JUPITER X

JUPITER X: LYSITHEA

Reviewed by Edward St. Boniface

THE PEOPLE OF THE EARTH, THE PEOPLE OF THE MOON by Mark Patrick Lynch

The life of the Moon is dying. Lyran, clan leader of a group of once-humanoid intelligent marine creatures is on a quest to find the secret of survival for his people, who are trapped by a fragile layer of ice between their artificially Luna-formed environment and space, and he doesn't find it. They are ultimately doomed and there is no oncoming deliverance from the outside or escape for them to hope for. There is no technology for them to cross the void to the Earth's oceans; they do not know if those oceans would even still be habitable. This story is genuinely moving and melancholy and intelligent; showing an unforgiving universe that does not necessarily answer the call of the innocent and deserving. Mother Earth has been murdered by a combination of war and environmental disaster long ago and the last memories of Earth and its life are collectively carried by the water-breathing engineered mutations; an experiment that must eventually fail when the ice envelope beneath which they swim and dream of Earthly lives they have never known finally precipitates away from constant simultaneous boiling and refreezing. Lynch has a lot of potential and evokes the sense of an age passing with a real, convincing sense of helpless, intimate compassion.

PRIMITIVE HUNT, DAY TWO by Monte Davis

Huntin' and shootin' and fishin' with the well-armed cocky and overconfident humes on some distant holiday planet and--guess what? Those dumb aboriginal aliens ain't so dumb and abysmally abo after all! And after a string of potentially hideous perils they come to terms with the alien environment and themselves and each one has learnt a valuable lesson, and... you get the idea from most TV movies of this type. Deliverance in space it ain't. All the types are here--the diffident, slightly dim-witted narrator-ingénue, the wise old straight-shooting-in-an-inevitable-crisis dad, the dependable, smarter-than-he seems burly companion and the tough smokin' fightin' space GI Jane guide to keep them all in firmly and bossy-maternally line. Oh; did I mention the seemingly dumb aboriginal aliens who regard Donald Duck as a sacred semi-divine image (!)... In spite of the tediously over familiar setting and shriekingly obvious dramatic setup this is a fun story generally well plotted enough to save it from becoming lost in derivative banality. In reality this is pure Up The Amazon boy's adventure stuff out of a million resolutely and cheerfully imperialist Tiger or Warlord annuals and the fact it's been repeatedly satirised to death in the 2000AD comic and Dan Dare itself doesn't help the credibility abyss here. The only clichéd thing the characters don't do is call each other 'Old Thing'. It isn't bad but a heck of a lot more wit and subtext will be needed for Day Three of the space safari, Monte...

CANUTE by David McGillveray

'Now what if the silent monolith (the original Stargate) from 2001 could actually speak; or something like it; what kind of incredible story would it tell...' This is another story with a very over familiar premise that is nevertheless written by someone with talent who is trying to find their way. There are no surprises in a tale (again derived from numerous similar 2000AD and Marvel Epic comic stories and a long shelf of old science fiction editions) about an automated defence installation remembering a catastrophe long ago that overwhelmed its world that 'unexpectedly' becomes a parent and/or object of worship as the cycle of evolution begins anew. For this entity it is the sea that throws forth a new race for it to care for and observe. Much of the story is a sorrowing description of the experience by the narrator of a lost collective interpenetrative cybermentalic unity (a solar defence network for Earth), the gradual disintegration of memory coherence in the higher cognitive functions of the computerised life form narrator, and the reluctance of its lonely but necessary vigilant individuality. All of this does come across powerfully and with a real sense of gulfs of time passing that finally bring the new and a new purpose with it the machine could never have anticipated. David McGillveray is good but as in the previous tale this story is predictable and needs something very much more inventive to avoid trawling though such excessively well-travelled gulfs of space and time and machine-melancholia.

