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Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2012

Triggers part III of IV, by Robert J. Sawyer - [*****]
God, I only enjoy this more with each installment. So clever! And Jan's story was handled well. But I'll save my big review for the finale.

The Most Invasive Species, by Susan Forest - [*----]
Painfully predictable. I pulled through to the end just in case it was going somewhere I didn't expect, but no, the obvious plot twist is the one we get. The worldbuilding was interesting, and the characters' reaction to the plot twist was nicely done and emotionally compelling, but it just didn't have the emotional punch it was clearly aiming for.

Ecce Signum, by Craig DeLancey - [*****]
Starts a little like a murder mystery, but becomes a different sort of mystery. Janet's particular kind of prickliness is oddly charming, and justifies her slowness in doling out information to the reader. The dog, Juno, is simply charming, nothing odd about it, and the perfect complement to Janet. Juno is also often a convenient way to sneak in infodumps, which are always interesting and seamlessly integrated into the story. The world in general is compelling, and the story somehow manages to be incredibly personal (just Janet and Virginia) and yet global at the same time. (The feminist in me likes the fact that this story passes the Bechdel test so very well.) Satisfying ending. Just about the only question I had was why someone would name a male dog Juno.

A Delicate Balance, by Kevin J. Ansderson - [***--]
An interesting and well-realized world, with an interesting and well-realized main character and a plot that somehow manages to be neither of those things as it progresses. I think it does, overall, make sense for Belinda to make and execute her plan in such a perfunctory way; it's consistent with the role of death in her life. But I think we needed to see a little more of why it was consistent. And I think I needed to get a sense of why the author thought this was important. In particular, the twist at the very end seemed to belong to a different kind of story entirely; the rest of the story I categorized as 'man's inhumanity to man', but the ending was the ending of a story about the cruel justice of fate. I didn't think Birenda was living in a world that still had a god, and yet the ending strongly suggested someone else's hand at work. Perhaps what I am really saying is that the strings were showing, metaphorically, and I could see the author twisting events to suit their desired outcome (surely the most cursory prenatal tests ought to have prevented the surprise!) but I can't figure out why the author so strongly wanted things to end that way.

You Say You Want a Revolution, by Jerry Oltion - [****-]
This one takes a little while to get off the ground, and I put it down several times at first, but once the Hronan begins talking it is absolutely gripping. This was my favourite 'world' in this issue. It is revealed to us from just the right viewpoint -- a retrospective on tyranny, delivered to the tyrants. Perfect. On a more subtle note, it was well-framed with the specific audience members' reactions; the story would have become too simplistic if they had all been earnest and apologetic, or if they had all been unwilling to listen. It strikes a better balance, having one who responds with sympathy and two who attempt to justify themselves -- I think that's why the ending is as satisfying as it is.

Follow-Up, by Stephen L. Burns - [***--]
The concept caught my interest right away, but there's something about the execution... This is a story that is trying to operate within only one character's viewpoint, while simultaneously allowing the reader to see and understand things that the character doesn't notice. It's a tricky way to tell a story, but it's a great way to engage the reader in a process of discovery and it can really add depth to stories whose events operate on a fairly small scale; it was a good choice for this story. But (and you knew there was a but coming), I think the reader doesn't get enough clues. I kept going back to re-read certain scenes, and even went through the whole story a second time after I finished -- this says a lot of good things about the author's general writing skills, that I cared enough to read it twice, but it's less good that even after the re-reading I felt unsatisfied. The reader has just enough clues to find out that something untoward is happening, and to mostly figure out what is happening, but it's deeply unsatisfying without understanding why it's happening, and I've pretty much given up on that one. So as much as I enjoyed re-reading it, and found its little mystery compelling, I just can't stack it alongside my favourites.

To Serve Aliens (Yes, It's a Cookbook), by Eric James Stone - [*****]
Funny, and it even manages to have hints of a plot toward the end! Absolutely delightful.

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