Asimovs July 2010.

Alice Sola Kim. The Other Graces.
A runner up in the 2005 Dell Magazines Award for undergraduate SF writing gets her first story in Asimovs. A young Asian girl struggles to free herself from her ‘poor yellow trash’ roots, and finds help from a surprising source (there’s a clue in the title) in getting to a good university. But can she really break free from those family ties that bind?

Tom Purdom. Haggle Chips.
I’m afraid Purdom is one of the few authors who appear in Asimovs who I generally don’t enjoy reading. The problems I have with his writing, in terms of being heavy-handed and not very subtle, are in evidence here, in a ‘thriller’ in which a courier is kidnapped and has to see if he can escape his captors through his own resources, and with the help of those outside with whom (rather unbelievably) he remains able to communicate. It’s not a bad captivity, as it’s a Free Love commune in which he is held captive, which means there’s plenty of female company for him to avail himself of. There’s a lot of dialog, and the cardboard characters are moved about to help the plot along, and it is rather a long way short of the quality you normally get in Asimovs.

D.T. Mitenko. Eddie’s Ants.
Slight story, light humour in which a human is pleased to find that revenge on the extra-terrestrial who has pinched his girl is only too happy to put him/itself forward as a target for destruction. However, the alien is indeed very alien, and is not easy to damage.

Aliette de Bodard. The Jaguar House, in Shadow.
Part of AdB’s ‘Xuya’ alternate history sequence, of which you can find more about on her website, but suffice to say the conceit is that North America is shared by China and the Aztecs.

The alternate history is played down here, and sfnal elements limited to brief mention of emergent AI’s in America. The crux of the story is how three colleagues have grown apart over the years, as each takes decisions based on where they draw the line as to what is acceptable in taking forward the society which they wish to see prosper. The narrative is taken forward as the backstory is gradually revealed to us, so that the denouement of the narrative reaches a climax as the earliest days of the characters are revealed. It’s well constructed and well handled. Now if only the author would write a big canvas space opera, that would be something I’d be really interested in reading.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Amelia Pillar’s Etiquette for the Space Traveler.
Short and mildly diverting guide to ensuring the proper sensibilities are maintained even in deep space.

Robert Reed. A History of Terraforming.
Editor Sheila Williams mentions in the editorial that Reed is hard at work on a Young Adult novel, and, truth be told, there’s a touch of the YA about this story. It starts with a young boy on Mars, marvelling at the efforts his father is making to terraform Mars, and follows the boy through his long, long life as we hear about (a lot is described, not shown) the successes, and failures of terraforming across the Solar System, and the successful, and failures, of humanity to address our self-destructive inclinations. The young boy is able to rise to a position through which he is able to exert and influence on the bigger picture, despite following the fashion to be reduced to virtually Tom Thumb size, as humanity terraforms itself for the future. There’s a lot in the story, but it isn’t up there with Reed’s best, with a feel of characters and events being moved about at speed chess rates, rather than a more leisurely Grandmasterly approach that Reed often brings.

Conclusion
A bit of a curate’s egg of an issue. There’s a goodly range of writers, from the very well established, such as Reed and Rusch (neither at their best), through the likes of Purdom provding s(t)olid fayre, to newcomers to varying degrees in de Bodard, Mitenko and Kim. Of these last three, de Bodard is building up a career nice, Mitenko I’m not too sure about on this occassion, and Kim (I’m guessing) is drawing a fair bit on personal experience and we’ll have to see her give full rein to her imagination to get a better picture of her abilities.

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