ESCAPE VELOCITY #2

Reviewed by Gareth D. Jones

Escape Velocity is a fledgling magazine from Adventure Books of Seattle and for only its second issue I was highly impressed by the quality of fiction. The stories tend to be quite short and are interspersed with articles and an interview, as well as a few other bits and bobs, making it a nice easy read. At almost 100 A4 pages it's pretty sizeable, but the clear font and uncramped layout, with numerous B&W illustrations, mean it never feels heavy going.

Testing is a disturbing little piece by Kaolin Fire in which the survivors of a crash gamble for their very lives. Like all the best flash fiction it packs in an amazing amount of power in a very short space.

Sheila Crosby shows that even furniture has feelings in the angst-ridden yet amusing The Appliance of Science. Having installed AI processors all over his home, a housebound student discovers that maybe they're not the kind of company he really wants. The story is full of entertaining dialogue and makes for a pleasant account.

The Zozoian is another very short piece, by Duane Byers, in which an undercover hydrophobic alien discovers the inconveniences of the bad weather. It's briefly sketched yet well described.

There's a certain air of authenticity in Meeting Vanya, the tale of a Russian nuclear test by Viktor Kuprin. Perhaps it's the Russian names, or the realistic sounding technical details, but it makes for an effective little tale.

In Borrowed Time, Gustavo Bondini weaves together two time frames. In one a group of stranded soldiers attempt to make themselves invisible to the enemy fleet. In the other, several years later, the Captain wonders whether he has gone too far, or not far enough. It's a particularly powerful story, one of the best of the issue.

Henry Tjernland's contribution is Fresh, a very short account of the rise and fall of great civilisations, an account that is not entirely as it seems. Like many of the other stories in this magazine, the brevity is just right.

A beautiful android is possibly malfunctioning in Adam Colston's An Empty Kind of Love. It contains a clever twist and describes a future world of marvellous technologies with remarkable ease.

There's a shortage of Oxygen in Michael Anderson's Air. As long as you ignore the improbable lack of environmental consequences, the story is pretty effective. The lonely old man's struggle for survival brings back memories of the opening of Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination and is a poignant little contribution.

There's a salutary lesson for us all to be careful of what we spend, and what we sign, in The Cost of Living, an ironic story from Shaun A Saunders. When the insurance man comes to the door to collect on a policy, it becomes obvious that you should always read the small print. It's an entertaining little story that just gives enough characterisation to involve you in their plight.

In the not too unfamiliar future of Dan Kopcow's Cyber-Tooth Tiger, everyone has appeared in and is defined by reality TV. The only man in the world to have avoided it so far attempts to remain anonymous, but is drawn into the bizarre goings-on in his neighbour's house. The weird antics and a touch of paranoia make this satirical story both gripping and enjoyable.

Everything on the space station is the colour of Silver in Derek Rutherford's story of men desperate to make enough money to return to Earth. There's a good sense of realism to the story--the brief glimpses of station life and society build a solid backdrop. The characters are well-developed and sympathetic, but some of the components are a bit vague, the conspiratorial conversations slightly too cryptic for me to be entirely sure what the outcome was.

Mindreader is a melancholy tale from Nick Wood. A PhD student studying autistic children finds that her research could be taken over by the military and has to decide whether to go along with it or not. That makes it sound very simplistic, but a lot of thought has obviously gone into the main character's development to make it a sympathetic piece.

The Insult is Paul Freeman's very short tale that speculates on the possible outcome of a recent astronomical decision. Brought a smile to round out the issue.

Escape Velocity edited by Geoff Nelder and Robert Blevins. A4, 96pp, US$7.99--also available in electronic format (for other countries and payment options see website).

Website: - www.escapevelocitymagazine.com


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