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The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction # 658 (February 2007)
editor: Gordon Van Gelder
$4.50

review by Jim Steel

One of the advantages of publishing a magazine on a (mostly) monthly basis is that serials are less annoying than they would be in a less regular publication. It still all depends on the individual readers and how they feel about being left hanging. The Helper And His Hero is the first half of another of Matthew Hughes' Vancian stories of Guth Bandar in the penultimate age of Earth. When first discovered, Hughes' baroque and decadent tales can seem a bit heavy going but persevere with them, get yourself used to the taste, and you will find yourself reading something quite wonderful. These ornate, witty stories are going to be talked about for decades. Here, Bandar takes a trip across the blasted Swept in a giant landship with the usual collection of fools and charlatans. Bandar is no stranger to chicanery himself and tries to keep his distance from the others, but is dragged into events by a mysterious young man, Wasslethorpe, who seems to have an unusual affinity for the noösphere (Hughes' collective dreamworld). The cover of this issue looks like a generic sword and sorcery picture but is actually illustrating some of the archetypes that Bander and Wasslethorpe run across while exploring the noösphere.

Alexander Jablokov's Brain Raid is also told with some wit, but much less ambition. This novelet is a hardboiled pastiche about people who hunt down rogue AIs. And one day someone should really investigate the reason why F&SF and Asimov's SF spell 'novelet(te)' differently.

Stone And The Librarian is William Spencer Browning's tribute to Robert E. Howard. Maybe tribute's the wrong word. In a far off age, Stone the barbarian is forced to study the classics of western literature. All those Prousts and Dostoevskys. And then he has to write (hilariously inept) reports on them. He snaps, of course. No one comes out of this story looking good. The story itself is great. S.L. Giblow's Red Card is a one trick pony. If you have one of the red cards, you are allowed to kill one person. Anyone you like.

Sometimes, coming to the end of a good story, one can feel sad about having to leave a world that one has enjoyed. It's much more poignant when you know that you're reading what might be the last new story from a writer. John Morressy died in 2006 and the last of his submissions are seeing print around now. Fool is a dark revenge novelet set in a renaissance era world where magic works and may be one of the few advantages that the disadvantaged can call upon. Of course, the magic is also controlled by Medici-like figures, and our (physically and mentally) twisted antihero has to get his hands on it in the first place. It's a fitting swansong for Morressy.

Then there are the columns. Paul Di Fillipo has his Plumage From Pegasus, which takes a recent development or news story tangential to the field and extrapolates it to the point of ridiculousness. This time it's one called Our Feynman Who Art In Heaven and deals with the disappearance of a theoretical physicist that was mentioned in New Scientist. If it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck... these columns are short stories, and funny ones at that.

Charles de Lint and Michelle West tackle books, and Kathi Maio covers films, and that's pretty much all the main items in this issue.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 658

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