Asimovs. January 2011.

Chris Beckett. Two Thieves.

Interesting story from Beckett. Interesting in the sense of deciding to read it twice as I was left with a sense of having missed something important in the story.

Two thieves have been arrested after their gang attempted a raid on a jeweller’s shop. The language of the thieves, and the society in which they live, has a feel for mid-20thC USA. However, they’ve got slightly unusual names, and as we find when they visit a penal colony called The Last Resort, their history includes an older, lost civilization with technology beyond their ken.

Soon enough they thieves find themselves in a position to test this technology, hopping into a pool that takes them to … another world. On this barren planet they find a similar route to another world, much more like the one they came from. In between their travels, one of the thieves spends time sitting in a chair that gives him pause for thought. We don’t know exactly what he thought, although we get altogether too much information about the consequences of his colleague’s rectal hiding of the diamonds they plan to take with them.

The tone of their banter is light-hearted, and they are an altogether unpleasant pair, and it’s difficult to see exactly what the intention of the story is.

Elizabeth Bear. Dolly.

A beautiful robot, but one with no sense of self, and consequently closer to a sex toy, is found over the body of her owner. She is clearly responsible – but was she a weapon, an accessory or witness, or the murderer? It’s a short story, going over ground long since trampled over by the footsteps of other writers, but manages to have some impact, primarily through the chief investigator, who isn’t a hard-drinking guy with problem with dames, but an altogether more rounded figure.

Steve Rasnic Tem. Visitors.

An elderly couple are on a trip they make every five years – to Phoenix Sanctuary, where people (and pets) are kept ‘suspended’ whilst cures for their ailments are found. Except that in their case, the son whom they are visiting has a condition that is proving problematic.

The focus on the elderly woman is the successful element of the story, her response to her similarly aged husband, to her son (brought back from suspension in a slightly macabre format) and to her surroundings. Slightly less successful is the central conceit, which strains a little too hard for effect, and perhaps could be have been subtler.

Ian McHugh. Interloper.

Barnestable’s Travelling Freakshow and Circus is touring remoted, mostly deserted and depopulated Australia. Whilst ostensibly entertaining the remaining populace, they are on the lookout for those people who are unwittingly susceptible to the alien forces who are using them to break into our plane.

Barnestable’s colleagues and fellow performers are a strange bunch – a quintet of symbiotic clone Tinas, Turtle, Monkey, Rhone and Murph. There’s genmod aplenty, especially in the raptors they have with them, who are let loose whenever alien interlopers make it onto our Earth.

It’s a short story, with a bit of a Mad Max vibe about it, the tone not entirely succesful.

Gwendolyn Clare. Ashes on the Water.

A young woman endeavours to send the ashes of her sister to their final resting place through the time-honoured means of putting them in the river – except that in this near-future India, desertification means that access to the rivers is closely guarded.

It’s not SF by any means, and doesn’t really convince in its setting, with little colour or texture to make the reader feel that the story is set in India. Here’s some dialogue from a Sikh cafe owner, by way of illustration : “Hey, kid. Whatever you’re looking for, I hope you find it”.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Killer Advice.

Murder mystery set in space. I read the first half, but there was nothing whatsoever to encourage me to continue reading further. Multi-perspective, but the characters and setting feel like something straight out of an Agatha Christie, with the setting just as easily being a remote port, hotel, or liner.

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