Asimovs. January 2015.


Christopher Rowe. The Unveiling.

Dangnabbit I was just getting into the story when I realised that there was a last half page and there was that little black square signifying that Rowe was bringing the story to a close!

Rowe doesn’t write that much (at least not that I get to read) but it’s always inventive and detailed, and this is no different, describing with quite a lot of detail that brings it to life, a work crew on an alien planet, plagued by dirty rain, scrubbing away at municipal statues, and clearing away rubbish. The long shifts, working conditions, living conditions put the reader into the place, and when there’s a sudden dramatic incident, you’re thinking that Rowe’s set the scene perfectly and the story is going to ratchet up and full speed ahead. Except it don’t. Do’h.

Rudy Rucker and Marc Laidlaw. Watergirl

The stoner surfer dudes from ‘The Perfect Wave‘ from the January 2008 issue make a return, living by the coast, living for the surf. But there’s challenges to be faced as the very waves themselves are to be controlled by The Man, and there’s another evil dude, and a revenge to be wreaked. Wroken. Wrought. Like, whatever.

Caroline M. Yoachim. Ninety-Five Percent Safe.

Teen Nicole is fed up of her life in the underground city that she lives in with her family in a post-nuclear winter Earth. She is desperate to get off-world. That isn’t particularly difficult to do, as it is easy to get on a spaceship that will take you through the nearby wormhole to pastures new, albeit alien.

There are two flies in the ointment for her, and they are linked. One is that her mother doesn’t want to go. The second is that the wormhole trip only has a 95% success rate. One in twenty shuttles don’t make it through.

To Nicole these are odds she can live with, and she takes matters into her own hand. However…

As is often the case with teen protagonist stories, I’d have much rather seen the story through the parents eyes, particularly the mother(!), as for teens everything is quite simple, whereas the complexity and depth is with the older generation.

Jay O’Connell. Candy from Strangers.

1Another good story from O’Connell looking at the slightly darker side of humanity. Young Morgan has come from a dark place himself, and uses his google-glass type technology to spot others with suicidal intent. His intervention….

However, when preventing one young woman from jumping in front of a train, he finds his intervention doesn’t quite go according to plan and he finds the tables very much turned.

Peter Wood. Butterflies

A story that reads like the stories that caused me to stop ready Analog some years ago. Not written as was the case with Analog by a scientist, featuring scientists, but by a lawyer, writing about entomologists.

The writing style is very staccato, with short sentences, and the characterisation is simplistic, dialogue basic, and it feels a bit like a Scooby-Doo episode.

Sarah Pinsker. Songs in the key of you.

A story featuring teen bullying, which appear fairly regularly in Asimovs (sounds like there’s scope for a research project into childhood bullying of adults who go on to be SF writers).

Why not workplace bullying? After all, assuming most of Asimov’s readers are adults, surely we’d engage more with adults being bullied? The school bullying is easy to write, the ethnography of it is so well established (classrooms, lockers, best friends, bitchy enemies, lonely bedrooms, yadder yadder yadder).

So here we have a young teenage girl being bullied (she’s poor and lacks the latest tech wizardry), but she has a talent (hooray), and a friend in a surprising place (gosh). It’s fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far, and writers like Jacqueline Wilson are doing far more in-depth stuff about bullying, writing for kids (ref Tracy Beaker).

There’s plenty to be mined in SF in terms of technology have/have not’s, but this is barely breaking the surface.

Allen M. Steele. The Long Wait.

Another installment in Steele’s stories about the Arkwright Foundation, set up by some of the founding fathers of SF, which is reaching for the stars.

I’ve found the stories fairly hard work, and this is no exception, as Steele makes interstellar travel, alcoholism, marital strife, Earthkiller comets and the like pretty boring reading. Sure there’s fun if you like stories that span generations so you can find out what happened to characters in previous stories, but here the story suffers from the narrator’s retrospective on events, the lengthy dialogue, and not really engaging (this) reader at any point in the 30 pages.


The opening story from Rowe ends just when it’s getting going, Rucker/Laidlaw entertaining, and apart from that, only O’Connell provides anything that rises above the distinctly average.

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