter
By Paolo Bacigalupi

This story came into being on a call from a regional American newspaper. Their prompt was for stories where country folk in the future, had learned to live sustainably in the American West. Turns out this was the only story they found worth printing. It tells of how a drought, The Big Daddy Drought, has settled into North America and is drying up all the water. A tree called the Tamarisk grows along the river banks of the main water supply into California. It drinks huge amounts of the water, so the government agencies hires people to seek them out and destroy them, paying each hunter a bounty for a successful kill.

It is an interesting take on the water shortages the world over seem to be experiencing in higher frequency than ever before, as we here in Australia know. Australian’s would keep a secret smile for the way this particular hunter plans for the future. In the end, the little man looses out anyway and is forced from his patch. It comes across as a little biased but then, the story did come from the online editor of the paper that called for submissions in the first place.

By K. D. Wentworth

Inspired by a neighbor’s run-away dog, this story is like a rollercoaster ride with no end in sight.

At first I thought it a wonderful tale of an aging woman in the throes of dementia, but it seems so much more than that. Ally can’t keep her universe straight and the love of her life keeps morphing into other men or out of existence all together.

Stunningly told, this will leave you wondering about parallel universes, old age and lost love

Simply brilliant!

The Great White Bed
By Don Webb
Is a disturbing and weird tale of a young teenagers summer long past, told by the boy when he was much older – a flash back, a memory. He tells of having to look after a senile and dying grandfather, doing chores like mowing the grass, doing the laundry and cooking the meals. During this time, his dear old pop, begins reading a strange book that has appeared from nowhere. The elder statesman reveals that the book is actually reading him, but better still, it seems to bring the old boy back to some form of sensibility.

This is where the tale veers off the normal path and enters something much stranger than the Twilight Zone.

The shortest piece in this issue, it is also the strangest.

Telefunken Remix
By A. A. Attanasio

With the advanced warning of: His new story is challenging, complex, and fascinating. If it seems a bit odd at first, stick with it — it will get even odder (but it will all make sense), I delved into the second longest offering of this issue (11,000 words), with heightened wariness.

Before I had reached 600 words, I’d already consulted the dictionary on a couple of occasions. This was going to be a hard slog, but onwards I pushed.

This story will thrill the hardened sci-fi readers out there. It is big on the science aspect and yet maintains a speculative plot throughout. An extremely heavy story, (in construction and in word usage), that deals with a future society’s ability to play with the space-time continuum to allow time travel.

Cloning is common place two million years into the future, long after the human race has passed beyond extinction. From excavated bones, a new society is raised, to live within the trees, gaining sustenance from them. Our flora friends caring for us in every way, well almost every way (There were no Evil Dead scenes here so I can’t confirm or deny this aspect). For company we create companions and tie them to us with strange magic. The combined inhabitants don’t work; they just exist to grow as individuals – much like the crew of the Starship Enterprise but without the uniforms.

As our clones grow, the intrepid explorer in all men comes to the fore and our protagonist clone wishes to swap places with the real man from which his DNA was harvested. To go back in time and exchange places so he can live in the wild world before our destruction. Leave the paradise called Heavinside (a combination of Heaven and Inside), and journey to Errth, the bastardization of Earth, such ingenuity in naming conventions.

It’s like radical environmentalists going without today’s modern conveniences so they can embrace the simple life of a distant yesterday. The end result achieves nothing. The end result of this story is similar.

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