With Halloween around the corner, one might have thought that there would have been an extra spooky issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction this month. Nothing doing. The current issue is nothing extraordinary, if not completely forgettable. Having covered the end novellette in my last article, it’s time to cover the rest of the magazine.
I’ve never heard of Vance Aandahl before, but his tiny It’s a Great Big Wonderful Universe, about a sad Terran who has everything but the planet he hails from, is a good aperitif. Four stars.
Robert F. Young is up next with his Romance in a Twenty-First Century Used-Car Lot. It’s a weird extrapolation and intersection of two trends: an increased sanction of promiscuity coupled with a perverse need to be armored against the world. In this story, everybody, but everybody, is expected to wear their own personal automobile at all times. To go without is to be shunned as a “nudist.” It’s all very strange and allegorical, but too silly to be effective. Once again, it’s not up to the standard set by his excellent To Fell a Tree, though I did appreciate that the protagonist was female, and the story’s focus on the very real difficulties they face vis. a vis. men and society. Three stars.
Who dreams of Ivy? is another macabre piece by Will Worthington set in a world marred by institutionalized violence and fear. I’m afraid I didn’t quite get it, or maybe there isn’t much to get. Is there a message to this dark look at election season, where mayors live in constant fear for their lives, and thus take this fear out on their citizens? I feel as if Sheckley’s Ticket to Tranai did it better and more humorously. Three stars.
Next up is an old old reprint, Funk, by John W. Vandercook. It’s a well-written if somewhat pedestrian tale of dark magic on the steamy coast of West Africa. What happens when you build a bank vault right square on the spot where the Crocodile God slithers to devour its periodic sacrifices? Nothing good, I assure you. The closest we get to a seasonal ghost story. Three stars.
I did quite enjoy Combat Unit, from newcomer Keith Laumer, in which a damaged but still-sentient robot tank finds itself behind enemy lines. This is a fine portrayal of metallic, sexless intelligence. Four stars.
Yes, we have no Ritchard, by Bruce J. Friedman (normally a writer for the slicks), is a cute tale about an usual afterlife situation. There is a Heaven and a Hell, but no one goes to Heaven, and Hell isn’t so bad. So how does one distinguish the good from the bad? And what happens to the ego of a good man in such a demoralizing predicament? Three stars.
Finally, we have Isaac Asimov’s latest non-fiction piece, The Element of Perfection. As one might gather from the title, it’s on the discovery of Helium (and, incidentally, the other noble gases). It’s one of my favorite articles from the good doctor–educational and entertaining. Five stars.
No surprises this month: an F&SF that finishes slightly on the positive side of three stars. You won’t regret the expenditure of 40 cents (quite reasonably, really), but I suspect you won’t find yourself returning to this issue very often, either.
Tomorrow, a sneak preview at the month of November!