Ah, what a bittersweet tale we have to start this edition of Jupiter! The mouse, among other things, made me wonder whether Monte Davis received inspiration for The Truth About Watermelon Seeds from the classic Flowers for Algernon? There’s excellent attention to the psychological makeup of the protagonist as he drives through the nights looking for meteorites to sell. The tale does start off rather slowly; I was on page 3 wondering when something was going to happen, before Something Did. It’s a bit of an astronomical coincidence, but as long as you’re happy to overlook it as a deus ex machina then the rest of the story is rather wonderful.
Jonathan Gillespie’s From a Cleft in the Rock centres on a tribe of religious insects living underground and threatened by mysterious giants. Their precarious existence is developed well, but as the tale is told in the first person it rather limits the viewpoint. Because of this I was left slightly puzzled as to the significance of the conclusion, but enjoyed it nonetheless.
There was one slight irritation with The Walking Distances by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith, namely that the main character is called Tom Smith. Either the author couldn’t think of a different name, or it’s an attempt to make us think it a true story; either way it was unnecessary. That’s my only complaint, however, against this story of a man investigating mysterious sounds in the wilderness in the middle of the night. There’s a satisfying blend of anticipation and suspense, with a spot of mania thrown in, and an intriguing conclusion.
Robert Parsons gives us a Martian archaeologist investigating The Roots of Martian Civilisation as that same civilisation crumbles around him. There’s a very clever concept used in the story of a recording device that relies on up to a dozen senses, rather than just sound. How the Martian uses these senses to understand his world, as well as make recordings, is well thought out and reminded me of the kind of thing you might expect from one of David Brin’s Uplift novels.
Wreck, Slash, Burn by Christine Ong Muslim is an odd yet entertaining story of what your household robots might be discussing as you sleep. At only one page it’s more of a vignette than a story, but I found it endearing in a daft kind of way.
A spaceman stranded on an uncivilised world is the basis for the Hitchhiker’s Guide style story Stranded by Jason Gaskell; there’s even a character called Arthur. It’s hugely enjoyable, assuming you like that kind of thing, which I do, full of great characters and bizarre happenings. The highlight of the magazine for me.
The Thirteenth Brigade by Manda Benson goes for a different style of humour altogether: dumb spacemen and flatulence jokes. Not really my sense of humour, but there are some great concepts nonetheless. The thirteenth brigade is a troop of bioengineered cockroaches used in space exploration. A brilliant idea, I thought, initially expecting a bit of hard-SF action. There is some of that, including an ingenious gas-propelled pogo stick for travelling the icy wastes of Ganymede, and the ending is perfect.
There are poems too, not to be forgotten, but I couldn’t tell you how good they are; I have no idea. The layout and font of the magazine is nice and clear and the A5 size makes it perfect for drinking with a cup of tea!