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The Tribes of Bela: 05/03/09
Albert E. Cowdrey seems to specialize in long short stories. For the most part the ones of his I've read have been centered in and around New Orleans. The two exceptions being "Poison Victory" and "Seafarer's Blood." I can now add "Tribes of Bela" to this list.
"Tribes of Bela" was the cover story for the August 2004 issue and it's set on another world four light years away named Bela. There is a small mining operation of 1,200 people and in the last couple years a few people have been found murdered. Colonel Robert Kohn has come to investigate.
The short story is told in the recorded logs to be used later as testimony of those being deposed. Colonel Kohn, a doctor and one other are the principle narrators. Each provides information to chronicle the investigation, what it turned up and ultimately how the mining operation had to be abandoned.
"The Tribes of Bela" reminds me of a number of other excellent science fiction stories: Gateway by Frederik Pohl, The Left-hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, The World is Round by Tony Rothman and any number of Hal Clement novels. Then mix in the investigation and it's like the TV show Criminal Minds in a science fiction setting.
Read my other reviews of Cowdrey's FSF short stories: