With its second issue, Astounding Frontiers moved almost entirely to a serial-story format. I’ve seen very few serious attempts to bring back serials, so it will be interesting to see how this magazine does.
I don’t think it’s fair to compare episodes of a serial to stand-alone short stories, so I think I’ll remove Astounding Frontiers from my magazine quest/contest. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading it. Let’s see if the stories are any good:
Dead Man Walking by Scot Washam. This wasn’t explicitly listed as a serial, although it left plenty of room to become one. It’s a pretty good zombie-apocalypse survivor story.
The Long Freeze by Karl Gallagher. Two men wake up in a cryopreservation facility. One had been frozen awaiting a cure for cancer, the other as a punishment for being antisocial. (Watch out if facebook and twitter start making large-scale liquid nitrogen purchases!) It turns out the men had been frozen for an unknown number of years, and another species seems to be running the planet.
This story by itself is enough to make me purchase issue #3. I’m fond of far-future post-apocalyptic stories to begin with, and I liked the dynamic between the two characters. The old man is fatalistic, knowing there’s no cure for him in this new world, but he makes every effort to impart all of his wisdom to his friend and otherwise help out before he goes.
The Robber Council by Brian Niemeier. This serial is set in ancient Rome, or a fantasy analogue of ancient Rome — I’m not sure which. A group of condemned prisoners are released due to a change of emperors. There’s a pretty wild cliffhanger ending. Well, not exactly a cliffhanger, as the main character is already falling off the cliff to certain death or at least paralysis, and probably had all his fingers severed, or at least mangled, before he fell.
I’m not sure if the serial will continue with a new protagonist or if there will be a literal Deus ex machina (some of the prisoners were there for having the wrong religious beliefs). This is another one I’m really curious to read more of.
The Last Lesson by Russell May. This time-travel story needed to progress further to hook me.
In the Seraglio of the Sheik of Mars by Ben Wheeler. This serial began in issue #1.
Daughter of Sol by Corey McCleary. This was an exciting first episode, with the last two survivors of a spaceship attack escaping in a pod. The setting is spaceships plus magic, which I don’t normally find interesting, but it was well done here, and made me want to read more.
Nowither by John Wright. This serial began in issue #1. While I remembered the basic plot and setting from the first episode, names and specific attributes of characters had faded from my mind (I probably took longer between episodes than the publishers intended), so I could have used a bit of refreshing at the start. When I read issue #3, I’ll have to see if this is a common problem for me across the stories.
Galactic Outlaws by Nick Cole and Jason Anspach. This serial began in issue #1. I didn’t read it here, because I’d already read the entire story in the Galaxy’s Edge series, of which this is book two. I hope to do a series review soon.
Classic/Vintage Science Fiction
I didn’t find either of these two stand-alone stories terribly entertaining. I can see why they might be of interest to authors, or to people interested in the history of sci-fi, but I don’t think today’s average reader will find them appealing.
The Stolen Mind by ML Staley. A mad scientist takes a secret service agent’s consciousness, stores it in his own mind, then puts it in someone else’s mind, where it takes over, but is still controlled by the mad scientist.
Into Space by Sterner St. Paul. A scientist invents an antigrav drive, tries to fly to the moon, and gets stuck at the point where the Earth’s and Moon’s gravity cancel each other out. He dies when his oxygen runs out.