Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


This is the Hardest Thing I Do All Day
by Alexandra Grunberg

by Fábio Fernandes

Sixteen Tonnes
by Robert Dawson

It’s Not What You Think
by Davyne DeSye

Dreams of Clay
by J. Rohr

Mundane Applications
by Philip Margolies

by Eric Del Carlo

My Parking Space is Near the Door
by Gustavo Bondoni

Shorter Stories

Clothes Make the Man
by Peter Wood

For All Time
by Simon Kewin

You Belong to Me
by Tom Borthwick


More Than “Zarathustra”
by Dennis W. Green

When Words Divine
by John McCormick



Comic Strips




Perihelion Reviews

Fifty-three Moons and Counting

“EARTH. I’VE NEVER BEEN, BUT SOME OF the older troops say it was a great place to live.” This haunting line from Tom Tinney underscores a theme in “Visions II: Moons of Saturn.” On the bright side, post-apocalyptic dystopia is not the focus that unites twelve international authors in this anthology, edited by Carrol Fix. Some of the stories show humanity at its worst, but the overall sense is one of hope and progress.

NASA’s Cassini mission tantalizes and inspires us with stunning images of Saturn’s mysterious rings of ice and rock, not to mention the fifty-three moons that have been officially named. How many “unofficial” moons does Saturn have, and why did Earth only get one? No matter. Science fiction writers are plotting, speculating, dreaming, and teasing us with visions of colonization and mining opportunities in the Saturn system. “Visions II: Moons of Saturn,” the second anthology in the Visions Series, unites W. A. Fix, Tom Olbert, Thaddeus Howze, R. E. Jones, Bonnie Milani, Tom Tinney, Jeremy Lichtman, S. M. Kraftchak, Ami Hart, Timothy Paul, Duane Brewster, Amos Parker, and Carrol Fix (Series Editor).

The idea of Earthlings expanding throughout the solar system may traumatize the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM), but what a waste if humans die off without getting to see more of the universe. I am not opposed to “improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by using technology to eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities" (Nick Bostrum, 1999). Faustian bargain? I vote we deal with that devil.

Speaking of devils, there’s “Nothing like the diversity of conquest to brighten mankind’s singular soul,” says the Time Traveler in Amos Parker’s “A Moon of Saturn.” Parker’s traveler is one of those villains we love to hate, and not just for his purple prose—“God I love transparent aluminum!” as he takes in a 360-degree view of Titan—“Titan! Saturn’s largest moon. Large, and in charge ... Moon-ally speaking.” Fans of Milo Fowler’s Captain Quasar will appreciate the traveler “crossing his bare, muscular arms,” feeling like a god astride his “precious and precocious” time machine, Rubicon.

Let us pass over in silence the Traveler’s lecture on “the tiny, squishable mammals who’d shared humanity’s chronological nook” and the carefully choreographed ballet of things that go smashing and crashing in the mad Traveler’s matter storm. My mission is not to support the view that humans deserve to go exinct.

Parker’s story is filled with allegorical characters, from the Anthropologist who views humans as the enemy, to the Economist, Banker, President and Compatriots who applaud “the gravity of profit. The singularity of money.”

The story is not only purple, over the top, and absurd, but gross. The Taxidermist has merged the head of a wolf with the torso of a bear, the arms of an ape and legs of an elephant, and “preserved the thing’s maggots” as well.

The ending reminds me of an old joke, but what I like most about Parker’s story applies to the whole anthology: the authors have done their research. Tucked into assorted action scenes are science facts, historical trivia, and cultural references.

In “Janus: Double, Double Toil and Trouble,” R.E. Jones reminds us of Guy Fawkes, a real-life English Catholic “who took part in the failed Gunpowder Plot in 1605 to blow up Parliament.” The fictional Benedict Fawkes is on a top-secret mission to make an obsolete rocket fly again. An interesting aside has Fawkes cracking the “Newton Code,” a strange 13th century document said to be a forgery (“Fawkes thought otherwise”) in which Isaac Newton predicted the discovery of Janus. For his efforts, Fawkes earns the nickname “Nostradumbass.” After two years and a billion kilometers, Fawkes and the crew of Audouin Dollfus have reached the moon Janus. What he finds there is something not even Nostradamus could have predicted.

