JUPITER XVIII: THEMISTO

Reviewed by Lawrence R. Dagstine

Jupiter XVIII: Themisto, named after a small prograde irregular satellite of Jupiter, discovered in 1975, lost, and then rediscovered, comes in print form at a decent, and most delightful, 56 pages.

Editor Ian Redman never ceases to amaze with this black and white quarterly of quality Hard, Soft, and Sociological SF in varying lengths. Sometimes SF poetry, too. For me, it's a privilege and an honor to have appeared within Jupiter's pages, and I thank Mr. Redman for producing such a publication; I wish they were all made like this. And after four and a half years and eighteen issues, the success of the magazine shows. American audiences should consider this import; it can be ordered from their homepage (www.jupitersf.co.uk), or places such as The Genre Mall (www.genremall.com).

Our first story takes us to the world of Murer in The Halo Effect, written by Corey Kellgren. Halo Effect had an interesting premise. The landscape of Murer, the system in which two cultures, one with violent tendencies and the other in which they are suppressed, was very reminiscent of modern-day Palestine and Israel. Glen Bearth is a journalist for the Port Horn Herald, traveling abroad to get his region's newspaper a story on one of the hottest intergalactic songwriters from the violent part of the planet, known as the Reservation. The inhabitants of the Reservation are a species called Elementals, and they're capable of committing random acts of violence on either themselves or visiting others. However, upon closer inspection they seem to “shine”, where the human inhabitants of Port Horn are under the suppression of Halo, something the Elementals co-designed. Only they never used it on themselves. As Glen interviews the musician, memories start to flood back from his own youth when violence on the world must have been more prevalent. It's almost as if he misses it himself. Near the end, he's led by a bookstore owner named Sadie to the Halo Effect antidote, a cure to a suppression instilled in every school-aged child on the planet. The story also shows snippets of what happens when a culture is purposely devoid of rationalization or freedom of choice and movement, and what can happen when someone from one society visits the other and sees the differences and changes for themselves.

In Racer's Gambit, by Christopher Lockhart, we have what appears to be at first a science fantasy yarn, one which meets not so much the action scenes of Total Recall, but the elements of a virtual-vacationer's paradise. Yes, it takes place on Martian sands, and it's the story of Danner, a junior racer surrounded by the Dynosphere. The Dynosphere, it seems, is what makes the illusions and virtuality prevalent in this tale. His goal, along with Adara's, is to get off Mars and go to a place called Nath. Nath is a place filled with beautiful skies, sugary sands, breathtaking scenery. At the moment, Danner can only experience Nath through the Dynosphere's virtual protocol. To live it, he must win a race where the money and reward is great, a race where the stakes are high and the futuristic race-skids have cryogenic fuel tanks, oxygen/hydrazine mix cylinders, and other probable and improbable technologies attached. The racing elements reminded me of a book I once read from the 1950s where there is this great stockcar race through Italy, only Lockhart's tale is originally told using elements of scifi and virtual reality. In this other book there was also a lot at stake (money, vacationer's paradise, etc). I believe it was called Green Helmet; a must read.

Third we have Run Off by R.R. Angell. Aiken Conner works a communications engineering job, but hates it no end, and his lifestyle, too. It takes place in a future where mortgages, finances, and the amount of time a person must work is ridiculous in terms of longevity. The backdrop presents us with a human culture that has not only become a society and system of overextension in bad work-related ethics, but people like Aiken are drones on overdrive, living life to just pay the bills then die. Such could be said about the lesser humans in this particular story, referred to as Ambients. It seems the Ambients have the highest cancer rates but no possibility of a cure. They're also represented as the plagued and contaminated. When Aiken is sent off on a tour of duty by his boss to assist Bicogen, a billion dollar food-trade trade-work company for Ambients, he becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that will take him to the computer files of the World Cancer Institute and many Fortune 50 companies. He soon learns that there's more to Bicogen than meets the eye, in the form of a possible cover-up, one which may involve Ambient society as a whole.

Fourth we have Pathological Necessity by Guy T. Marland. In this story, we have two doctors in a futuristic hospital setting, Sam and Lex. Both men, along with the rest of the staff are being watched by Partner. Partner seems to be responsible for the camera system which makes the medical surroundings in this tale seem like a cross between The Truman Show and Ed TV. Better yet, think “Big Brother”, only maybe for sadistic purposes because patients and staff are being watched from all angles during examinations and operations. It raises the question what happens when privacy is no longer a given right in this world, and we have no choice but to be recorded. However, the haunting part is that the doctors and nurses must present a positive image to the camera system, and always when they're with patients. Partner is a doctor, too, but there is more to him than meets the eye. If anything, I enjoyed the short cat-and-mouse aspect of the story, between Sam trailing Partner down to find out who he was, and what he was up to. It eventually comes into play that the cams that record everything are filled with virus software.

Fifth we have The Blue Man's Burden by Elaine Graham-Leigh. A girl is found alone and abandoned in the country, and taken in by a blue-skinned species of sorts. I would have to classify this tale as science fantasy, and it involved an overabundance of wordy Terran politics; it was Earth in the future where extraterrestrials have a United Planets agreement; many cultures, not only humans, thrive there, but for people in the story like Yalla and Caris this isn't always what it seems. The United Planets agreement is eventually disregarded, while high tensions abound after some kind of crime is committed on the aliens' homeland or the laws are abused, and the story does bring racial profiling and forms of criminal punishment between terrestrial and non-terrestrial cultures into scope, even if it wasn't entirely intended.

Last but not least, Jupiter XVIII is topped off with a short SF poem by Tracy Patrick, called The Outer Edge, and a short book review by Piers Bizony on The Man Who Ran The Moon.

All in all, a great issue.

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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