Internet Review of Science Fiction

Lois Tilton

Ignition. Tessa’s head snapped back in its cradle and her lips slid away from her teeth. The shock slapped the fog off the inside of her helmet and misted her face.

This is science fiction. Hard science fiction — the Real Stuff, not the so-called “hard SF” that’s nothing more than galactic adventures and thrilling space battles, in which a futuristic veneer overlays the fantastic core. Here, the wormhole is the only concession to unreality. Very rarely do we see this kind of fiction these days, and more rarely still do we see it done this well.

The story is not a complex one. Tessa’s destination is the remote ring of a star bridge in transit, a wormhole portal that, once in place, will enable travel from Earth to another world. She has piloted many of these missions, but this time she discovers that a nearby singularity has pulled the ring off-course, with potentially disastrous consequences. Now she must work against time to solve the problem by doing math. I am not the reviewer to check the author’s calculations, but Sherwood writes his physics with such authority that I feel no tremor of doubt threatening my suspended disbelief. Nor does he neglect the human element. As time inexorably runs out, the tension rises; readers can feel the sense of urgency driving Tessa’s desperate efforts.

According to the editorial blurb, this is Sherwood’s first fiction sale. Science fiction now seems a bit less moribund.

Tangent Short Fiction Review

Suzanne Church

The hard Science Fiction offering in the issue is Jonathan Sherwood’s "Under the Graying Sea." Right from the first sentence, Tessa is in danger, thrusting through massive gees in her Concussion Vehicle (CV) with her partner, Loránd, slingshotting around the moon to enter a man-made wormhole. The two pilots' bodies have been reinforced to withstand up to twenty-four gees, but the CV malfunctions and they pull thirty-two-point-eight, causing life-threatening injuries to Loránd. Stuck over two light years from Earth and forced to wait over four hours for their return window, Tessa busies herself checking "Betty," the wormhole anchor, and discovers the multiple course adjustments that Betty has made since the last human inspection: a gravity well.

Sherwood intertwines flashbacks about Tessa's relationship with her father, her first exposure to the wormhole project, and her fear of the gray sea of space. As she fights to save her partner's life and solve the problem of Betty's decaying flight path, Sherwood packs the prose with scientific details.

Filled with suspense, passion, and cleverness, "Under the Graying Sea" stands above the other stories as the strongest contribution to the issue.

SF Revu

Sam Tomaina

"Under the Graying Sea" by Jonathan Sherwood is a nice little story and a great debut for this new author. It is the story of Tessa, an astronaut with a very important job. She is part of a team that must regularly journey to the end of a wormhole to monitor the progress of the "ring" on the other side. This has been done many times and is part of a long ongoing process. But this trip is anything but routine. Sherwood gives us a notable story of heroism and sacrifice. Watch for more from him in the future.


Nick Gevers

“Under the Graying Sea” by Jonathan Sherwood gushes forth scientific jargon like an Analog story on speed, only to reverse the formula at the very end.

Grumpy Alien Reviews

Susan Urbanek Linville

"Under the Graying Sea," Jonathan Sherwood: Even though this seemed more like a story you'd see in Analog, the scientific jargon didn't interrupt the character story. Good show.

Best SF Reviews

Mark Watson

The largest protospike engine in history propels Tessa and Lorand towards the stars, in a spacecraft - or, more accurately, a Concussion Vehicle, for in order to make use of the wormhole that is to be humanity's pathway to the stars, the crew have to stand up to tremendous g-forces, and to do so requires a great deal of genetic tampering. Their ship, a regular monthly launching for some decades, appears to be pushing the envelope with respect to the amount of G to which they are subject to, and when it goes way past what has ever happened in the past, Tessa realises something has gone wrong.

Coming round, at their destination, but with their bodies badly beat up, Lorand the more so, Tessa is faced with the usual Analog conundrum - how to stay alive, how to identify the problem, and how to resolve it and to return to Earth. Can she use her scientific expertise and her gutsiness to rise to this challenge?

But this isn't Analog, and so the answer isn't 'You Betcha'.

Maybe a tad too much tech description at times, but Sherwood handles the story well, building on the present dilemma through Tessa's memories of seeing the spike in action as a child. But damn those cold equations....

An excellent first published story.

Short SFF Reviews

Russ Allberry

"Under the Graying Sea" by Jonathan Sherwood: The best story of the issue is the first. This story has a classic hard science fiction premise: mankind has developed a wormhole technology that will allow us instant travel to the stars, provided that we can get the end of a wormhole there. An elite group of pilots take supply ships through the stretching wormhole to maintain the fragile far end during its long journey, accelerating as quickly as possible to reduce the drag on the remote end. But on Tessa's trip, something goes horribly wrong, and she has to make some very difficult decisions. Mostly a well-constructed engineer with a wrench story with interesting technology, but some nice touches of characterization add more human feeling than is common in this genre.

Maciej Rybicki

[Translated] The next two stories will surely interest those who reach for Steps ... primarily for classic science fiction. The depth of Jonathan Sherwood 's gray ocean is hard SF in a space edition, offering everything that is the best and proven in this convention: megastructure, secrets of the Cosmos and the human being confronted with them, modified astronauts, unforeseen difficulties and a lot of technical jargon. A valuable, suspenseful piece of excellent prose.