Jones’s wickedly fun plot-twist has a parallel in Bonnie Milani’s “Hot Day on Titan.” On the inhumanly cold surface of Titan, ex-hero Gerard Rutgers leads a team of warriors to talk peace with the dreaded Katrina. She’s the mastermind of a rebellion among Lupans, humans genetically engineered to have dog traits. Rutgers has no interest in peace talks with “dogs,” as he contemptuously refers to them. When a Lupan scout is assigned to help his team reconnoiter a passage through the icy peaks and geysers, he dubs the scout “Fido.”

The landscape is horrific but beautifully rendered. Ice glitters on Dushara’s brilliant spires, but chattering teeth and the whine of a space suit’s stressed heater take the fun out of this scenic hike. “In pure vacuum,” Milani writes, “neither Titan’s visionsmethane atmosphere nor its minus two hundred degree cold would challenge his armor’s support system.” Setting foot on frozen rock, however, “sucked heat out through their soles, drove the cold up their legs until it frosted their suits’ receptors.” Did I say “sign me up” for a one-way trip to the Saturn system? Nevermind. As Mark Twain said of Wagner, “his music is better than it sounds.” The lunar landscapes around Saturn may be better experienced from afar. But do experience this story, especially if you love clever tales of revenge.

A much sweeter plot-twist makes Tom Tinney’s “Pest Removal” a lovable tale. In the dark recesses of interconnecting tunnels on Dione, an old soldier leads his troops to protect ice mines from a slimy invader known as ABUT. The giant, single-celled creature is amorphous, wiggling and jiggling, excreting a goo that hardens and seals off tunnels. The soldiers have names like RP10637 because IDs and numbers keep it professional, while names make it personal, and these troopers face a high mortality rate. It’s a bittersweet tale but fun as well.

Like Tinney, Jeremy Lichtman delivers a surprising and endearing character in “The Archetypes of Titan.” Wilbur, a comical protagonist who seldom finishes his sentences, is rescued from a dull dinner party on Titan--but at the cost of slogging through a cold, hideously reeking tunnel to rescue his friend Fox. Fans of the engineering side of science fiction will get their fill. I’m in awe of the way human colonists have tunneled into Titan’s ice: “take a large, circular heating element, and push it up against whatever happens to be in the way. Then use a vacuum to suck away the resulting melt.” The ice miners leave a pool of sludge that surfers actually ride with giant boards and parachute-like sails. It’s a memorable image.

An even more riveting image is the thing in the tunnel that peers up from the mold. “A pseudopod, with what looked almost like an eye, extended itself upwards, and then rotated first one way and then the other. The eye withdrew, and the mold slowly, painstakingly began to move in the opposite direction.”

There’s a happy outcome to the reeking problem in the tunnel, and it’s one of the best scenes I’ve seen since E.T. called home. But there’s more, much more, to this story of Wilbur and Fox mucking through a tunnel and rejoining a dull dinner party.

In “Springboard,” S.M. Kraftchak brings a fresh twist to the old joke about men who get lost because they refuse to ask for directions. Arnau is determined to save his wife and daughter from his navigation error, no matter how great the personal cost to himself. His young daughter, Tay, is equally determined to help him, but he trusts no one with his long list of equations to calculate trajectory through space. They’re trapped like a golf ball lying deep in the rough between Epimetheus and Janus.

The dialogue is fun. Nissa is a wise wife and mother, but I pity the father: “Sometimes,” Nissa tells Tay, “we just have to accept his imperfect love, because it’s the best he can give.”

The ending may not be a big surprise, but it is a marvelous antidote to all the depressing, dystopian, anti-apocalyptic fare I’ve been reading for the past year or two. Talented authors are telling these darker tales, but I keep hoping for a new wave of more optimistic themes. This book is a big step in the right direction.

“I Had a Dog Once” delivers what I’m talking about. W.A. Fix does not torture me with brutal tales of beloved canine companions dying for their humans (do not even ask me which recent anthology did; I’m still in recovery). Mostly, Fix’s story centers around a close-knit team of mercenaries who start out drinking in a bar, swapping stories about animals they have seen. Most of them have never come face to face with a dog or a pig or any number of Earth creatures that space colonists would miss. Mitch was born on Earth, and the natural light on Titan reminds him of a moonless night in Nebraska. Mitch and his team get to fire the most advanced weapons in existence, with chunks of titanium exploding at 4,000 meters per second, every second. I tend to skip battle scenes, but this one caught my eye with the awesome titanium projectiles ripping into Mech-9s, not that I know or even care much what those are, but it doesn’t matter. The characters carry the story.

