Analog, Bellwether

Skeptical link of the day: multiple personality disorder (dissociative identity disorder)

I read Analog on the T, where my standards are lower. I even enjoyed Catherine Asaro’s story “Walk in Silence” in the latest issue (April 2003), despite two, count ‘em, two occurrences of “gentle” as an intransitive verb. In general, it shares the strengths and weaknesses of The Last Hawk, Catch the Lightning, and, I can only assume, her other novels: a good plot with weak characterization and a side of wholly unconvincing romance.

At the other end of Analog was part three of “Shootout at the Nokai Corral,” a serial that’s holding my attention over the months despite a very silly setting and intentionally stereotypical characters. “A Deadly Medley of Smedley” doesn’t overcome its silliness nearly as well, and I found “Emma” and “Coming of Age” technically deficient for reasons it probably isn’t worth going into.

On the other hand, Bellwether by Connie Willis was so technically proficient that there’s little I can say about it but go thou and read likewise. It’s a fine example of a subgenre I otherwise wouldn’t have thought existed - sci-fi set in the present time. Usually such books are thrillers about secret corporate conspiracies or, more rarely, secret Amish conspiracies. Bellwether is about scientists working for a think tank, struggling with the inanity of Management Acronyms and the incompetence of their office help. At stake is both pure knowledge and grant money, and the plot is baroque and surprising as usual.

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