Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July/August 2006

Reviewed date: 2006 Sep 10
240 pages
cover art

Magazine publishers take notice: when you publish double issues twice a year, they cease to be SPECIAL DOUBLE ISSUEs. Thank you.

The July/August 2006 Analog features a rarity: a science fiction story about linguistics. String of Pearls is a fascinating little story about unraveling the syntax of an alien language. Although the aliens can speak English, they refuse to teach anyone their language. They are willing to teach humans the meanings of individual words, but their grammar and syntax is a jealously guarded secret. The protagonist tries to figure out the language by playing a word game (think Scrabble, but each tile has a word and you try to build syntactically correct sentences) against an alien child. The puzzle of the alien syntax is a clever idea, but I lack enough linguistic knowledge to know if it's feasible. The story is not particularly well written, though, and that is a disappointment. The premise alone makes it worth reading, but it is not a great story.

The rest of the stories were fairly good. Total Loss is humorous and a touch chilling, The Software Soul is predictable but well-written. Witherspin feels too much like fantasy, and The Teller of Time is my least favorite kind of story: time travel.

  • Serial (3 of 4): A New Order of Things, by Edward M. Lerner - After decades of interstellar communication with other races, mankind is treated to a genuine first contact. The species called Snakes arrive in an antimatter-powered spaceship, but their ship is damaged and needs to be refueled. But the untrustworthy Snakes are hiding something.
  • Novella: Kremer's Limit, by C. Sanford Lowe and G. David Nordley - Scientist Hilda Kremer races against time to complete the Ten-Ten black hole experiment before a fear-mongering politician is elected and puts a stop to the research project.
  • Novelette: Witherspin, by Alexis Glynn Latner - Nia Courant is a lawyer trying to protect Martan, an escaped hellhound superwarrior, from his former government--which has sent assassins to kill him.
  • Novelette: The Keeper's Maze, by Joe Schembrie - A derelict spaceship is run by an asimovian AI that isn't supposed to be capable of causing harm to humans, but the AI claims that those who board the vessel will never escape.
  • Novelette: Environmental Friendship Fossle, by Ian Stewart - An investigator discovers a ring of smugglers trafficking in mammoth ivory--but he can't bust them for it because due to mammoths being extinct, it isn't actually illegal.
  • Novelette: String of Pearls, by Shane Tourtellotte - A man employed to work for aliens uses a word game to figure out the complex syntax of the alien language's grammar.
  • Short story: Total Loss, by James Hosek - After Gary Carter breaks his legs in an accident, his medical insurance company tries to write him off a total loss.
  • Short story: The Software Soul, by Brian Plante - A virtual priest simulates mass in virtual reality each week, and is surprised one day when an actual person shows up.
  • Short story: Willies, by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff - A therapist helps her patient overcome an an overeating disorder, while her husband researches why certain sounds (cracking knuckles, fingernails on a chalkboard) cause reactions in people.
  • Short story: The Teller of Time, by Carl Frederick - A professor thinks the harmonic resonance of three synchronized bell towers will create a time anomaly.
  • Science fact: Messengers from the Earth's Core? The Great Plume Debate Heats Up, by Richard A. Lovett - The plume theory of volcanos went unchallenged for decades after its introduction, but when a few scientists disputed the theory, the community went back, did their due diligence, and produced evidence of the theory's correctness.

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