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Locus short fiction reviewer (and Locus Online editor) Mark R. Kelly counted almost 1900 works of short fiction published in 1998, almost 500 in the half-dozen principal magazines of the field: Asimov's, Analog, F&SF, Interzone, Science Fiction Age, and Realms of Fantasy. Which stories should you read, if you only have time for a few? This page will post brief reviews of notable stories in current magazines -- and we'll try hard to get reviews here while the issues are still on the stands.

Longer reviews of these and other stories will appear in the September issue of Locus Magazine.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction August 1999

Michael Kandel, ''Hooking Up''
Topaz and her parents move back to Earth from the planet Nerol, and Topaz has to make new friends in a school where the other kids are 'hooked up'--they have 'plon' implants in their heads that let them be on the net all the time. Topaz has misgivings about receiving a plon herself, but eventually agrees to have it done. But before she does, the system crashes. An elegantly written story not so much about the dangers of computer networks or cybernetic implants as about how people adjust to new social conditions; how Topaz learns to fit in, make new friends, hook up.

R. Garcia y Robertson, ''Strongbow''
In 12th century Wales, Clare is set to inherit a castle on the river Ebbw where her stepfather lies on his deathbed. Threatened by her stepbrother, Edmund, who if not for her would be heir, Clare joins in a coven to contact the ghost of her real father, Strongbow, who promises his every assistance. The relationships and politics take the first half of the story to sort out, but after that it becomes an exciting, dramatic tale.

William Sanders, ''Jennifer, Just Before Midnight''
Writer Keith Graham attends a science fiction convention, reluctantly, at his wife Margaret's urging, despite the fact she's lying in the hospital terminally ill. He meets a beautiful woman in the hotel bar, Jennifer, and spends a rapturous night with her; then has not one but two shocks the next morning. The story is perceptive about SF cons and fans, touching in its emotional resolution.


Interzone July 1999

Alastair Reynolds, ''Galactic North''
Two crewmen aboard an interstellar ramliner of 'reefersleep' colonists, whose ship has stopped for repairs, find themselves attacked by pirates, captured, tortured for the access codes to their cargo of sleepers. The captain, Irravel, wakes later aboard her abandoned and ravaged ship, determined to pursue her attacker and enact retribution. This story is remarkably similar in scope to Robert Reed's ''Baby's Fire'' in the July Asimov's; both bear the hard SF constraints of slower than light travel, and both describes pursuits that span hundreds of light years and thus centuries of time. But where Reed goes inward, Reynolds goes out.

Keith Brooke and Eric Brown, ''The Flight of the Oh Carrollian''
Fluxmaster Julius Frayn has come to Earth in search of his son Sylvian, who grew up on Cynthera but -- lacking the ability with the flux himself -- rebelled at the grotesque ceremony that made his mother Caller of the Songlines and gave his father the ability to navigate them across interstellar space. Now Frayn is hired by a strange, arrogant old man for a short trip around Earth; but during the transition in dreamflux, Frayn experiences odd visions of his estranged son. The metaphysics are as bizarre as any in the planetary adventures by these authors; but the situation and its resolution are cleverly complex and satisfying.

(Tue 27 July 1999)

© 1999 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.