This is one of those several months after the facts book reviews, so if it sounds like a dream being recounted in a dream, that’s why.
“Jill the Giant-Killer” by William Tuning and Ewing Edgar: Most noticeable here are the fact of the scientist heroine overcoming sexism both in the larger culture and in scientific circles in particular in order to achieve her dream of stopping tornadoes through using tactical missile strikes delivered by fighter planes. Also noticeable, how simply and acutely boring this story is. It epitomizes all the strikes against Hard SF, especially in the use of technical specifications as though they are innately interesting and flat, nearly dead language.
“Building Block” by Sonya Dorman: This story, compared to the last, is actually quite fascinating even if both are relying on very little action in the story themselves. Here, though, character is key. Arachne is a designer of space homes, expensive but highly desired homes in low orbit around the planet, and she’s suffering a creative block. The story simply follows her as she attempts to overcome that block, and, eventually, almost by accident she does. Despite not much happening in the story, it held my interest because Arachne is fascinating.
“Child of All Ages” by P. J. Plauger: Another fascinating story, which made me feel like I was winning with this issue (as opposed to the others, which provided mostly stories to slog through, up to my ankles in it–then again, “Jill the Giant-Killer” took up a third of this issue and was the slog to beat all slogs, so sloggy I’m still scraping slog off my shoes). Here is a child who is immortal, but is immortal always as a child. She can die. She can be studied by science, and dissected to see what makes her tick, and so she continually needs to find a new family to protect her, to adopt her as their child, until they–as they always do–become scared by the fact that she doesn’t age. It’s a sad story, one embedded with loneliness, but worth the read.
“Lifeboat” (part 2 of 3) by Gordon R. Dickson and Harry Harrison: Spoiler: Our main character did it. He exploded the bomb that destroyed the ship that trapped him and all the survivors on the titular lifeboat. Other than that revelation, the story continues with its sexism and classism and the insistence that we identify with the main character even when he’s a complete tool. I will not, sir. I will not.
“Mail Supremacy” by Hayford Peirce: A joke story using the RETURN TO SENDER response from the post office to kickstart interstellar communication and bring humanity into galactic society. It’s three pages longer than it needs to be, at three pages.