Dec 19th, 2017, Carbo by Nick Wolven, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, Nov/Oct 2017.
Blurb: Nick Wolven wrote one of my favorite SF short stories of 2016, also published in F&SF mag, Caspter D. Luckinbill, What Are You Going to Do? was a wonderful look at how personalized media and advertisement can be used against consumers by elite hackers. Carbo is a look at how autonomous cars may go awry. It’s a sprawling adventure with a ton of sexuality mixed in, pointing out some of the baser aspects of our culture, predominantly marketed to men. While it certainly has some social value to it and makes some interesting points, some of the solutions to the protagonist’s problems don’t seem plausible, nor does he seem particularly bright, which makes him hard to root for. Luckily, it’s an interesting enough piece that it will keep you reading. (C+)
Dec 20th, 2017, I Met A Traveler In An Antique Land by Connie Willis, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Nov/Dec 2017.
Blurb: This isn’t a short story. It’s a novella, and I’ve been reading it here and there for a few days now. The premise is pretty interesting. A writer who is visiting NYC does an interview with a radio station in which he claims brick and mortar bookstores are obsolete. He’s a believer that society naturally selects what it needs. And what it doesn’t need these days, are brick and mortar bookstores. Directly after this, the protagonist runs into a brick and mortar bookstore. But it’s not normal. It has bowels of endless books that nobody could possibly care about, and the shop doesn’t seem to be selling them. There are no prices.
I’ll not spoil it for you. But it has everything to do with the loss of knowledge.
While interested and well written enough to keep one reading, I felt as though I always knew where this piece was going to end. Furthermore, I also knew what was going on and even by the end the protagonist still doesn’t get it, which detracted from the tension and mystery of the piece. Further furthermore, the only bit of character development in this piece is at the very beginning. The protagonist seems more like a tour guide for the reader than a person, and I never really had a good idea of who this character was/is. (C)
Dec 21st, 2017, The Nanny Bubble by Norman Spinrad, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Nov/Dec 2017.
Blurb: A near future look at the dangers of virtual reality–this story follows Ted, an 11-year-old baseball wiz, MVP of the little league, and star of the virtual world he plays in–which is fixed so that he is always the star. When his father accidentally drives into the wrong entrance in the park, the poor entrance where a bunch of teenagers are playing baseball on a grungy field, Ted’s worldview is changed and he devises a plan to escape the “nanny bubble” which keeps tabs on him constantly, and attend one of these pickup games.
It’s a great story for anyone who’s ever had a moment playing a sport when you perform better than others thought they should due to some preconceived notion of your ability. It’s also a wonderful commentary on how kids are just walking around with their heads in VR or AR these days, like Pokemon Go and things like that. Short enough to be an “idea piece” that doesn’t beat the idea to death, and long enough to feel as though the character, Ted, really changes through. A really good piece. (B+)