Asimovs. April/May 2010.

Gregory Norman Bossert. The Union of Soil and Sky.
Xeno-archeological SF, in which human scientists are desperately trying to find evidence in an archeological dig that will stop the evil corporations moving onto the ruins to start ravaging the alien land for minerals. There’s a mystery as to why the aliens show little interest in their past, and there’s a challenge in trying to make sense of the somewhat cryptic manner of alien communication.

The story moves towards a dramatic denouement – the cover image not really doing justice to the scale and scope and setting of the action. There’s one big beef for me : at one point, the archeologists have a desperate clandestine nocturnal dig in order to find their evidence, under the noses of the armed enemy. They are aware of the need to avoid being spotted on the enemy’s horizon by moonlight – which pretty much most readers will immediately refer back to the first Indiana Jones movie. Bossert was clearly thinking along these lines – he even names one of the characters Inanna.

The story is a little by-the-numbers with Avataresque good scientist/bad industrialist roles, but the ending gives a flash of something a bit different.

Molly Gloss. Unforeseen.

An insurance claim is being assessed – by a representative of a company which very, very rarely pays out for unforseen accidents. The sfnal element is the background in which it is possible to bring people back to life. This leaves the question of human motivations, and these, and human emotions are effectively and affectingly addressed.

Eugene Fischer. Adrift.

A young man and his two young sisters flee civil unrest and rape in the Congo, hiding in a hi-tech cargo transport system. A crew member going through her own personal crisis is there only hope of achieving refugee status. The high-tech nature of the cargo transport system is the only element of the story which in theory makes it SF, and the story itself is ok as fine as it goes, but it doesn’t go anywhere not gone before.

Tim McDaniel. The Laughed at me in Vienna…

Gentle fun in scientific congresses over the decades.

Pamela Sargent. Mindband.

Science thriller in which a survivor of a major disaster finds herself getting close to finding out what caused a flash mob to appear on the bridge that duly collapsed. A lot of people have had their thoughts messed about with, and the story cleverly tackles this through the narrative of the main protagonist, showing just how mentally affected she is, and by seeing her at some remove through the perspective of other characters in the story.

Sara Genge. Malick Pan.

Genge returns to the setting of her previous story ‘Shoes to Run’ from Asimovs last year – a near-future post-something domed-Paris. Malick is a young boy, fully integrated with nano-tech which has been holding back his physical development. This helps him survive in the ravaged land outside the city, but that tech, and perhaps he himself, are of the city. This story buildings on the first, and takes the overall narrative a step forward, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next story.

Barry B. Longyear. Alten Kameraden.

Longyear posits a relationship with Adolf Hitler that starts in the trenches of the First World War, and ends in a bunker in Berlin a quarter of a century earlier. Not really alternate history, certainly not science fiction, and with ein passing nod to genre fiction. The grim realities of life in the trenches, and in the Berlin bunker are well described, but they have been described well elsewhere over many years in both print and in film, and the underlying premise of the story (a crime scene that suggested the final moments of Hitler were not perhaps as they should have been) doesn’t really work for me.

Robert Reed. Pretty To Think So.

Short but effective piece, similar in some ways to a number of Stephen Baxter stories, in looking at a globally catastrophic event through its impact on a family. The horror of rousing little children in the night to flee an approaching darkness is handled well, and Reed manages to provide an ending that is in fact a beginning rather than an ending. I’m only glad I read this the day before the news that scientists announced they have for the first time created artificial life – maybe those working on such projects should be forced to read several of the numerous grey-goo and other science-gone-in-the-wrong-direction SF stories before progressing their research.

Steven Popkes. Jackie’s-Boy.

The double-issue closes with humanity’s dominion over the planet removed, with only a handful of people surviving natural disaster, bio-terrorism, and plague. Michael is one of those survivors, orphaned, and now without even his uncle’s helping hand. Risking death to sneak into the heavily fortified local zoo, he befriends the sole remaining elephant, and we follow them on an epic journey to the south, in search of other elephants. It works well, avoiding the trap of falling into Disneyesque mawkishness, (an ‘Incredible Journey’ for the new millenium), with strong imagery around humanity’s concrete and metal structures falling to the power of earthquake, flood and vegetation, and with the flora and fauna taking over, with the future for humanity looking bleak.

Conclusion

Some very solid SF in here, without it being one of the classic double-issues that Asimovs comes up with every couple of years.

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