F&SF February 2009

I finally got to the latest Fantasy & Science Fiction. There’s a couple of good new stories here, and one fantastic reprint.

“Shadow of the valley” by Fred Chappell returns to a setting and set of characters introduced in “Dance of Shadows” more than a year ago in F&SF. It’s a fun double-cross story spiced up with florid language conveying an early-renaissance-esque setting. I really enjoyed the constant plot reversals as the protagonist, Falco, and competing shadow-hunter Mutano take turns getting the better of each other.

“The Texas bake sale” by Charles Coleman Finlay is a post-apocalyptic set-piece with a humorous tone, and artillery. The story is all jolly good fun, so much so that a somewhat serious aside in which the protagonist considers the contradictions between his rhetoric and his actions seems out of place.

The highlight of the issue is a reprint of Jack Cady’s “The Night we buried Road Dog”. Originally published in 1993, its reprinted here as part of the 60th anniversary year of F&SF, as a representative of Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s turn as editor of the magazine from 1991 to 1997. I’d seen the story before, probably in Dozois’ Year’s Best… It’s a fantastic scenic piece, evoking the open roads of Montana and car culture; and in the end it turns out that the characters who seemed to be only archetypes actually had more substance than you’d realized.

The very short “Winding broomcorn” by Mario Milosevic didn’t do much for me. By the time I started to feel caught up in the story, it was over. This is the kind of story that feels like it’s hiding a deeper message, but at the time I read it I didn’t have the patience to try to work out what the message is.

Finally, Eugene Mirabelli’s “Catalog” is a somewhat surreal story in which the p.o.v. character seems to have taken a wrong turn into the world of books, catalogs and magazines. It’s dressed up with some mumbo-jumbo about “alternate realities”, but is really mind-bending fantasy. Enjoyable to read, but I was expecting a snappier surprise at the end. I’d call this the best new work in the magazine.

The reviews in this issue were not bad, with De Lint’s and Hand’s columns being insightful as usual; however none of their reviews made me hope to go out and buy an actual book. As usual the reviews here tend to focus on fantasy, while my preference in book lengths is for science fiction. Shepard devotes his entire film column to panning a film that I would have avoided as soon as I heard it stars Vin Diesel.

Other reviews of this magazine are found on The Fix, Suite 101, IRoSF… (will update with more as I find them).

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