Ami Hart may have the most endearing and gratifying story of all with “Refuge.” A boy named Fira is crawling in a dark and stifling maze of tunnels, which seem to be inevitable on any planets or moons we colonize. Fira is a refugee from Earth, which has been harvested by the Raq-Ni who loosed a bio-weapon called the Melt. Fira remembers a life of running, playing, laughing, but those memories are shaded over: “Running took on a new terrifying shape, the dusky grey of a world of chaos.” He may never again see a butterfly or horse, and after the Cleansing, images of the dying animals stay with him longest. When he meets a cute and furry alien in the tunnels, he mistakes it for something like a stray kitten. The consequences could be catastrophic, but this New Zealand author comes up with a much more satisfying conclusion. (Thank you, Ami Hart!)

While “Refuge” is a scenic, character-driven tale (my favorite kind), Timothy Paul’s “Shepard’s Pi” is cerebral, fast-paced and tricky enough for any thriller fan. A shady guy named Brad Shepard breaks into the First Bank of Saturn, is on the run, and in need of money, so he falls for a get-rich-quick scheme that could easily be his last. Fortunately, he recruits some equally shady friends who can help him crack a secret code and improve their chances of surviving this mercenary adventure.

Duane Brewster’s “Profit Margin” gives us a different kind of criminal. A vital object that looks like an egg goes missing, causing panic among scientists at a research station on Mimas. The Egg has caught the eye of a scavenger who has no idea what he could unloose by snagging this thing and selling it to the highest bidder. The climax is staggering, and the closing lines take a poke at corporate profiteering.

Just in time for Hanukkah, Tom Olbert’s “Reckoning at Enceladus” affirms that there is life beyond darkness. I wouldn’t have thought of it except for a Facebook meme I saw today: “When all seems darkest ... when it seems that all is blood, and fire, and ashes, and persecution ... hope will live on, with laughter, light, and love, long after today’s conquerers are tomorrow’s dust.”

Gene Grey Wolf would rather die than live with the guilt of bombing innocent civilians (nevermind that those who gave him the orders had lied to him about the target). “How do you give back innocent life you’ve taken?” he asks.

“You give back what you’ve taken by giving hope that’s been stolen,” Kayla Constantinedes tells him. And Kayla wants to take back Enceladus from the Mars Combines. With Grey Wolf, she joins the Trans-Solar Resistance to win true independence for Saturn colonies, an end to corporate slavery, “and a return to law and democratic self-government such as our ancestors had on Earth.”

I have to add that Olbert’s father was a fighter in the Polish resistance during WWII. That legacy is apparent in this story. I also have to say I’m smitten with the “very angry-looking young man” who’s really just a kid who’d “been to the edge of Hell and fought his way back.” Ultimately, this is a tale of forgiveness and second chances. Offer me that, and I’ll endure some bloodshed and betrayal along the way.

“Starchild” by Thaddeus Howze offers a different kind of second chance. Commander Mfune explores the great Benai starship, a magnificent construction of alien intelligence, abandoned by its creators. Mfune is sent to decode the secrets of the starship, but on learning what became of the benevolent Benai, he’s not so sure humans deserve to receive the technological gifts the Benai had intended to share. What is the Starchild? You’ll have to read the story to find out. Telepathy, DNA, space travel, human history and philosophy all join forces in this tale full of surprises.

The Visions Series celebrates our urge to venture out and explore the Universe. Space colonies, extraterrestrial moons, aliens among us, interplanetary corporations, ice mining to make other planets inhabitable—where do I sign up? Oh, wait: no cats, no dogs, but lots of cold and ice? Let’s wait and see what Visions III brings. (“Visions II: Moons of Saturn,” Edited by Carol Fix, Lillicat Publishers)5stars —Carol Kean


Animals at the End of the World

TALES OF A POST-APOCALYPTIC EARTH tend to weary me, but “Tails of The Apocalypse” has a fresh twist—fourteen stories told from an animal’s point of view. Cats, dogs, wolves, birds, bears, and a cyborg falcon remind us of the extraordinary bonds that creatures can form with humans. Loyalty, unconditional love, camaraderie and self-sacrifice underscore all fourteen tales in the collection from editor Chris Pourteau. Another refreshing twist: a dollar from every sale of this book is donated to Pets for Vets.

