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Science Fiction Magazine Reviews: F&SF 09/1999: Eh. Most of the pages are devoted to a blockbuster novella, "Ninety Percent of Everything", by John Kessel, Jonathan Lethem, and James Patrick Kelly. It got a Nebula nomination despite being the kind of story that when I submit it to writing group my colleagues say "This story has a lot going for it, but..."

Here's what this story has going for it: big-name writers, a cast of eccentric characters (ever since reading Software I've had a soft spot for recluses who make ice cream vans their primary mode of transportation), space aliens. I usually try to coast on the last two. But the main plot is too weak to support the eccentric characters, and it ends with a resolution that in my crankiness I am growing more and more impatient with, basically (spoilers) "Behold! All aspects of the story's mystery fit into a simple conceptual framework! Those aspects that baffled you, don't feel bad--they were intended to baffle all of mankind! Until the end of the story, which is now! Also, according to secondary sources, two of the main characters are in love!" Even the ending had some really good stuff in it, but it felt like a shaggy dog story. However the title of the piece did make me come up with the following joke:

Q: What's dark energy?
A: The ninety percent of everything that's crap.

And 90%oE is the best thing in this issue by far. The only other thing worth mentioning is Kathi Maio's review of The Matrix, which trashes the movie as it deserves to be trashed. (Best Dennis the Peasant-esque line: "Significant social change requires collective action, and not just some demigod dude who decides that he's going to apply his newfound magnificence to the problem at hand.")

For a more detailed and generally more positive review of this issue, see SFSite.


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