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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction November/December 2016 Volume 131, Nos.5 &6 , Whole No.728
Edited by C.C. Finlay
Cover Artist: Kristin Kest for
Review by Sam Tomaino
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1095-8258
Date: 30 October 2016

Links: Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction / How to Subscribe / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The November/December 2016 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (#728) has stories by Esther M. Friesner, Albert E. Cowdrey, Matthew Hughes, Robert Reed, Lilliam Rivers, Gardner Dozois, Minsoo Kang, Kurt Fawver, Charlotte Ashley, James Beamon, and Sandra McDonald, plus the usual features.

The November/December 2016 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (#728) is a great issue to end the year on with a Hugo-worthy story!.

The fiction in the issue starts with "The Cat Bell" by Esther M. Friesner. -+- A woman identified only as Cook works for a rich actor named Rutherford in the late 19th century. She has dreams of him falling in love with her and making her his wife. She would lord it over the other servants even more than she does now, especially the kitchen maid, Ellen O'Toole. One of her duties is to feed Mr. Rutherford's nineteen cats, a job she does not like. One day, a stray cat wanders in and she literally tosses him out. From there on, things take a delightful turn that I won't spoil. It's been too long since I've read any of the talented Ms. Friesner's stories. I'll have to rectify that.

"The Farmboy" by Albert E. Cowdrey -+- As the story opens, we see the ship Master Kung take off, marooning Chuck, Indira, and the crew at the Digs marooned on the planet. Chuck and India accuse the Captain of leaving them all. The story than goes back in time just thirty days and we find out how things had got to that point. There are some great twists and turns, right up to the end. Another great story from Cowdrey.

"Between Going and Staying" by Lilliam Rivers -+- Dolores is a professional weeper. She goes to big funerals in costume to lead the mourners. She had followed in her mother's footsteps who did them in their small town, but not as spectacular productions. Dolores has Gone Hollywood and gets more than $35,000 for an appearance. She does not mind doing ones for people who have ties to the drug cartels. But when her former girlfriend is missing and presumed dead by those cartels, her mother calls her home. Interesting look at our modern day ceremonies and very well written.

"The Vindicator" by Matthew Hughes -+- We are told in the introduction that this story will bring Hughes's series about Raffalon the thief to a close. After a brief introductory scene, Raffalon, currently in the city of Wal, finds himself the target of assassin. Casco the discriminator determine that this is not the work of the official Guild of Vindicators, so who is it. With Cascor's help, Raffalon finds out who and our story really gets going. Part of the solution comes as no surprise, but the story has a wealth of wonderful details and two more delightful characters, an apprentice thief named Ioveana and Ifigenio, an academic from the Institute at Gephire, whose specialty is "magical devices from bygone ages". Well, I just loved this story and will put it on my Hugo Short List for novelettes next year (by word count it's actually a novelette, not a novella). I will also venture to make a suggestion to Hughes. If he is done with Rafallon, perhaps he could start another series with Ioveana and Ifigenio.

"The Place of Bones" by Gardner Dozois -+- Our narrator is the former tutor of a learned man named Martin who has found a special way to the Alps to find the Dtagonlands. They stop in a curious village on the outskirts and travel through a bone yard of what seems to be dragon bones. One night, they hear a distant roaring. Is it the dragons singing. The journey continues through to the end, one only as talented a writer as Dozois could write.

"Lord Elgin at the Acropolis" by Minsoo Kang -+- Why does the art museum director suddenly insist that the most famous painting they have is a fake? He's not lying or crazy. Expert analysis insists it's the original. A police detective and a novelist discuss the possibilities. Keep's you interested right from the start and there's a real stinger at the end of this one.

"Special Collections" by Kurt Fawver -+- This is a series of entries by an unnamed narrator who is part of the staff of the library at an unnamed university library. The narrator first tells us The First Rule that their supervisors tell them when they are hired: "You do not venture beyond the threshold of the Special Collections door alone." The reasons given are vague. The section contains strange books donated to the university like the White Books, "five codices. Bound in a creamy pearlescent material that appears to ripple when light strikes it from different angles". Over the years there have been people who have entered alone (one unwillingly) and have disappeared, some shrieking. Their supervisors seem to know something but aren't telling. Even the construction of the library in 1939 has a grim legend about that floor. Very eerie and unsettling. Well done.

"A Fine Balance" by Charlotte Ashley -+- Under defined rules, Kara Ramadami and Shoanna Yildirim, sponsored by the Dushiq and the Onsen, fight duels. But the Dushiq try a tactic that is not according to the rules. What will happen to the peace these rules insure. Interesting look at a different world.

"Passelande" by Robert Reed -+- Lucas is a private investigator with a very unusual kind of client. They are backups. Artificial intelligences that record the lives of their owners/progenitors. He gets a call from one who is worried that her owner is missing, at least that's what she tells him. He travels to a place called Passelande where he meets a couple he knows, Bracken and Alexis. They are actually part of another one of his jobs. A very interesting tale of a near-future with some very imaginative details. Just the sort of thing I've come to expect from Reed.

"The Rhythm Man" by James Beamon -+- Horace is a bluesman who has lost his audience to a bebop man. How can he get them back? Legend has it that the Rhythm Man can give it to him. So he sets the table to bring him forward. Can't really say more except that the last sentence is just perfect.

The fiction concludes with "Merry Christmas from All of Us to All of You" by Sandra McDonald. -+- I don't usually read the stories in a magazine in order, but I decided to save this one for last. It seemed appropriate. This one's an amusing little tale about the graduates of the North Pole Charter School Academy. Lots of jokes but, if you think about the last line, something more.

Note: The printed title page lists the Friesner, Cowdrey, Hughes, and Reed stories as novellas, but the actual word count, as well as the listing of the stories in the Index to Volumes 130 & 131, makes them novelettes.

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