Jim Baen's Universe October 2008
Edited by Eric Flint
Cover Artist: Garrett W. Vance
Review by Sam Tomaino
Baen ISBN/ITEM#: 1932-0930
Date: 27 October 2008
Links: Jim Baen's Universe Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The Science Fiction section begins with Mike Resnick and that's always a good thing. "Article of Faith" is not one of his light stories, but something more. Reverend Edward Morris is the pastor of a Protestant church and has just acquired a new robot janitor named Jackson. Jackson is quite intelligent and Morris tells him something of God and invites him to read the Bible. Jackson takes it quite literally and feels that robots have souls. Resnick treats the question quite well and does his usual excellent job of telling a story. One note, though, this minister thinks a 30 minute sermon is just the right length. If he tried that in my church, he wouldn't last long!
In "A Date With Patti Pleezmi" by Chuck Rothman, Tricia Mahaffey runs a bar on the Moon and keeps the rough miners in line. Years ago, though, her first love, a creep named Reid, had recorded their lovemaking, enhanced her image a bit, called her Patti Pleezmi and made a lot of money by "selling" her in a Virtual Reality mode. For many men, "she" had been their first sexual experience when they were boys. Now Reid has shown up again, wanting to make a deal. Tricia confronts her past in this well-written story.
David Brin's "Shoresteading" is only part one and I will review that in full when it is complete.
J. Simon gives us a quick changing wild ride of alien races that sometimes have human names but also seem perpetually in conflict in "The Rings of Ragnaran". This is one not to take too seriously, just come along for the fun.
"First Rites" by Nancy Kress features a young boy named Cixin. His mother was a Chinese woman who had become involved in genetic experiments in Mexico. The woman's cousin, an American named Ben is able to determine something of what is different about the boy when he is still in the womb and comes up with a medicine to help him live. The woman dies and Ben brings the boy to America but he does not understand just what the effects of gene modification are. This sets up an interesting story of mind and consciousness.
There are two stories in the Fantasy section. Pat Cadigan starts it off with a truly unusual story, "The Mudlark". Our narrator is an American woman in her fifties who had been touring London with her mother when the older woman disappeared while touring the British Museum. She reports the disappearance to the police and nothing happens for ten days when she sees her mother along a beach with a plastic bag in her hands. She is told that the woman is "mudllarking", picking up odd bits of china and other stuff out of the sand. She confronts her mother who is unperturbed, clean and won't go with her. Our narrator tries her best to get her mother back until she is almost arrested herself. Cadigan gives us a nicely strange story here. The "Soul Survivor" of Matthew Joseph Harrington' story is Kevin Ridler. His entire unit had been nuked and he had survived, with half his body crushed and reconstructed. He has wound up very rich and decides to buy up an old piece of property in a town called Paxburg and get to work turning it into a hotel. This requires a lot of unusual work as the site is haunted by 104 ghosts. In addition to his construction, he sets about freeing them so they can go to their just reward. This is a very strangely told story but it does come together for a rewarding end, both for Kevin and the reader.
As usual, there are two stories by first-time authors, Amber D. Sistla contributes "Homo Sylvanus". In a future in which genetic research is controlled by a religion, Brennan Candler wants to give his daughter, Yamsyn, a chance to live a long life. He agrees to genetic modification from a Methuselah tree but things will not prove that simple. Sistla creates a believable culture and some good characters and I'll look forward to more from this author. "Russian Roulette" by Simon Horvat refers to the well-known game played with a gun and bullets. This time, it's played by a young "precog" who can envision all of his possible futures. In less than 400 words, Horvat fashions a truly unique story here and is a talent worth keeping an eye on.
The Classic was a story unfamiliar to me, "Pretty Quadroon" by Charles Fontenay. This sounds like it was written in the mid-Sixties and concerns a second Civil War over integration. Beauregard Courtney is an important figure in that revolt and he had a quadroon mistress named Piquette. Things are not going well for the South and Piquette introduces him to a man from Africa who can change history so there is no war. The only catch is that Beauregard must never know Piquette. This was an interesting look back at a time now gone.
Jim Baen's Universe also has some good articles and all the stories are worth reading. You should check them out at www.baens-universe.com.