Jim Baen's Universe June 2008
Edited by Eric Flint
Review by Sam Tomaino
Baen ISBN/ITEM#: 1932-0930
Date: 23 June 2008
Links: Magazine Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
Jim Baen's Universe June 2008 issue is a pretty good one with all but one of the stories getting a Very Good from me.
The science fiction stories begin with "Last Plane to Heaven" by Jay Lake. Allen is a mercenary somewhere in the middle of the Gobi desert. He's coerced, along with his men, to accept a dubious assignment from a man he despises. It involves a strange girl found on a Soyuz spaceship. They are supposed to fool her for some reason never made clear. But the men start having bad headaches and dreams. This story just didn't come together for me. Marvin Minsky and David Gerrold collaborate on "Why There Are No Type-C Civilizations", an amusing little tale about two intelligences, out for a stroll around the galaxy. In "Quasi" by M. Allen Ford, :D1387 John is a member of a genetically-engineered species called H. quasi terrestris, a large humanoid race that has had initiative mostly breed out it to become better soldiers. But in a series of battles with other engineered beings from a rival alliance, he begins to show something which might make him dangerous. Ford has provided an interesting look at a being that thinks in a different way.
Tom Van Natta's "Ted" is a big stuffed animal bear that Sam takes everywhere in his van. His fiancée, Marie, is annoyed by it and breaks up with him. A very strange, close encounter changes the situation in this nice, fun little story. Marissa Lingen is next with "Making Alex Frey". Dani, Gary and Tad are hired by a former teen rock star to make a software simulacrum of himself that would appeal to today's audiences. Of course, the rock star is a fool but they still manage to create something special. Lingen does a nice job, creating several good characters in a short space.
The science fiction section concludes with contributions from two seasoned pros. "Maker of Worlds" by Norman Spinrad features a "Federation of Worlds" spaceship that approaches a planet ruled by magic. To successfully convince the planet's ruler to join the Federation, they must use their silence to defeat its magic. A wonderfully epic battle ensues. In "One Small Step", Kristine Kathryn Rusch tell of Nyalou Templeton, a young woman sitting on the Council which rules a domed moon base, built on the Sea of Tranquility base where Apollo 11's astronauts had landed. There is a monument at the landing spot and a footprint has been preserved. An obnoxious real estate developer wants to build over it. Nyalou is charged with visiting the site to see if it should be preserved. Rusch has written another great tribute to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
The Fantasy Section consists of three stories. I always like Tom Purdom's stories and "Madame Pompadour's Blade" does not disappoint. Set during the reign of Louis XV, Geveaux is on a mission from Madame de Pompadour to rescue a young woman. He is actually a servant to Francois, a young count with a magical sword that can kill from a long distance. The sword can only be used by the young Count but he is not the bravest of men. Geveaux must find a way for their mission to succeed. "Bella of Ghostsea is Dead" by A.S. Fox is the story of Grak, a half-orc under a curse that any woman who he loves dies. A vampire named Max fixes him up with Bella, a woman already dead and under a spell, too. What we get is an enchanting, if bizarre, love story. Eugie Foster's "A Thread of Silk" is set in ancient Japan. The palace of Mae's family is invaded by her cousin Masakado. He kills her father and sets her on the run with her brothers. He has been made invulnerable and super-strong by a god. Mae gets a gift from two gods to defeat him but things take a different turn.
As usual, this issue has two stories by first-time authors. In "Cacophony of the Spheres" by Jeff Haas, Tim Godfrey is a reporter sent out to the edge of the galaxy to interview Borderline Bob Kinahan, a former mathematician turned bartender who predicted the universe is collapsing and would entirely collapse in thirty-two years. Twenty-Five of those years have now elapsed when Tim reaches the edge if the galaxy he sees incontrovertible evidence of it. However, Borderline Bob has a way out in a charming story.
"Spamdemonium" by John Parke Davis features recently-divorced Pete Hassel who gets a spam e-mail about the mysteries of the universe. He opens it and gets more and more deeply involved in a wild story.
The classic in this issue is the infamous "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift. This is of course not a story but an essay. It's supposed to be the height of wit but I don't think it even half succeeds.
Nonetheless, there is plenty in this issue to enjoy, so go to www.baens-universe.com, pay your dues and start reading.