14 MONTH CRISIS by Stephen Bai

Two stories, each potentially good on their own, mashed awkwardly together. It starts, like Poul Anderson's Lothario Lochinvar Finger tall futuristic tales, in a seedy Earth bar of the future where an inebriated human and alien get into an improbable conversation. Story 1: A big ugly star beetle comes out of space and without preamble demands the pillars of the Parthenon (or it will excrete us into extinction a la Starship Troopers via Verhoeven) which it appears to use to pick its teeth (actually transferring information; naturally they are an ancient recording medium in disguise), then beetles off happily back into the eternal void leaving the soil of Earth unsoiled. The second story is about finding a way, involving space bandits and primitive aliens (!) to neutralise the unbreakable crystalline plastic the ancient building has been coated in; conveniently without some appropriate Earthly reagent. The appropriate solvent is finally picked up from some regressed 'barbaliens' (to coin a genre type) after the hero seduces the Gaggin' For It alien queen: straight John Carter: Warlord of Mars stuff. Reading this tale is like going through a long shelf of old marked-up science fiction reprint paperbacks, but Stephen Bai does have a sense of fun and irreverence that enlivens the story and makes it readable. However, he does not need to stick where others have been so many times before, or glue good separate ideas together to make one suitably-long tale. I look forward to seeing something entirely his own.

SHADOWS AND STARS by Chris Stageman

Chris Stageman is a very strong writer in embryo and I felt this story to be the best in the magazine. A young woman, not much older than a schoolgirl herself as a first jobber, after an unsatisfying late night drinking session with boring colleagues encounters a little boy sitting on a swing in a local playground very late at night. He is fixated on a star and speaks strangely of beautiful inhabitants of that star calling him to their welcome– he seems to be in some twilight alternate world. Each night he says, swinging, he gets closer to them. Eventually he vanishes. Over the next year the young woman re-examines her aimless, claustrophobic life and realises she is slipping away from her dreams and true aspirations. She starts to haunt the swing, becomes gradually aware of the beckoning star and its benign inhabitants, of being able to leap through the vastness of space and herself eventually becomes like a spectre, not remembering her previous life; waiting for the call of the star and the strange wise creatures there to finally lift her from the past and physically away. Each night she gets closer; and she will soon be there. She too vanishes. There are some shades of HG Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle and Ray Bradbury, in the best sense. There is a real sense of longing, personal angst and spiritual realisation along with a dark and enigmatic sense of the ghostly. It's an ambiguous and satisfying story very sure of itself and I would definitely like to read more of Chris Stageman.

WEAPONS SOLD SEPARATELY by Geoff Nelder

We're in Philip K. Dick territory here; mixed with a little Asimov, bit of Alan Moore or Pat Mills from the original 2000AD comic, one or two Star Trek novels that crossover with Larry Niven's Ringworld saga; dash of X-Files. (Aren't there any Twilight Zone fans left?! Seasons 1 & 2 are out on DVD now!!) An alien mail delivery of useful consumer devices goes astray on Earth! A hapless hick (but smart enough to owe $100 grand to the IRS for unpaid capital gains tax) finds the crashed ship, appropriates the property and starts successfully selling them over the internet. He keeps back the obvious weapons to sell on later only to discover the useful consumer items have such powerful ranges and dangerous effects they might as well be weapons themselves. Things are getting out of hand with secret service agents who invade his apartment (one gets shrink-wrapped in alien plastic and when bullets fly they are deflected from their targets omnidirectionally) when two Dykes From Beyond finally show up to reclaim their merchandise and explain the gaffe. What saves this story from being entirely a clone of so many similar tales is the brilliant twist of explication revealed at the end which I will not spoil. Geoff Nelder has real comic talent and a sense of the absurd, but I think has to take a few steps upward from easy imitation.

MARK IV - Poetry by Kristin Ong Muslim

This is a freeform and symbolically topical poem about the instinctive resistance of native life on Venus to would-be conquerors from Earth. Its intensity and sense of primality resisting a technological invader are impressive, although it lacks structure, however subtle, to give it added impact. But the reader can empathise with the desperation and rage of the unknown things whose home has been violated by the alien Earth ship. Never go to Venus without an invitation; as they say! Seriously, Kristine Ong Muslim is a writer with a lot of raw talent and I hope to see more of her work as she develops it.

The magazine's cover illustration is by Nicholas Waller and internal artwork is by Monte Davis.

Jupiter edited by Ian Redman, 23 College Green, Yeovil, Somerset, BA21 4JR, UK. A5, 52pp, £2.50 or £9/4.

Website: - www.jupitersf.co.uk


Return to Whispers review archive