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Analog Science Fiction and Fact – January/February 2012 – Vol. CXXXII No. 1 & 2
Edited by Stanley Schmidt
Cover Artist: John Allemand
Review by Sam Tomaino
Analog Magazine  ISBN/ITEM#: 1059-2113
Date: 28 November 2011

Links: Analog Science Fiction & Fact / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The January/February 2012 issue of Analog features stories by Robert J. Sawyer (the first part of a serial), Stephen Baxter, Rajnar Vajra, Mark-Niemann Ross, Sean McMullen, Catherine Shaffer, Jack McDevitt, a Probability Zero story by Michael F. Flynn plus the usual features and then some.

The January/February 2012 issue of Analog is another good one.

The short fiction begins with the issue's two short stories. First, "An Interstellar Incident" by Catherine Shaffer. This one is an amusing piece about planning a dinner party between humans and aliens. This isn't simple because the two species would be grossed out by each other's dining habits. Stacy and Thumkgig (of the Tuladan race) try to orchestrate the best way to pull that off. There is a glitch, one that I really can't believe happening at an event with the President of the United States, but things come off okay. A little hard to swallow but fun.

In "Listen Up, Nitwits" by Jack McDevitt, Peter Marshak works at the SETI Institute at time when the world seems ready to go to war. Suddenly, a radio message is received from space, actually Jupiter, saying (in a deep baritone and sixty different languages) "Now hear this, Nitwits. You seem determined to kill yourselves. Stop the nonsense. While you still have that option." Who is it? God? The Voice winds up requesting that Peter be the one to ask it questions and, eventually, it's Peter who decides what questions to ask. This manages to rise above the clichés that have already been done and develops into a nice little story.

Next comes the novelettes, with the first one being "Humanity by Proxy" by Mark Niemann-Ross. This one opens in 2114. Tiffany Stott is an elderly widow who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. She can go on medication to combat the symptoms but while they were testing, she needed to have an electronic device she calls a sawhorse follow her around to help her out of any trouble. The sawhorse had been developed by her late husband for use by soldiers but she resents its presence. Nonetheless, it proves useful. We get two more stories, going back in time about the device that makes this something truly touching and possessing real heart. Nicely done!

The other novelette is "Ninety Thousand Horses" by Sean McMullen. As the story opens, it is 1943 and Louise Clermont is working as a decoder at the secret base in Bletchley Park. She is visited by a man who must be very important to even know that she works there. She had delivered a lecture at Oxford in 1931 and had shown calculations that had shown that a rocket such as the one in the Fritz Lang film, Woman in the Moon could be built. She is shown pictures of rockets being built by the Germans at Peenemünde and tells her visitor that they must be destroyed at all costs. To convince him, she tells him a story of something she witnessed in 1899. McMullen tells a great story with well-drawn characters so much so that you are convinced that it is real.

This issue winds up with its two novellas. The first "Project Heracles" by Stephen Baxter is a sequel to "Project Hades" from the July/August 2010 issue. Chapman Jones and Thelma Bennett are each confronting separate crises. Jones is out at Salisbury Plain investigating the breeding of 70-foot people originally from China (with extensive medical work to get around the mass squared problems) and Bennett in London seeing a coup take place against the government of Harold Wilson. All come together for an exciting story. This is, obviously, alternate history, but there had been such a plot in 1968 but was thwarted when Lord Mountbatten refused to have anything to do with it. That had been my only quibble with the story.

The fiction concludes with Rajnar Vajra contributing another Doctor Alien story with "Doctor Alien and the Spindles of Infinity". The titular character's real name is Alanso Morganson and he is a psychiatrist to the aliens. One of his current patients is an alien of the Houck race named Haxel who cannot recall one day to the next. Al realizes that this is a ruse and finds out that he was being tested to see if he is qualified to serve as a juror for an important decision the Houck must make. Al, his family, and two alien associates are taken on a truly wondrous journey and he is presented with the problem. The story is long but Vajra does a great and imaginative job with it.

There is also a "Probability Zero" story, "Return of the Zombie Sea Monster" by Michael F. Flynn, but, since they didn't send that too me, I can't review it.

Analog starts its new year well. Subscribe!

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