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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction January/February 2010 - Volume 118 , No. 1&2, Whole No. 687
Edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Cover Artist: Kristin Krest
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 27 December 2009

Links: Fantasy & Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The January/February 2010 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is here with stories by Paul Park, Robert Reed, Charles Oberndorf, Dean Whitlock, John Langan, Robin Aurelian, Marc Laidlaw, Steven Popkes, and Kate Wilhelm.

The January/February 2010 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction had a couple of stories that I did not care for but the rest made the issue well worth reading.

The issue starts with "The Long Retreat" by Robert Reed. Castor is a lieutenant in the Emperor's army and his most trusted assistant. They are fleeing the invading forces of a neighboring country. They come to a bay and it's decided that a boat will take the Emperor, Castor, and three others to safety. Castor learns more about his country and his Emperor in another of Reed's unique tales.

A young boy named Navin is "Bait" in the story by Robin Aurelian. He's bait because he just isn't much of a hunter and gets bitten all the time. But this is a fantasy world in which all kinds of supernatural creatures abound. Some serve his family's house, but most are hunted by his father and his sister, Spike. They are going on a hunting trip, which Navin hates and he starts being bitten immediately. But things are going to change for him in this fascinating, imaginative story.

The "Writers of the Future" described by Charles Oberndorf are just that, writers many years in our future. It's a future in which aliens called Minds inhabit the orbit that was once Earth's and what's left of humanity orbits where Mars was. Our narrator is, like many others, a fan of a writer named Magnus Esner, who writes of the past and glorious battles against the Minds. The narrator attend a writer's workshop run by Esner and meets an unusual woman who fascinates him. Things go on, but not much happens in this forgettable story.

"Songwood" by Marc Laidlaw is another tale set in the world of Gorlen Vizenfirthe, the Bard with the Gargoyled Hand. This one is not about Gorlen, but Spar, the gargoyle whose hand Gorlen owns. Spar is fleeing a mob on a dock and sees a beautiful woman beckon to him on a ship. He leaps on the deserted ship and hides in the mast. The mob is repelled by the crew of the ship who flock back on when they realize they've been boarded. They do not see Spar. He finds out his beckoner is the masthead of the ship, made of something called songwood, and intelligent. Thus starts a beautiful love story and a highlight of this issue.

"Ghost Doing the Orange Dance" by Paul Park is a novella that is described in the introduction as a combination of "memoir, family history and science fiction". Park is writing from what seems to be a future in which things have gone wrong. Most of the story is about his grandfathers and other members of his family. It is almost entirely narrative and description and was another that never really piqued my interest.

"The Secret Lives of Fairy Tales" by Steven Popkes is a retelling of five classic fairy tales, "The Emperorís New Clothes", "Snow White", "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Rumpelstilskin" and "Cinderella", all linked together with common characters. These were just sheer fun and a real delight.

You can never go wrong with a story by Kate Wilhelm and "The Late Night Train" is another example of why she's one of the best. Christy is a thirty-year old woman, living at home with a father who has had a stroke and a mother who has had a heart attack. The stroke has made her father even more mentally abusive than he was and her mother still never stands up to him. She suddenly starts to hear the whistle of a train but there are no tracks anywhere near. Is there some way to escape her situation? The end of this one will haunt you for some time.

In "Nanosferatu" by Dean Whitlock, Hugh Graeber is the CEO of a pharmaceutical firm, looking for something new. His scientists have found something new that seems to involve injecting nano devices they call hemobots into the blood. They already have tested it on themselves and feel rejuvenated with no ill effects. Graeber is intrigued and has their medical specialist, a beautiful pale-skinned woman named Liliac SŚngera inject him,too. Things start to perk-up immediately but there is more going on. This was an entertaining and amusing story.

"City of the Dog" by John Langan begins quietly, with our narrator walking to a club in Albany with his girlfriend, Kaitlyn, and seeing what looked like an injured dog. He goes up to it and it suddenly leaps on top of him, staring into his face with strange eyes, with white irises and black sclera. Then, it disappears. Our narrator gets up and his girlfriend is not there, nor is she at the club they were going to. He does see a pale man with eyes like the dog's. He also sees Chris, his roommate, a man that his girlfriend had slept with. He returns home and Kaitlyn does not answer her phone. When this continues, he asks Chris to call her parents, but she isn't there. When he tells Chris about the dog and the man, Chris tells him Kaitlyn is in danger. This all builds to a real chiller of an ending and one fine supernatural tale.

Even though I did not like all the stories in this issue, thatís unusual. You should subscribe!

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