Asimovs, July 2007

Brian Stableford. The Trial.

Stableford explores a drugs trial that proves too successful. There’s a fair bit of bio-chemistry in the story (‘What do you think is wrong with the orthodox assumption that about the enkaphelin whose CAG-repeat variant clogs up the neutrons of Alzheimer’s sufferers?’) as a drug on trial with an initial cohort of dementia sufferers has a particularly quick and dramatic affect on one patient.

The thesis of the tale is that Alzheimer’s is in effect part of an evolutionary response in humanity, that helps us to selectively blot out memories, providing us with a rosier glow on our life than would otherwise be the case. Patient K very quickly finds that a repressed memory from his National Service days some 50 years ago comes back to haunt him, and there is a rooftop denouement when he threatens to leap from the seventh floor of the hospital.

It’s an interesting conceit, and considering the number of stories about uploading to digital selves, one that hasn’t been explored in too much detail, but one that could have been explored in a slightly different way than this story, which features just a bit too much biochem and drug debate and dialogue. It feels more of an Analog ‘scientist fiction’ story than an Asimovs ‘science fiction’.

John Schoffstall. Bullet Dance.

A neat story from an author new to me, and new to Asimovs. A young girl, brought up under strict security as the daughter of a diplomat in a very tense political future, has some help from mysterious sources to help her response to a threat in her future. She grows up to face her future, and to respond to the challenge that has been long coming but is quickly resolved.

Chris Roberson. The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small.

Part of the author’s ‘Celestial Empire’ sequence, an alternate history which has a globally dominant China. Cao Wen, a junior civil servant, has the difficult task of extricating from a very stubborn elderly political prisoner some details which it is believe will help the State.

The young man learns a lot from the elder, but whilst not that which he seeks for his job, it is a lot more than he had anticipated. Roberson handles the nuances of the relationship well, and paces the story well as it builds up to an ending, whilst not a climactic one, a subtly big one.

Robert Reed. Roxie.

Reed’s fiction of late has been getting quite personal, in terms of his using life events and personal experience more than is the norm, and there is also in many of his stories an almost palpable sense of looking back whilst looking forward. Here he follows a man and his faithful companion, both getting on in years, as they face up to the ageing process, and the threat of a potential asteroid strike on Earth. As the odds get shorter on a strike and the devastating consequences, the character/Reed becomes more than resigned to the future, in accepting that whilst shit may happen, life has also happened, and in the scheme of things, that is something of which to be proud and to cherish, without overly mourning its passing.

Michael Swanwick. Congratulations from the Future!

A virtual Swanwick, some 100 years hence, looks back on the last century in sfnal terms.

Nancy Kress. Fountain of Age.

A tight, lengthy story – what tends to be billboarded as a ‘science thriller’ lest potential purchasers be put off buying anything labelled as ‘SF’. As Kress invariably does, she presents some three dimensional characters, with backhistory, in a believable setting, and very cleverly works in the science and the tech to support the story, rather than overpowering it (unlike the Stableford story earlier – albeit that was a much shorter story.)

The central conceit is of rejuve/longevity technology, setting up a story in which a love story across time is played out very cleverly.

Conclusion.

A very strong issue, with Kress on very good form.

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