Monday, April 03, 2017

Abyss & Apex reviews "Another Girl, Another Planet"

Good Lord, Lou Antonelli did something I thought was impossible. He made me like an alternative history story,  and usually I hate those.

The story starts and ends with three aluminum crosses under a Martian sky.  In between we are treated to a world where the West and the Eastern Bloc have a space race, instead of an arms race, and the moon is an old colony: Mars is the new frontier.  As with any alternative history piece there are names and events you will recognize, but in new contexts. In this world Asimov and a team make real robots, then androids, and the androids cause that world’s equivalent of the Cuban missile crisis. This gets robots, and androids, exiled to the moon, and then Mars.

Dave Schuster gets sent to Mars as a political appointee. The head of the government there is dead and the second in command dies when he is enroute: he is the Martian government, for now.  Dave finds out that the old governor got less and less done as he got ill, and the second in command did nothing but party. He has his work cut out for him, catching up on the backlog. As Dave tackles the work a number of things do not add up until he sees hidden danger amid the charm of the techie frontier and the threat grows so out-of-control it reminded me of the sort of situation Miles Vorkosigan would get into.  I am not going to spoil the ride by telling you more than the plot touches on the concept of self-aware robots in surprising ways.

Larry Niven blurbed the book.  He loved it, and said it was great ideas, well told. He was right.

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If you would like to read the review on the web site, go here.

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"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place. "Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " -

- Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be. Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

“Great White Ship”: A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act. This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read. Recommended.

- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

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