Jim Baen's Universe Volume 2 Number 4, December 2007
by Eric Flint
Edited by Eric Flint
Cover Artist: Nathan Carlisle
Review by Sam Tomaino
Baen ISBN/ITEM#: JBU200712
Date: 22 December 2007
Links: Magazine Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The newest issue of Jim Baen's Universe is available online with some fine stories, all but one got a Very Good from me.
The science fiction stories are a pretty good lot. I gave three of them a Very Good but found one unconvincing.
Nancy Kress's "Laws of Survival" begins on an Earth ravaged by war. For some reason, after the war has devastated the planet, alien domes appeared. The narrator is a woman who has done what she can to survive. By chance, she approaches a dome with a stray dog. A blue metal sphere offers to trade the dog for food and she complies. She trades more dogs until she is taken inside the dome. To live, she must teach the dogs to "behave correctly" like heroic dogs in movies. Thus begins a touching story about the true "Laws of Survival". In "Darwin's Suitcase", Elizabeth Malartre gives us a world in which Charles Darwin had written a defense of his theory against his religious critics. This caused a suppression of science for three hundred years but nonetheless, a time travel device was somehow invented to enable a man to go back in time to prevent Darwin from writing his treatise. I did not find this story very convincing. Tony Frazier's "Double-Secret Weapon" features a real superhero named Digger whose life has been taken over by a television version of himself. He's at a shopping mall, signing autographs for bratty little kids. Then, a real villain appears. "Misfits" by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller features Ichliad Brunner, who as the story begins is working as a gardener. He was a professional meteorologist but something in his past forced him to work in this menial job. He breaks the parole of his sentence for just cause and the story flashes back to what got him there in the first place.
Next comes the Fantasy section. You know you can't go wrong with Mike Resnick and his "Christmas Eve at Harvey Wallbanger's: A Harry the Book Story" does not disappoint. This is Damon Runyon writing in a fantasy universe with wizards, zombies and other magical things. Bet-A-Million McNabb owes narrator Harry 10,000 dollars but he's just lost all his money to Loose Lips Louie. How can Harry get his money and then some? Read this hilarious story and find out. J. Simon's "Fossilized Gods" gives us an 'old god' resurrected by a fool and loose on a college campus. Ranged against it are an idealistic college student, a minor cat goddess of Egypt, a really big-game hunter and a resurrected slave. This one is a lot of fun. "Second Banana" by Way Jen is an exciting story that's more science fiction than fantasy. Our narrator is half of a two-person crew of a small space ship. His partner is a woman named Benny who always sticks him with impossible jobs. This time, he has to disable a warship. How will he do it? Barry Malzberg and Jack Dann begin "The Art of Memory" with its narrator getting killed in a car crash. But he soon finds out that death doesn't really change his life. This one's a truly bizarre tale.
As usual, this issue has two stories by new authors. "Inheritance" by David Wesley has two characters, a weather satellite called Weathersat22 (or simply "Weather") and one of his programmer's, a man known only as John. John sends Weather an unauthorized extension of his programming. This huge amount of data leaves Weather a bit confused but John walks him through some new principles. We find out just what this is all about in this impressive debut. The other new author is Barbara Tarbox. Her "Queen's Mask" is a nice little fantasy, set in a fantasy kingdom. Elena is regent to her young son, Garrick, and must protect him from an evil Baron after the mysterious death of his father, the king. She has some magic powers but that is forbidden in the kingdom. What can she do?
The issue is rounded out by a classic story "A Holy Terror" by Ambrose Bierce. A man searches for gold at an abandoned mining camp but finds something else. I had a teacher who referred to the author as "Bitter Bierce" and this story shows the accuracy of that appellation.
This was a great issue. You'd do well to check it out at www.baens-universe.com.