Analog, June 2011

The stories in Analog’s June issue seem squarely aimed at readers who enjoy tales of clever engineers and scientists bravely solving engineering problems while complaining about the difficulty of doing things for public relations purposes.

“Energized” by Edward M. Lerner, is the first part of a four-part serialized story.  In the aftermath of a global energy crisis, various scientists and engineers discuss the ramifications of different methods of generating energy.  Given the length of the story there were too many point-of-view characters for my liking.  The plot also often grinds to a halt as we’re treated to expository paragraphs outlining each character’s past misfortunes and the reasons we should feel sympathy for them.  We are also frequently reminded about how bad it is to force engineers to waste their time attending meetings and dealing with petty accounting matters such as getting reimbursed for travel costs when there is an energy crisis.

The main character in “Take One for the Road”, by Jamie Todd Rubin spends his time talking to his neighbor, who happens to be one of the survivors of a manned mission to Mercury.  The story relies on creating suspense by delaying the revelation of what happened on the mission to the end of the story.  The problem is that the delay feels artificial and the revelation itself isn’t that startling.  The story is also hampered by being overly reliant on flashback and by the fact the main character doesn’t do anything except listen to his neighbor talk.

For most of the story, “Kawataro”, by Alec Nevala-Lee, reads more like a Lovecraftian tale complete with a mysterious fishing village populated by taciturn, grim villagers, than like a typical Analog story.  Something is drowning people in a small Japanese village and there are creepy children following the main character.  Towards the end of the story, it turns into a “this is a possible scientific explanation for a monster from legend” story, which for me has been overdone.

“Stone Age”, by Alastair Mayer, has a lot of expository and unnatural-sounding dialogue, but it was my favorite story from the issue.  It has a simple but engaging plot and the most compelling mystery of this issue’s stories.  Researchers uncover an alien tomb on a distant world and complications ensue.

“Citizen-Astronaut”, by David D. Levine, tells the story of a blogger sent to report on the Mars mission.  I’m particularly fond of Levine’s “Tk’tk’tk”, the inventive Hugo-winning short story, but I was disappointed by this one.  The characterization basically consists of listing people’s nationalities and occupations.  The scientists resent the presence of the journalist who is reporting some of their mishaps, but eventually grow to respect his engineering know-how.  I found the story lacking in surprises and had hoped for something more interesting.

Space travel and engineering problems feature prominently in this issue.  None of the stories are standouts, but if you like hard sf, you’ll probably find some elements to enjoy.


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