Asimovs. July 2012.

Megan Lindholm. Old Paint.

Excellent story from Lindholm.

She sets the story in the USA about 50 years from now, the protagonist a teen daughter of a strict single mother, who live in social housing along with her brother. The US is in a bit of an economic downturn, but cleverly the story enables us to contrast this with the struggles the mother had in the 2030s. And not only is there the relationship between the girl and her brother and their mother, but also the historic relationship between their mother and her grandfather.

All of this is explored through the death of the estranged grandfather, who leaves, along with a very modest sum of money, a vintage car. Of course the car is hi-tech by our standards, with an impressive AI, but is hardly state of the art to the teens.

Taking the car back to their house, the story explores the impact the car (a station wagon) has on the family, and throws a light on the reliance of AI controlled cars, the various relationships, live and historic, and ends quite happily ever after, up to a point, in a tender and affecting way. Sort of a nod to the Disney/Pixar Toy Story and Cars, with a bit of Wall-E thrown in. And Herbie.

Robert Reed. The Girl in the Park.

A brief encounter in a park many years ago is plaguing a man, and continues to plague him, due to a brain injury suffered in the meantime. Reed uses this to explore the relationship between the man and son, whose visits to the health care facility revisit the same issues due to the father’s memory loss.

The story is set some decades hence, and as with Megan Lindholm’s previous story, has the world, and the US, in economic and climate trouble. It’s a fairly bleak set up, what with brain injury, bereavement, rape, HIV, climate change, and economic disaster, but the story, a good one, manages to end on a positive note.

If you click on the ‘Filed under Robert Reed’ tag above, you’ll see that there are 139 stories by Reed I’ve read and reviewed, which has him by far and away the most reviewed author on Best SF.

Benjamin Crowell. Kill Switch.

Crowell opens the story with an opening line that intrigues and covers a lot of what the story is about : “Jo was in the middle of a saxophone solo when she made the decision to go phenotypically male”. It’s a story set in the relatively-near future, but far enough in our future to have ethanol-stations rusting along the side of deserted highways.

Genetic engineering in utero is the norm, hence Jo’s musical ability (dear me, if the future if jazz, stop the world this old punk wants to get off….). And as the opening line indicated, people have a lot of choices.

Jo goes male, shacks up with Chris (you’ll have to read the story to work out Chris’ gender), and the pair of them look at options in having a baby – what modifications should they go for, in the light of their mods not having been entirely successful. In settling in the countryside, Jo begins to reduce his meds and begins to question a lot, and, like a recent Crowell story in Asimovs (review here) this story also ends abruptly!

Allen M. Steele. Alive and Well, A Long Way from Anywhere.

The editorial introduction explains how the recent discovery of 2010 TK7 gave Steele the missing piece of a puzzle for his ‘Near Space’ series. If I was being cruel I’d say that that jigsaw was tucked away in the attic, and for good reason…

The Near Space series is, according to Wikipedia a series of novels from the 1990s. This lengthy story suffers in comparison to the previous story I’ve just read, Catherynne M. Valente’s ‘Silently and Very Fast’, an inventive, rich, deep etc story. This feels more like a Reader’s Digest condensation of an Analog novella.

‘Show, don’t tell’ is advice given about writing fiction, but here it is mostly tell, as the protagonist, responsible for the PR for a billionaire, describes in great detail the history of their relationship, and the lengthy trip to the asteroid made by said billionaire. The billionaire is eccentric – he wears dark turtleneck sweaters and is a vegetarian (remind you of anyone?) and reclusive (obsessive about cleanliness, ditto?). And as in two other Steele stories I’ve read, the question of sanity and ‘madness’ appears again.

All in all, a story I’d expect to see in Analog, but way below the standard I’d expect to see in Asimovs.

Steven Utley. Zip.

It’s a while since one of Ultey’s ‘Silurian Tales’ has appeared. Unlike those stories, which feature scientists for the most part exploring prehistoric Earth through a robust time-travel mechanism, the three scientists in this shortish story find them in an altogether graver predicament. Something has clearly gone wrong, and they have a choice of running away from an impending potentially fatal something in the fabric of space and time, or to stop running and face the challenge head on.

As with a lot of the ‘Silurian Tales’, the story is short and inconclusive.

Michael Blumlein. Bird Walks in New England.

Tender love story across the decades with a strong ornithological bent, a bird with knees bent in the opposite direction, and a minimal sfnal bent.

Felicity Shoulders. Long Night on Redrock.

A husband and wife ex-marine team farming on a remote planet, have to deal with dark memories as they try to rescue their kidnapped children, following the kidnapper across a nightmare-inducing desert storm.

In addition to both husband and wife being revisited by nightmarish combat decisions from their past, the kidnapper, and the two kidnapped children also face horrors from their dreams, and this reader got a little disorientated what with the husband and wife watching their younger selves, and keeping track of who was watching and who was the memory!

Conclusion.

A good issue, with Lindholm and Reed the pick for me.

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