Asimovs, January 2009

Mary Rosenblum. Lion Walk.

Science thriller set in an African game reserve where the second body in a few weeks is found – or rather, the remains of a second body, the lions, vultures and pack dogs having been at the unfortunate victims. A game warden has to choose how public to go with these deaths. It is clear to her that the victims were left in the open plains to be killed, and has suspicions as to why, but in going public she will be putting herself at risk.

Larry Niven. Passing Perry Crater Base, Time Uncertain.

Single pager in which passing alien intelligences ponder the traces left behind on the Moon by us.

Will McIntosh. Bridesicle.

A look at whether a hi-tech life after death is something to be welcomed, or feared. Mira wakes up, disorientated, to find that she has been revived, some years after a sudden death in a car accident. The only problem is that as she wasn’t wealthy enough when she died, she is only revived for short periods of time, paid for by lonely men looking for partners. In her periods of wakefulness, she has to mourn her own death, that of her mother, who was ‘hitching’ in her mind when she was alive (another hi-tech development which may not be welcome).

Mira has to see if she can make contact with her true lover (there is a twist there). It’s a clever conceit, handled well.

Robert R. Chase. Five Thousand Years from Birdland.

The alien known as ‘Screet’ is headed back to his his home planet, with a human on board, an ambassador for us. There is tension on the journey as the pair settling in for a long journey, but the human finds that he has to reassure the alien that he is in fact a true human, as the alien’s fear a higher race of beings which have passed through the universe leaving doppelgangers in their place. Fortunately for the human, he has the wherewithal to pass the test.

E. Salih. Messiah Excelsia.

A time travel story in which an admirer heads back to find the maker of the famed Stradivarius violins.

Nancy Kress. Unintended Behavior.

A woman who finally decides that enough is enough with regard to her unpleasant, self-obsesssed, arrogant, philandering husband. She is at home, and locking the doors and re-programming the front door lock is the easy bit. The hard bit is dealing with the hi-tech house, through which her husband, who is far from of the opinion that he should be locked out of his house, is able to terrorise her. When he turns up at the door (‘Here’s Johnneee’) she has only her wits and the dog to rely on. Fortunately, this enhanced dog is far from this man’s best friend.

Damien Broderick. Uncle Bones.

I don’t know, you wait ages for a story about reanimated dead people to come along, and they (shamble) along twice in one issue.

Broderick’s is a story which I started off enjoying, but ending up feeling entirely the opposite. He posits the availability of technology which allows the dead, subject to it happening soon after death, being re-animated, albeit up to a point. Uncle Bones is the somewhat dessicated, and rather pungent, half-zombie Uncle who was re-animated having been in the Marines alongside Jimmy’s dad. In addition to having a ‘Stinky’ at home, and his dad being dead, Jimmy has to face up to the local bullies.

Jimmy follows his uncle, who appears to be in trouble with the cops, but it transpires that he is in fact on the side of the law, setting up those who deal in illicit re-animation tech. Jimmy gets caught up, and deaded and, you guessed it, starts off the latter part of the story as a Stinky himself. His life as a re-animated corpse is not looking good, but he makes friends with another of his ilk, only to have their life together threatened. Deaded once more, he comes back again, and finds his smiling, non-Zombified Uncle on hand, as they have just invented a ‘new treatment’ so that the reanimated aren’t dessicated and whiffy anymore. Cue Happy Ending.

The story started promising a lot, and getting into some complex psychological areas (a sort of SF The Deer Hunter with issues over those who came back, changed, and those left behind), but which changed tack and moved at rapid pace towards a saccharine ending.

Conclusion.

Not a classic issue, with little to bother the Year’s Best anthologists, with McIntosh’s being the pick of the bunch.

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