JUPITER XVI: METIS

Reviewed by Jim Steel

Jupiter has acquired a reputation as one of the most dependable small press magazines around. Ian Redman has managed to produce an issue every quarter for the last four years, which is virtually unheard of in this business. He also manages to find enough decent hard SF most of the time without having to resort to filler and it's generally a good read.

The presentation is very clean--minimalist, even. There is a monochrome cover (which sometimes reproduces far too darkly to be clearly visible--there have been worse examples than this cover) but no interior illustrations except for back issue advertisements. There is also a brief editorial introduction, but that is it for non-fiction. There is not as much as a single contributor biography inside. Even the typeface is san serif. What you do get are pages and pages of fiction laid out in double columns. It must be said that it is a format that works.

There are five stories in this issue, each of at least 5000 words in length, and the first is Gareth D. Jones's Roadmaker. Something's happened. Civilisation has collapsed but in one village it's not too bad. People reminisce about the old days but are reluctant to get things going again. Then, one day, some probes start appearing that initially seem like space probes. It turns out that they're scouts for an automated road-making system that is heading straight for the village. It's a gorgeous story, reminiscent of Ian McDonald's Desolation Road or of Ray Bradbury, and it's the highlight of this issue.

Lee Moan's Medea's Children suffers in comparison but it does have some great aliens to make up for the awkwardness of the human interaction. A colony on the planet Medea finds to its surprise that there is intelligent life and a war breaks out. A human mother trying to find her kidnapped child runs across the estranged father in the ruins of a human town.

Don't let the overblown title of When the World Stood Still so Everyone Could Hear put you off. Ralph Greco, Jr. is responsible for the smoothest prose style here. A man enduring a present day Britney concert with his niece is blasted back in time to 1977, when he was blown away by Pink Floyd at his first gig. Yes, I know. But trust me on this--it's a fine evocation of the power and flaws of nostalgia. I'm not sure that you could call it hard SF, though, but that's not a problem.

One might wonder if Geraint D'Arcy wrote Songs of Jupiter specifically for this magazine. It's set ten years in the future when universal peace on Earth has broken out. The cause seems to be something to do with a Jovian moon and a hugely expensive project is launched to investigate. Bye-bye, peace dividend. The narrator is one of the few people disturbed by this 'utopia' that has arrived. The story reads somewhat jerkily due to the episodic pieces of media reportage that are dropped in without warning.

Caroline Bates' Conflict starts out like another war-is-hell story but soon rises above that. A wounded soldier is rescued by a winged woman, much like an angel or Valkyrie, and is flown to hospital. There the real reason for the war becomes apparent.

It's a strong issue of Jupiter this time around, but there is one small problem that the reader should be made aware of. Due to a typographical error, the first lines of some of the stories have been attached to the end of the previous story. This will be particularly confusing if you tend to dip into magazines and read stories at random, but don't let it put you off (Ian Redman assures us this problem only occurred in the first few copies that were sent out and has been rectified for all later copies - Ed).

Jupiter edited by Ian Redman, 19 Bedford Road, Yeovil, Somerset, BA21 4UG, A5 56pp, £2.75 or 4/£10.00

Website: - www.jupitersf.co.uk


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