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Jim Baen's Universe December 2008
Edited by Eric Flint
Cover Artist: Garrett W. Vance
Review by Sam Tomaino
Baen  ISBN/ITEM#: 1932-0930
Date: 24 December 2008

Links: Jim Baen's Universe Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The December 2008 issue of Jim Baen's Universe is here with stories from Ben Bova, Bud Sparhawk. Marissa Lingen, Fred Sabehagen, David Brin, Julie Czerneda, Mike Resnick, new authors Kevin J. Cheek and Jason K. Chapman along with a classic from Abraham Merritt and the usual columns.

The December 2008 issue of Jim Baen's Universe is another good one. I liked all the stories, save one.

The Science Fiction section leads off with "Moon Race" by Ben Bova. Taylor Reed has entered a race on the surface of the moon but he's using a six-legged walking machine called Stomper designed by his friend Harry Walker and himself. He's disqualified because he veered off course as only a Walker can do. I don't think I'm spoiling much by saying things turn out for the best in this classic kind of story.

The "Pumpkin" in the tale by Bud Sparhawk is a space barque owned by Jake Sands and he uses it to mine the storms of Jupiter, which are full if valuable minerals. It's dangerous and his girlfriend, Marie, want him to give it up for a safer profession. But Jake likes the excitement and always thinks he's going to make the big score. This was an exciting story and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

"Loki's Net" by Marissa Lingen features a self-centered actress named Nora who wants to know what it really is like to be someone else. She goes through the experience but does it really have any effect? This was a nice little character study.

"Some Events at the Templar Radiant" is one of the late Fred Saberhagen's Berserker stories. Sabel is a member of the order of Exemplar Helen and is engaged in forbidden research. He has a disabled Berserker and is trying to get information from it. As the story develops, we learn more about him and what kind of man he is. The whole story is cleverly written as you wait for what you think will happen and there is a great payoff.

"Shoresteading, Part Two" by David Brin, continues the story from the last issue. Since this seems to be a conclusion, I'll review it now. Peng Xiao Wer is a poor man living in a "shorestead" near Shanghai. The world has been flooded and Wer and is wife are trying to make a home from a flooded out mansion. Then, Wer finds a strange stone, which is an alien artifact. It's not the only one and is, in fact, in competition with another artifact found by an American astronaut. Wer becomes involved with more than one group who wants to study the stone. I am afraid I found this story long and uninteresting. As there is no "to be continued" at the end, I assume that this is the end. If that's the case, it's not much of one.

The main story in the Fantasy section is Julie Czerneda's "The Gossamer Mage: Intended Words". This is a grand, imaginative story that takes place in a land called Tananen that is under the control of a goddess called The Deathless Lady. She looses her magic into her country through mages who can create things just by writing words on parchment. Scribemaster Saeleonarial, is sent by his lord to find out who has created a monster who is devastating a village. Saeleonarial fears it is his old friend, Maleonarial. But there is other magic involved. The "gossamer" in the title refers to a creature that is created accidentally and not with the intent of the mage-scribe. All these elements come together in well-crafted tale.

The fantasy section is rounded out by "A Very Formal Affair: A Harry the Book Story" by Mike Resnick. These stories are Damon Runyon meets L. Sprague deCamp and always a lot of fun. In this one. The bookmaker of the title is given a 50-1 bet on a dance contest that he can't cover, so he investigates. Just about every line of this story is funny and it even has a slight Christmas theme.

As usual, the issue includes two stories by first-time authors. Kevin J Cheek makes a fine debut in "In the Light of the Hunger Moon". Lorgash is a troll infected by smallpox. He comes upon a house with a woman who is part-troll and her son. Her human husband had died from smallpox and they are also infected. They are Christians and show him hospitality. It is the time of the Hunger Moon, which trolls use to excuse bad behavior. The house is besieged by trolls and greedy humans and Lorgash returns the favor of hospitality in this nice little story.

The other "introducing" story is "Johnny Plays 'Round Saturn's Rings" by Jason K. Chapman. Johnny is a nine-year old living on Ares Station with his parents. His father is dying but can live by having his memories transferred into a mandroid. Johnny can't accept this but starts to understand mandroids better when he gets to know one. This was another engrossing story. I'll look forward to reading both of these authors in the future.

The Classic in this issue is "The Moon Pool" by Abraham Merritt. I'm not going to summarize it but suffice it to say, they don't get more classic than this.

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