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Mars: A Traveler's Guide: 01/08/08
The fourth story in the January issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine is one of the best short stories I've read in ages. "Mars, a Traveler's Guide" by Ruth Nestvold turns the typical world-building story on its head.
"Mars: a Traveler's Guide" reads at first like a series of encyclopedia entries about Mars. Clearly as these entries are being read out by some sort of computer, ala the "book" in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. It's only in the reading between the lines and the progression of subjects that the real story comes to light.
Nestvold's martian story is the perfect parody of everything that is wrong with the computerized phone systems so many companies now use. I especially hate the ones that except callers to talk to the computer on the other end. These things never work as advertised. Now imagine that sort of set up in the wastelands of Mars.
Now, if you're me, you know that staying West of Mars is the smarter option. No tour guide needed! *grin*
Sorry. Couldn't resist. "