This was another title I picked up from the Alban Lake dealer’s table.
It appears to be the second in an annual publication dedicated to science fiction stories and poems about the exploration and colonization of space though Mars does not play a role in every story. All the stories are independent. This is not a shared world project.
Since it’s an annual publication, I’m going to treat it like a book.
Review: The Martian Wave 2011, ed. J. Alan Erwine, 2011.
I imagine reading this anthology is something like reading the second tier stories in the slushpile at Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Most of the stories involve plausible sounding technical problems which are solved, not always timely, by clever, rational characters who use science and logic.
But there’s something missing from most of them, some element that didn’t push them into the acceptance pile. They are caught between the obvious, badly presented dreck, and being satisfying stories. (I’m not going to talk about the poetry. I only review poems in books where there’s nothing but poems.)
First, the satisfying stories.
Laura R. Givens “Grand Ol’ Space Opry”, where a son of Kentucky (though he’s never set foot on Earth) nicely manages first contact, was mildly satisying. I thought Givens’ idea of Zero G square dancing was novel and plausible.
“A Miner Delay” from Robert N. Stephenson worked for me as a neat variation on the oh-I’m-a-poor-oppressed-android/robot subgenre though I didn’t quite buy that an “emotional package” for robots would lead to better and faster decision making.
Robert J. Mendenhall’s “Full Moon” had a nice set up: the twin problems of feeding the evacuees from an asteroid-smacked Earth and a man’s unspoken love for his Captain. Mendenhall resolves it, but I didn’t quite buy the solution to one of those problems.
I liked Douglas A. Smith’s “Hydrogen” which has an interesting scientific puzzle as to why critical systems in a spaceship seem to be malfunctioning and the crew sickening. However, Smith hints, to no real good erotic or character-development purpose, at a sexual relationship between two crew members. And the ending of the story is oddly flat and seemingly ambiguous though I don’t think Smith intended that.
Besides Smith’s story, another couple of stories had interesting ideas at their heart. Dan Thompson’s “Terminator” has the plausible conceit of setting off a nuke in a carefully hollowed out nickel-iron asteroid and letting the resulting molten mass segregate into various minerals. But the danger Smith provides, an alien weapon, seems little more than a convenient plot device since Smith doesn’t provide enough background on the war it’s from.
I flat out didn’t like most of N. E. Chenier’s “Latency”. The scenes were presented with unnecessary, faux documentary tags. The characters were numerous and hard to keep track of. The plot involves a planetary survey mission whose members began to go crazy in unusual ways. The why of this and what to do about it was interesting, but the early 7/8ths of the story needs a reworking.
And that, actually, was my impression of most of these stories: a little more work, another rewrite, would have made them better because they already had something decent at their core.
Will I get more of the Martian Wave books? Well, I think the paper edition of The Martian Wave 2012 is overpriced at $10. However, publishing of the series has been taken over by Nomadic Delirium Press, and you can get the 2012 through 2014 editions of the series for between $2.99 and $3.99 from the publisher or Amazon, so I may take a look at future installments in the Kindle editions.