Beautifully and insightfully written by animal lovers, these tales remind us of the sad truth that people outlive animals. Seven stories are set in the bestselling post-apocalyptic worlds of David Adams’ “Symphony of War,” Michael Bunker’s “Pennsylvania,” Nick Cole’s “Wasteland Saga,” Hank Garner’s “Weston Files,” E.E. Giorgi’s “Mayake Chronicles,” Deirdre Gould’s “After the Cure,” and Edward W. Robertson’s “Breakers.” The other seven are set in the all-new dystopian landscapes of Stefan Bolz, Hank Garner, David Bruns, Jennifer Ellis, Harlow C. Fallon, Todd Barselow, and Deirdre Gould.

In the recent glut of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, animals most often get eaten by survivors. One of the few exceptions that come to mind (offhand) is “A Boy and His Dog,” Harlan Ellison’s cycle of narratives about Vic and his telepathic dog Blood working together as a team to survive the post-apocalyptic aftermath of nuclear war. I have to commend “Tails of the Apocalypse” for its focus on the animals who are left behind when civilization crumbles and the last can of peaches has been devoured.

“When I thought about what the end of the world would bring,” Edward W. Robertson writes as a postscript to his story, “I had no problem squashing seven billion people. But I never liked to think about what would happen to all those dogs.”

If you’ve recently lost a beloved pet, here is a Trigger Warning (so to speak): this book has the power to tug your heart strings, rip them out and make you rush to the nearest Animal Shelter in search of another four-legged or feathered friend to love. Not every story ends with the death of a beloved animal, but so many do, it took me a few days between tales to recover before tackling the next one.

Robertson’s “When You Open the Cages for Those Who Can’t” is one of the few stories that had me smiling at the end. Young Raina is my favorite kind of heroine. When her world is destroyed, she doesn’t wallow in self-pity or look to others to save her. She does what must be done and puts the needs of others before herself—namely, those dogs in her suddenly departed mom’s vet clinic.

“Keena’s Lament" by Hank Garner is beautiful. Mysterious. Mythical. I love the twist with the narrator who is human ... sort of. Definitely not a dog, but this more-than-human person becomes very attached to one. The Noah’s Ark theme also gets a fresh twist here. The rain, the cave, the mountain top: what vivid scenes! In a good way, the ending reminds me one of my favorite Jack London novels. London was one of the first writers to tell a great tale from a dog’s point of view. “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang” should be as familiar to schoolchildren as Homer’s Odyssey.

Speaking of literary classics, “Tomorrow Found" by Nick Cole is a book lover’s dream. The hero’s quest is fulfilled in a way that is both poignant and inspiring. The man/dog bond is—I almost said “extraordinary,” but millions of dog owners know that this bond is actually a frequent occurrence. The fossil record attests to it. In fact, scientists recently realized the significance of Neanderthal burial sites never including dog remains, while Homo sapiens was often interred with dogs. Humans teaming up with other species naturally have better odds than those who go it alone. Cole’s story reminds us of this, and it is just the salve I needed after some of the tearjerkers in this volume. The prologue (a mother’s love!), the conclusion, and all that comes in between—beautiful! In spite of all the destruction and death that darken their world, hope prevails for a lonely man and a puppy doomed to die.

Stefan Bolz’s “Protector” is a classic. An orphaned wolf cub is injured, and a boy named Jack does that fabled Androcles and the Lion thing. But the stakes are even higher. The boy must rise through Kohlberg’s moral stages to the highest level, breaking rules to do what he knows is right, no matter that he’d be exiled for his defiance.

With “Demon and Emily,” David Adams has totally captured the voice of dogs like my dear, departed Blaise. “I’m Demon. I’m a good boy. I know because Emily told me so." He also captures the phobia of our dog Bailey, who went ballistic at the sound of thunder long before the weatherman even had a storm on his radar. When alien invaders threaten humanity, Demon has to overcome his fear of thunderous noises to protect his human. “Demon and Emily” reminds me that two years is far too long to go dog-less.

David Bruns rips my heart out with “The Water Finder’s Shadow." Polluk is a Finder with a secret: he’s lost his talent-for-hire, finding water for various tribes in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. His dog Shadow, however, compensates for him. What to do when his canine companion grows old and dies? The accuracy and beauty of how the scene is written is stunning. If your dog recently died of old age, be prepared. Fortunately, the story is only half over at this point. Bruns delivers the most beautiful of resolutions—it literally gave me goose bumps.

