ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE #15

edited by Warren Lapine

DNA Publications / 60 pages / May 2001

ASIN: B006P2USB8

Normally, the stack of books in my to-be-reviewed pile keeps me away from magazines, but the name Steve Sawicki on the cover of Absolute Magnitude is enough to lure me away for awhile. And, judging by this issue, it’s good to make a change every now and then. Short, sweet, and packed with quality material — Absolute Magnitude is one to keep an eye on, to keep abreast of the state of science fiction.

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Surely the strangest selection in the magazine is Sawicki’s “Invisible Friends,” but if you are familiar with his writing this comes as no surprise. Done in modern epistlary style, the story explores the odd relationship between the protagonist — which just happens to be the very same Steve Sawicki — and his housemates: the prolific monkeys and the mad-scientist damnaliens. What goes on this household is so outrageous, so audacious, readers may start to doubt how much of it is actually happening. Don’t worry; as the story progresses, those doubts will do nothing but multiply. Who cares what’s going on? It’s hilarious.

Michael Burstein offers the most disturbing and thought-provoking piece in the issue. Aptly named, “The Cold Calculations” takes a chilling look at the value of life, based on the commonly accepted definition of life. If all minds are created equal, are, then, some minds more equal than others? Zecca may just change your thinking on that topic. Author Chris Bunch must be puzzling out the same problem; “Mirror” offers a probing view on the nature of life.

Challenging the rules of life is the focus of Matthew S. Rotundo’s “Black Boxes.” The serial killer stalking public defender Jeremy Aldrich’s city sees something dreadfully wrong with the system, but his attempt to understand is both misguided and lethal. And all of Aldrich’s efforts to save his client cannot change that fatal fact.

Rounding out the fiction selections is a narrative reminiscent of Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope.” Geoffrey A. Landis’ tense “Mirusha” brings home the icy loneliness of outer space in a way few stories have accomplished. He writes with an immediacy that recalls all too clearly the tragedies of our own quest for the stars.

These stories, intelligent and insightful reviews, and a quirky look at one of America’s most notorious cities, plus a fresh slant on the disastrous election of 2000 by Editor-in-Chief Warren Lapine, make for one entertaining and interesting package. Absolute Magnitude may sometimes get overlooked among the herd of science fiction and fantasy magazines on the market, but, if every issue is on the level of this one, it merits a closer look. Top names, emerging names, and original material — take the time to catch an issue and broaden your horizons. It’s well worth the effort.