Asimovs, January 2008

Rudy Rucker and Marc Laidlaw. The Perfect Wave.

Rucker has collaborated in Asimovs recently with Bruce Sterling, with ‘Hormiga Canyon’ in Aug 2007 featuring a pair of dudes heading into uncharted nano-territory in the desert. Here Rucker and Laidlaw serve up some surfpunk SF, in which a VR-surfing facility out back of Cheezemore Ratt’s Surf Shack enables people to take on virtual personas and go head to head in competitive online surfing competitions.

There’s more than a whiff of the 50s, with teenagers hanging out, threatening dufus in a car to be reckoned with, girls to be won. Programming whizzkiddery enables the nerd to come out on top. The story is ok, but missing that something special.

Mike Resnick. Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders.

At the other end of the age range, is a very, very satisfying story from Resnick. Two old guys, sharing a flat in a retirement complex, are getting very near to the end of their lives and their almost life-long friendship. With creaking joints and failing organs, they reflect on their moment of first meeting, in the magic store which they visited as children. They reflect on that time, as young boys when all was possible, and indeed, Alastair Baffle seemed to suggest that even more was possible.

Maury Gold is determined to see if the shop is still there. Against all the odds, of course, as he is 92, so the shop must be long gone. Nate Silver reluctantly accompanies him, and they find that not only is the shop still there, but so is the owner, and Mr Baffle appears to be not a year older. It appears that Baffle has much more to offer than sleight of hand tricks, and Gold is quite willing to take what is on offer, whilst Silver less so.

It’s an extremely effective but gentle and subtle story.

Deborah Coates. The Whale’s Lover.

A young woman running away from decisions made on her home planet, joins a team seeking a marine leviathan, her role to locate the creature through her empathic abilities. She finds the beast, and in doing so, finds that it is impossible to truly escape that past, that connections with other humans are beyond her, and that only the deep deep ocean and the leviathan can offer her respite.

Tanith Lee. ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A parastic virus is loose – it initially offers a lot to those who it infects, attacking that which makes us old and weak. However, it is very effective, and continues to recode the body, offering greater and greater youth and beauty. However, as with all good things, it must come to an end, and irony of ironies in creating youthful bodies out of old, that way madness and death lie.

We follow one government official, evidently immune, as he watches the society crumble, and friends succumb to the pernicious disease. However, ironcially, he is only free from the threat as that which he has in his body, is beyond the powers of the supervirus.

Will McIntosh. Unlikely.

A newish writer gets his first story in Asimovs after a number of small press sales. Following on from stories by some pretty big names, it’s good to report that he more than holds up to the challenge. I’d go further than that in fact, in suggesting that this very classy, well written story would have been my bet as a Tanith Lee story, and her story as being the slightly awkard one of a newer writer.

It’s a deceptively simple idea, but a clever one, and the smart thing that singles this out as being of true professional quality is that McInthosh doesn’t take the idea too far. The protagonist is a man who is somewhat cynical about the data mining research that suggests that his being in proximity to one specific total stranger has a clear statistical correlation to the prevenation of accidents in the city.

McIntosh focusses on the impact on him, and the defensive walls he has built around himself over the years, and handles the dialog between the man and the other partner in the equation very well indeed. Subtle and with an ending that has impact, based on the emotional change which takes place in a character who, in a short space of time, McIntosh has created.

Allen Steele. Galaxy Blues (part 3 of 4).

Third installment of a novel serialisation.

Conclusion.

Top marks to Resnick, Coates and McIntosh for exploring that most strange setting – the human heart – so perceptively. Aw shucks. They give more than good value for money for the issue between them.

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