“Kristy’s Song," by Michael Bunker, made my day. Readers, this is your go-to story when the other ones break your heart. This is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller of a tale. The hero has dared to have his ID chip removed, but the doctors so eager to take his money for that procedure neglected to tell him the downside.tails Now our hero is forced into contraband runs in and out of post-apocalyptic Detroit. Kristy has performed her life-saving trick once again (and you’ve got to read this to see what it is she can do), but her usual reward, a cheese sandwich, just doesn’t exist at the moment, nor even a bit of kibble. In true dog style, she wags her tail and happily accepts a surrogate reward, her owner singing a song. Only a dog could rejoice with nothing but a reward like that. The story doesn’t end there, of course. That was the beginning.

The great thing about anthologies is getting to know new authors. If all Michael Bunker’s fiction is as hopeful and endearing as “Kristy,” I’ll definintely be looking for more where that came from.

“Pet Shop” by Deirdre Gould surprises us with a grouchy old bird in a pet store. Another classic: who would imagine surly Shirley’s capacity for heroism, altruism, and extraordinary deeds? I’m always a fan of stories about the underdog leading the way to surviving a catastrophe.

“The Bear’s Child" by Harlow Cyan Fallon is beautiful. In the domed city of Icarus, the human elite live disease-free in a “bubble” of safety and peace, but only because they can hunt down and kill “ferals,” the most vulnerable humans. Survival of the fittest—at what cost? While the Icarites seek to exterminate the outcasts, a mother bear appears just in time to let Anya the outcast live another day. Warm fuzzies, yes. A painless read? No.

“Wings of Paradise" by Todd Barselow does end well, for the protagonists. The humans may not fare so well, but we don’t care much about them. This story has animals taking on human roles, organizing their own little bureaucracies and defending their territory the way humans would. The “youngling” members of each council, “chosen for their flight skills, bravery, and willingness to learn,” rise to the occasion. Who knew a league of little night-flying bats and day-flying budgies could be so epic and memorable? Barselow knew, and so will you, after reading this clever tale.

“Ghost Light" by Steven Savile is intriguing, mysterious, and, of course, haunting. He taps into another of my favorite themes: the afterlife. This story reminds me in a good way of Libby McGugan’s novel “The Eidolon” (reviewed in “Perihelion,” December, 2013). “Ghost Light" is one of those stories where almost anything I say about it would be a spoiler, but the ending is ultimately happy, no matter how you look at it. The people who walk away from the airplane are fantastic. The detail about Scotland’s roads being built to double as emergency runways is just waaay too cool.

“The Poetry of Santiago” by Jennifer Ellis is a jewel. As with “Demon,” I love it, love it, hate it, hate it, love it. The ginger tom who’d “learned the economy of the street” and outlived his contemporaries sounds so much like my dear, old tom who also started his long life “with brilliant orange fur, pronounced stripes, and a certain loft” to his tail. The cat named Santiago is already old, and the synopsis gives fair warning: “despite his failing eyesight and sense of smell, Santiago knows that something very bad is about to befall Pompeii. How can a cat that can’t speak get his beloved adopted owner out of the city in time?”

He does, of course. You knew he would. What you cannot possibly anticipate is the incredible image at the end. The story of Santiago is pure poetry. It’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read anywhere, in any genre. From me, this is high praise, indeed.

Still: it took me a week to recover.

As always, beautiful descriptions add to the richness of any E.E. Giorgi story. In “Kael Takes Wing,” a fledgling falcon makes my heart ache, but it’s in a good way. Kael does not die. Phew! I really did not have high hopes for this story, in terms of the impact on my fragile emotional ecosystem. I had only just finished reading Giorgi’s “Athel: Mayake Chronicles Book Two” and was still in recovery from the shock of seeing a beloved character die. You know, you just know, someone will die even in “Kael Takes Wing,” but I also knew from the Chronicles that Kael cannot die in this story. I wasn’t prepared to see the father of Athel and Akaela, in those happier days before Book One of the Chronicles. Somehow, meeting a character this way has a surprisingly profound impact. In all, “Kael” was an uplifting story (he takes flight, after all—the title tells us so).

Chris Pourteau’s “Unconditional” takes us into zombie land. On the bright side, the dog does not die. On the dark side, the dog suffers in a way that, for dogs, might be worse than dying. Considering that I don’t even like reading about zombies, it’s an affirmation of the author’s skill that I found this story riveting and moving in spite of the voracious meat-eating “living dead” stalking all over the place.

Every story here is well-written and moving. It’s reassuring to know others have loved and lost their beloved furry or feathered friends, and glorious to see them immortalized in fiction. You can’t help but love every one of the non-human characters.

