Fantasy & Science Fiction July '08
by Gordon Van Gelder (ed.)
160 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Science Fiction
This review should attest to exactly how far behind I am on reading--I was sent this copy of the magazine for free, as part of a blogger giveaway, in early May. And I'm reviewing the July issue in late August. Ah, well.
My verdict: highly disappointing, considering that F&SF is basically the tippy-top of the speculative short fiction market. Anthologies are hit-or-miss for me, but this issue of F&SF contained one story that I loved and one that I enjoyed out of 7 stories. The magazine leads off with "Fulbrim's Finding" by Matthew Hughes, a long and extremely boring SF story about a "discriminator," aka private investigator, who searches for a missing "seeker of substance" and in the process discovers the truth of reality. It doesn't live up to such weighty intentions, being presented with stiff, distracting prose and an unsympathetic, unethical protagonist. The world-building is unoriginal and too techy, leaving the reader bewildered like Fulbrim's poor wife Caddice. Ending parallels theme; both are thoroughly unsatisfying.
Thankfully, the next story lifted my spirits. "Reader's Guide" by Lisa Goldstein operates on a truly original conceit and goes on to support itself as a light (though not wholly humorous), enlightening tale. It is impossible to describe without spoilers, so I won't try, but Goldstein's contribution is the sole reason this will remain on my bookshelf. However, Michael Blumlein's novella "The Roberts" should not be discounted. It uses the extra length successfully. The world-building isn't standout but the characters are
interesting, major and minor both--I especially liked Stanovič's accent. Plot builds evenly to a strong conclusion and a new understanding of the (apt) title.
After which, I had to endure four stories of varying ennui. Paul DiFilippo's "Plumage from Pegasus" begins with an intriguing concept but has no meaning or substance. I seriously can't tell if it's fiction or nonfiction. This is not a good thing. "Enfant Terrible" by Scott Dalrymple follows; weird
(in the imitation-punk fashion) is the best descriptor, and the second-person narration feels like an unnecessary gimmick. I skimmed Albert E. Cowdrey's "Poison Victory" one-sentence-per-page at one point--a new low of boredom, I believe--and on top of that, the story is semi-incomprehensible due to random German phrases. "The Dinosaur Train," by James L. Cambias, ends the issue on a slightly stronger note, but only in comparison. I found the plotline suspenseful but the ending lackluster and predictable. Some characters approach caricature and others are realistic--too realistic, as I wasn't invested in their fates.
I will probably still buy another copy of F&SF in the future, when yhlee
's story comes out (the elemental-music one, I believe?), but that will be in spite of rather than because of this complimentary copy. My regrets.