Asimovs, August 2007

Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling. Hormiga Canyon.

You’d expect a collaboration by these two authors to hit the g-(whizz) spot, and, like their earlier collaboration in Asimovs (‘Junk DNA’ Jan 2003), they do indeed bring satisfaction.

It starts off promisingly, with Stefan Oertel amongst his humongous collection of old mobile (US : cell)phones, whose cheap computational power he is harnessing to delve into multidimensional string theory. The numbers are crunching away happily, towards a mind-boggling conclusion, when the program is halted by an invasion of ants, happily crunching away through his hardware.

However, it appears that this isn’t just bad timing from the ants, but that they have been alerted to his scientific experiment, and it seems he has indeed come close to opening up a Pandora’s Box, albeit one with ants of various sizes. His ex-Silicon Valley colleague, dudester Jayson turns up on his hot chopper, and in fleeing the fuzz, finding themselves following the ants into the titular Hormiga Canyon, where there is a lot of multidimensional math going on, and, as the cover suggests, the two guys and their bike are shrunk, 50s sci-fi flick-like, down to size.

The two guys explore the canyon, going deeper and deeper into the canyon, and come out, like the Incredible Shrinking Man, into quite a different world.

It’s a romp of a story, and worth the admission price alone.

Daryl Gregory. Dead Horse Point.

Gregory manages to raise the stakes, in a story which has a feel of a Tiptree about it. It’s short, but effective, and well-handled to take the reader through an intriguing situation as all is revealed. A women is called out of the blue by an old-friend with whom she pretty much lost contact. It turns out that said friend is in the process of pretty much losing contact with he world, as she has continued to withdraw into her own autistic world where her brain processes complex mathematical concents, whilst she is virtually dead to the world. Having given up her role in supporting her ex-university flatmate (and lover), the woman visits to find the brother pretty much at the end of his tether.

Top quality.

Kathleen Ann Goonan. The Bridge.

After two such strong stories, a bit of a dip (albeit a relative one) in a private eye story in which the down on his luck (as ever) dick gets a potentially lucractive case (as ever) from a glamorous babe (as ever). The plot feels just a little too contrived, as the investigator has to work out, just who might have been murdered (as is oft the case in sfanl mystery stories).

Tim McDaniel. Teachers’ Lounge.

A xeno-linguistic story, somewhat tongue-in-cheek as aliens finally make themselves understood, somewhat to the concern of those who are working with them, but who find that they might be able to work the situation to their advantage. Short and relatively lightweight.

Justin Stanchfield. Prodigal.

A woman is reunited with her father, whose return is due to her sister’s imminent death. She has to come to terms with his long absence, and the decision she has made which have separated her from humanity due to her embracing longevity. In attempting to circumvent the rules to get him onplanet, and finding that he is able to do so without her help, she finally comes to some form of resolution.

Jack Skillingstead. Thank You, Mr. Whiskers.

A clever little story in which an elderly widow, bemoaning her luck, finds that what might have been an upturn in her fortunates is thwarted by a capricious universe, which continues to offer tantalising variations on finding happines. In the end she is faced with a choice, should she take what fate throws at her, or should she take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them?

Tom Purdom. The Mists of Time.

A historical nautical tale in which a crew of a British vessel face the odds to capture a larger ship carrying slaves from Africa to the West Indies. The sfnal element : they are observed by the descendant of the ship’s captain, who has travelled back in time with a film-maker to capture the dramatic scene.

Conclusion.

A strong issue, front-loaded with some particulary strong SF of the kind Asimovs does so well, with some of the others not quite up to that standard.

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