Jim Baen's Universe, Volume 3, Number 2, August 2008
Edited by Eric Flint
Review by Sam Tomaino
Baen ISBN/ITEM#: 19320930200808
Date: 26 August 2008
Links: Jim Baen's Universe Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
Jim Baen's Universe August 2008 issue is a pretty good one with all of the stories getting a Very Good from me.
The science fiction stories begin with "Discards" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. It's set on a planet called ReWork, which is used as a dumping ground for other planets. The residents live underground but come out regularly to salvage what is discarded. Rosetta and Scorpion are two kids who look for anything. On this trip, they find some things that may be dangerous. Hoffman does her usual good work here.
In "Shopping Spree" by Beth Bernobich, Rhonda finds a website that sells pills that can change her husband's behavior. She orders some but finds other pills had been sent to her home, ordered by her husband. Bernobich tells a funny story here about how to make married (& business) life better!
Todd McCaffrey's "Tribute" is the story of Annogi Brown, a ten-year old girl who lives on a space station that is at the top of a space elevator. She can't leave the station because she has adapted to zero-gee. Her mother died saving her and others when she was three from a breach in the station. She is bitter against the man who has adopted her because he held her while her mother died. She has hacked computers to find out who her biological father is. All this sets up a beautifully told story.
Bud Webster contributes "The Lordly Loofah", an amusing little two-pager about a gentleman's invite to a "loofite" plant, in a world quite different from ours. This one had a lot o funny, little jokes and was a real hoot to read.
"The Super" by Bud Sparhawk is the story of a race, the Super Grand Vendee, "a single-handed race around the world, 24,000 nautical miles of sailing across every longitude" and Louella, Pascal and several others are racing through the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica, as part of their race. Louella's boat overturns and she straddles on top of it, managing to send out a distress call. Pascal is the only one that can save her. Will he be able to do it? The prize for one of them finishing and winning the race is the chance to race on the surface of Jupiter. How can Pascal rescue Louella and still get a chance at that? This was a fun, adventure story!
The Fantasy Section consists of two stories. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is one of the best writers in the field and "Dragon's Tooth" does not disappoint. Tara is a former employee of Abracadabra Inc. and used to be one of their best agents. She helped shut down black magic all over the world. Now, she has retired to the Loire Valley and runs a little magic shop. On a trip to Paris, she discovers a shop in the rue de Rivoli that has a real dragon's tooth and some dangerous spells. What is the behind all this? Rusch gives us a delightful tale here! Also in this section is "Twinkletoes" by J.A. Howe. A broadcaster for the Boston Red Sox is approached by an odd-looking person who wants an exhibition game. It turns out it's a team of Faery, with Thor, Loki and some other magical creatures. This was one fairly amusing, but not that great a baseball story.
As usual, this issue has two stories by first-time authors. "Playing Nice with God's Bowling Ball" by N.K. Jemisin (listed in the book as N.K. Jemison) starts with Detective Grace Anneton interviewing a little boy named Jeffy Hanson. Jeffy is upset because his friend Timmy Johnson has disappeared through a black hole, one that Jeffy had made. Grace, of course, doesn't believe him but starts investigating the disappearance of Timmy. Jemisin makes a fine debut here and gives the story a good ending.
Benjamin Crowell is the other first-time author with "Quality of Life". Lee Lewicki is the only one aboard an abandoned space station. The station's orbit is declining but she had refused to be evacuated as she's 106 and could not walk on Earth. But she still can do something. A probe is approaching from space. Can she do something to delay the station's fall to make contact with the probe? This story, too, is an admirable debut. I'll look forward to more stories from Jemison and Crowell in the future.
The issue also has a NSF Contest Winner in "Letting Go" by David Walton. This one is a classic hard SF story. It concerns a tunnel through the moon, an astronaut's daughter's life in danger and how she and the man she loves figure out how to save her. It also has a little heart, too. Good job!
The classic in this issue is "A Martian Odyssey" by Stanley G. Weinbaum. No need to summarize this one, just to say it's still as good as the first time I read it. I envy the readers who will encounter this for the first tine.
This issue is a good consistent one and well worth reading. So go to www.baens-universe.com, pay your dues and start reading.