Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Deal Me In: Playing Catch Up

Still working my way steadily through the short stories for Jay's Deal Me in Challenge--52 short stories in 52 weeks based on shuffling and drawing a new card every week--although you wouldn't know it by my posts recently. When I started this post, I wrote: "I'm a little bit better this time...I'm only one week behind. Last week I drew the Ace of Spades which gave me "Galactic North" by Alastair Reynolds (found in
The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois, ed.; 2000). Well...that's not true anymore. I'll scurry and see if I can get caught up.
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Previous to this short story, my only experience with Alastair Reynolds was his collection of short stories, Zima Blue & Other Stories. (2006) I mention in that review that Reynolds is a hard science science fiction writer with a tendency towards dark stories--but an excellent story-teller. This is evident again in "Galactic North," an earlier story published in 1999. Here we have a story of betrayal, obsession, and revenge that spans 40,000 years of future history. It all stems from an ambush of a cargo ship transporting cryogenically-frozen sleepers. The captain of the ship has been conditioned to do whatever it takes to bring her cargo through safely...even if it means chasing the one she believes has betrayed her through all of space and time.

My next draw was the Four of Clubs. That card matches up with "The Pathologist to the Rescue" by R. Austin Freeman (found in The World's Best 100 Detective Stories Vol 7 by Eugene Thwing, ed).

In this story Dr. Thorndyke does not have the use of DNA to catch a murderer. But he is able to examine a blood sample left at the scene of the crime and he uses knowledge of of a particular disease to help reach the correct conclusion and prove a man innocent. 

Next up is the Eight of Spades...or the short story "Suicide Coast" by M. John Harrison (found in The Year's Best Science Fiction 17th Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois, ed.; 2000).

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This story shows us what people will do to make their lives seem more real once everything is virtual and humanity is "cored" (directly plugged in to virtual reality). But is even the real thing real anymore?

Week #33: I drew the Jack of Clubs which gave me "The Wedding Album" by David Marusck (another from the SF Collection).

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Another story about virtual reality. In this one instead of creating photo albums--people have created Sims of their favorite moments in life. But what happens if your simulations become just as real as you are? What if they demand rights as individuals. And what if all that is left of you is one of your simulations?

Week #34: This time the Nine of Spades comes to the top with "Hunting Mother" by Sage Walker. 

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 "Hunting Mother" continues my run of SF stories from the large Best of...Collection. It tells the story of genetically engineered "humans" colonizing new worlds. The colonists are mixtures of humans and human/animal combinations. Our protagonist, Cougar, has some of the genetics of his namesake. And he faces a choice as his mother, a human, becomes sick and is coming to the end of her life.

Week #35: Another SF story (it's a big book!) when the Four of Diamonds gave me "A Martian Romance" by Kim Stanley Robinson.

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Robinson has been on my SF radar for a long time. But, as far as I can remember, this is the first story I've read by him. This story tells about a terraforming effort on Mars that has gone wrong. The "old ones" who were involved in completing the project are heartbroken that all of their work has been for nothing--but the younger Mars colonists see hope for the future...even on a cold and barren world.

Week #36: The Ten of Hearts finally took me back to mysteries with "Puzzle for Poppy" by Patrick Quentin (in Murder by Experts by Ellery Queen, ed.)

not quite a St. Bernard...

This mystery features Quentin's regular protagonists, producer Peter Duluth and his wife Iris as they try to solve the attempted murder of a St. Bernard. It appears that no one is guilty--but someone clearly must be. Quentin parades all the clues before the reader and yet one feels like one has come to the blank wall at the end of a dead end street. And it's all done with a zany humor that is uniquely Quentin's. [Quentin is a pseudonym used by Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler.]

Week #37: Back to SF with the Seven of Spades and "Hatching the Phoenix" by Frederik Pohl.

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This story takes place in Pohl's universe of Gateway--where the Heechee, an enigmatic race of aliens have left discarded technology which helps humans explore the universe. In this one, an ultra-rich woman has financed a mission to observe a planet whose sun is about to go nova.

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