Asimovs December 2014


Robert Reed. The Cryptic Age.

The number of stories I’ve read by Reed in the last 12months or so has tailed off dramatically – just 3 in 2014, whereas there are almost 150 of his stories reviewed on Best SF (click on the ‘tag’ above/below this post).

Here he gives it full RobertReedmodetm, the equivalent of Transformers ‘BeastMode’.

It’s one of his ‘Great Ship’ stories, which at their best are Space Opera on a BFO (Big Fuck Off) scale. Here he gives us some backstory of one of his characters Miocene, cold-blooded First Captain of the Big Ship (an enormous, absolutely enormous alien vessel now crewed by humans, on a universe-spanning millenia-spanning journey).

Now I’ve read a lot of the Great Ship stories, with possible ‘Remoras’ being the first, w-a-y back in 1995, and my increasingly swiss-cheese-like brain can’t remember character names that well, and I’m at a lost for a-n-y memories of having previously read a story containing her.

That could be a Bad Thing, if the story was a ‘bit of a backstory’ story, but it’s much more than that. Read it closely, and it’s much, much more than that. I mean, much more. The nature of memory, and story, and in fact, why (or how) are we here, are all covered.

I liked the story. Lois Tilton on Locus Online loved it. But over on TangentOnline, Jamie Lackey, unfamiliar with The Great Ship, didn’t find it very engaging.

Andrew Miller. Graduation.

A first story in Asimovs from Miller.

The graduation to which the title refers is also a funeral, as the young protagonist willing ‘dies’ to leave behind her human form, to become more at one with the planet, and to actively take a role in healing the harm humanity has done to the planet, on a dispersed, microscopic basis.

The drama and tension is at one removed, with protesters at such a sacrifice at more than arms lengths and family opposition related by the protagonist, but now shown, the protagonist isn’t given enough time for us to engage with her (decision already made) and with the exception of a frisson of last-minute jitters, other than a touch of enervating freedom in her new form, the story lacks just that little something.

Vernon Hedrick. Kids These Days

Hedrick takes a look at loss, on both an individual and meta level, at children who leave you, and at parents who leave you.

The protagonist is turning to his home town, not a place of happiness since his mother died a few years ago, and less so now that his father is in hospital after a major stroke, with the prognosis not good. He is able to reflect on his relationship with his father, his siblings, and realises how little he knows his father. And this is effectively set against a backdrop of alienation with the younger generation, the ‘Kids’, who have a capital K as they have embraced technology, and networking to a degree that is making them almost a race apart. And as the story progresses we see that they are in fact becoming a race apart, a sort of slightly lower-key Childhood’s End.

Well handled by Hedrick, avoiding maudlin sentimentality.

Gwendolyn Clare. It Gets Bigger.

A story inspired by the author’s brother, the film Alien, and Samuel Beckett.

I’m not aware of the full range of Beckett’s works, so am wondering whether the author’s brother put on prodigious amounts of weight and increased size dramatically. (joke).

A small alien artefact is located, and the scientific team decide to put it into a scanner and probe it. This does not go according to plan, and the artefact begins to grow. And doesn’t stop.

The artefact/metaphor continues to grow, and becomes ever-increasingly backdrop (and soon out of the room on account of it’s size) to the young woman scientist protagonist whose exposure to radiation in the scanner incident miscarries, and subsequently breaks up with her partner, neither of which really upsets her, as her life goes on.

Christopher East. Videoville

A neat story, especially if you were a late teen/college student in the 1980s. It’s a story that you could easily confuse in years to come for a movie – what was that film that was set in the 80s, and was sort of like Back to the Future and Bill and Ted and The Blues Brothers and involved dope and snow and a VHS video arcade??

Sue Burke. Summer Home.

Only a page and a half, a list of 6 ‘Must Do’s’ for a new summer home, but the paragraphs contain a lot, and what could easily have been covered in a novella is covered more succinctly, much more succinctly, but with equal impact.

Tim Sullivan. Anomaly Station.

The issue closes with the longest story, a novella that gets progressively deeper.

The initial setup appears straightforward – on a space station orbiting, and drawing energy from a very, very remote blazar, the solo crew member is about to be relieved of duty, for a bit of R&R back home. Thing is Tamara is connected (intimately we find out) the ship’s AI ad is reluctant to sever that link and hand over to her replacement, especially as her replacement is a very young man whom she doesn’t take to at all.

We follow Tamara’s conversations with the young man, and the AI, Hala, with whom we soon find she is intimately connected, going back to when Hala was a human in her pre-AI days (and Tamara’s role in that).

It soon becomes clear that Tamara isn’t entirely reliable, and when the shuttle which brought her replacement is destroyed by explosion, things get very tricky for the pair (especially as the young man now has the link to the AI and does not want to relinquish this).

Tamara struggles further when finally help arrives, as due to time dilation, the office who turns up to adjudicate as to what has happened, is very far from baseline human than Tamara remembers. Intriguingly, the story appears to end with several pages to go, and the reader gradually realises that in fact the real story has even further to go (as do Tamara and Hala).

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