Science fiction probes the darkest depths of humanity, when it isn’t celebrating our triumphs. This collection skips the fact that animals can be jerks (YouTube is full of videos to prove it). There’s nothing like the animal-human bond to show us that animals know unconditional love better than we do. If you want a more villainous view of animals on post-apocalyptic Earth, see “UnDead Animals: Empire of the Cat” by John A Burks. The animal point of view is believably self-serving, reminding me of Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” but with squirrel warriors flying futuristic combat planes, indentured rats tunneling for the evil cat empire, downtrodden dogs, a villain as sneaky as the not-so-wizardly carnie man of Oz, and, eww, zombies.

“Tails of the Apocalypse” is a beautifully rendered collection of stories with a fresh twist on a genre that I normally don’t even like. For me to find it so moving is a testament to the authors and their furry friends. (“Tails of the Apocalypse,” edited by Chris Porteau, Auspicious Apparatus Press) 5stars—Carol Kean


Adventures in Dystopia

WE LIVE IN INTERESTING times. Technology is improving at rates that even those who understand it most are having a hard time keeping up. There is strife everywhere in the world, and war will most likely never cease. So we have to ask, is there a perfect combination of technological advancement and conflict that can lead to worldwide ruin? The “Fallout” game series tackles this question head on.

In the game’s scenario, shortly after dropping the atomic bomb in WWII, mankind discovers how to use nuclear fission to provide almost limitless energy. Great technology advancements are also made, but life becomes so easy that innovation is stalled and consumption skyrockets. Soon factions break off everywhere and fight over resources. War rages on and on, until a nuclear holocaust brings the known world to an end.

Before the bombs drop, the player learns that his family has been approved for admittance to a vault, a giant underground bunker built to withstand anything. The player, spouse, and infant child all go into the vault to live out their years in safety. But as falloutwith all “Fallout” games, the vault isn’t built to protect people, it was built to experiment on them. The family is cryogenically frozen. Part way through the game, the player is woken up, the spouse is killed, and the small child is taken. The player has awakened 210 years after being frozen. The player is the sole survivor of vault 111 and somewhere out there is the player’s son.

The “Fallout” game series has been around for a while now and each new game is a tremendous improvement over the last. “Fallout 4” gives players an open world with more than enough to do. Not only can you craft weapons, armor, chems (different materials that aid you on your way), and food, you can also build bases and join up with other survivors to form communities. And all of this can be done without playing through the main plot of the game.

There are major improvements over the last installment (“New Vegas”). Players can choose to be either a male or a female survivor, and you can talk this go round. There is a facial construction feature that allows you to create nearly any face you want (or the most hideous, which is what most people seem to be doing). Players can add armor for better damage protection, or greater strength (particular mods let you carry more junk). Combat is better too. In previous games, one could use “V.A.T.S.” to stop time and aim at various targets on an enemy. Now “V.A.T.S.” only slow time. So normal aiming is much better; you don’t have to use “V.A.T.S.” to hit anything.

Aside from the main quest, there are many side quests that can take you all over the map. You aren’t even commited to one side as you slowly level up. These side quests give players skills and great gear to help with the main quest.

The companion feature is back and better than in older games or in the “Elder Scroll” series (the fantasy version of “Fallout”). Companions are needed for certain quests, supplying their own perks which help in combat. You are also given “Dogmeat” near the beginning of the game, a canine companion that is devoted to you and can help with most aspects of the game.

I’ve made it through the first patch and I have to say, it is still pretty buggy. Not enough to ruin the game; in fact, most of the bugs are hilarious. Aside from these few glitches, there isn’t really anything negative about the game. There is no multiplayer mode, but, as with “Elder Scrolls Online,” Bethesda can go a bit overboard with multiplayer and suck some of the fun out of the game.

In this game, you are encouraged to be a good guy. In the other games you could be more or less evil and still play, but most of the quests in this game involve making moral choices. Perhaps we’ve reached the tipping point in video games and players are no longer allowed to behave horribly? Maybe people will start being a little nicer in the general gaming world? I doubt it.

The game is available on three different platforms. The PC version offers the best graphics, gets the early patches, and allows you to mod the game in several ways. The Xbox One and the PS4 versions are geared more for the casual gamer who wants to have fun without the full immersion. As is usual, the PS4 offers better graphics, but the Xbox One with its new integration with Windows 10 allows some cross-platform playing.

This game is the best I’ve played in a long time. Take an extended vacation, buy it, and play until you lose feeling in your hands. (“Fallout 4,” Bethesda Softworks, PS4, Xbox One, Windows) 5stars—Adam Armstrong