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Jupiter # 24: SF Magazine April 2009: Jupiter XXIV Locaste

01/05/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

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pub: Ian Redman, 19 Bedford Road, Yeovil, Somerset BA21 5UG, UK. 56 A5 magazine. ISSN: 1740-2069. Price: 2.75 plus postage (UK). 4.99 PDF for 4 issues (requires 1.5mb in mailbox).

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Another issue of 'Jupiter' and six good stories for Science Fiction devotees. Something to look forward to, its arrival comes with changing times and seasons. Jupiter continues to improve, it evolves and the fiction just gets better and better. I like this magazine for lots of reasons, the main one being it's a damn good read!

'Black Water' by David Conyers is an absolutely cracking story. It's one of the best I've read for some time. Set in the future, maybe 100 years hence, Africa's plight has worsened to make today's situation seem like paradise. Torn apart by war and disease, climate change has dried the continent sufficiently to make water the most precious commodity around.

Joseph Nuwangi is a survivor. In order to pay his way through college to become a water engineer, he had already sold two legs and an arm for use in transplant surgery. He gets about using mechanical limbs. Strange as it may seem, the author makes this almost farcical dilemma completely believable. He has a plan which is, on the surface, quite simple and this is to steal Grade A water from Zanzibar, a protected island of wealth and power. This type of water would make a fortune, enough perhaps to escape from Africa. The only trouble is, life is cheap and even the mere suspicion of such a crime would be punishable by instant death.

Even within the limitations of a short story, a believable world has been created with two strong characters, Joseph and an Australian woman called Donna, both trying to make their way as best they can. I particularly liked the use of archaic technology, even in the slums of Dar es Salaam. Well, if this is our future, we had better do something about it soon!

I said this was the best story I'd read for some time. Writing the review of each story as I read it, you're never sure of what might come next. Maybe the next one will be better! That's one of the good things about's full of surprises.

'Sides Of The Coin' by Gustavo Bondoni was a strange tale, a little bit difficult to interpret as to its true meaning. A race called the Oscas inhabit the Earth. Magical beings in tune with nature, they live without technology and have dragons to help them with agricultural duties. Apparently, there is a sealed cube from which every hundred or so generations, whatever time-span that may in their reality, hoards of marauding humans break out to wreck havoc.

Each time they are beaten back to the confines of the cube only to emerge another day, wiser and deadlier. Each time the Oscas must do battle, often at great expense, using increasingly ingenious tactics to win the war. This time, however, the humans attack with powerful machines that can float over the ground. Will this be the end of the Oscas?

Andrew Knighton gave us 'Our Man In Herrje'. It tells the story of a communications officer serving with an embassy on a cosmopolitan world. In order to communicate with handsomely dressed tentacled aliens called Gatherers, he has to wear a throat constrictor to achieve the necessary high pitch, which as he describes, despite being uncomfortable is preferable to being kicked in the testicles at regular intervals by his secretary.

A humorous story, there were moments of poignancy which were quite revealing about human behaviour. Terrorist activities were taking place by a group of Gatherers against humans and their television transmissions which was now reaching their area of the galaxy. They wanted the transmissions stopped immediately because the incessant lying humans aggravated their religious beliefs. The communications officer is kidnapped but he just cannot stop telling white lies. A very entertaining story, somewhat reminiscent of Eric Frank Russell, it was cleverly written and enjoyable to read.

'The Ninth Circle' by AJ Kirby was a rather long and intriguing story. In first person, it described life aboard an old spaceship wandering amongst the stars on a mission which became rather vague in nature even to the crew. Following a plague, society was in decline and a military junta controlled Earth. The crew is divided between rough rednecks who seem to be in charge and others of a feeble nature such as scientists and technicians.

One of the rednecks is on trial for apparently chucking someone out of an airlock. Matters are made worse when he smashes up the robot and destroys the only link to real knowledge they possessed. The mental state of the narrator declines as his life on the ship becomes the equivalent of descending into hell as in Dante's Inferno. Likewise the spaceship, a large rumbling affair, is composed of nine levels descending towards a central hub. Thoughts of the film 'Event Horizon' came to mind. This tale becomes progressively darker, obscure and depressing until its culmination in a terrible event.

Two other stories made up the list. 'If You Can't Beat Them...' by James McCormick describes how two galactic rival gang bosses will go to any length to get one over on the other, including genetic manipulation. One becomes a swamp creature while the other changes to a super robot. Time passes, an escalation of modification occurs and the final battle commences. The last story, 'Dog's Best Friend', a one-page offering from Gareth D Jones, is set in the Roadmaker universe and tells of a man's relationship with his dog.

Yes, a very satisfying magazine. I look forward to the next issue which will be number 25. Jupiter is ascending in the firmament.

Rod MacDonald

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