Asimovs. July 2013


Ted Kosmatka. Haplotype 1402.

Post fall-of-humanity vignette. A Totally Drug Resistant form of TB has decimated humanity, with only a few who are unsusceptible left alive. Nathan, a motorbike outrider for a small travelling group, led by the very unpleasant ‘Doc’, finds himself having to make a decision..

Not a real new ground-breaker, and ‘Doc’ ain’t as mean as Walking Dead’s ‘Governor’…

Carrie Vaughn. The Homecoming.

Nice story from Vaughn. Major Wendy Daring is facing a difficult situation following a xeno-contact mission that has gone badly wrong, with the finger of blame pointing unfairly at her.

She is given the opportunity to take a break, and she she makes landfall on the planet where her sister, and what little family she has, are homesteading. The story revolves around Wendy coming to terms with planetary life, and having to make a decision as to where her future lies, and it’s handled well.

Ian Watson. Blair’s War.

An alternate history story the enjoyment of which rather depends on your knowledge of the real name of a famous 20th Century author. If you know that, you will probably guess who the titular character is and get enjoyment from it.

Otherwise, I guess you may get a bit flummoxed as the name Blair tends nowadays to mean Tony Blair, and a story entitled ‘Blair’s War’ suggests something related to the warmongering antics of the ex-PM, who ignored millions of people taking to the streets of London, to start a ‘war’ that continues to have devastating effects on civilians in Iraq to this day.

Anyhoo, this story is set in the time of the Spanish Civil War, and again, unless you’re expert on that conflict and can spot the differences in this alternate history, you’re left with a so-so story about young children evacuated to Britain in the 1930s.

Rudy Rucker and Paul Di Filippo. Yubba Vines.

I and I enjoyed this dread tale, ‘gnarly transrealism’ it is described in the introduction. A mobile food emporium of a rastafi persuasion attracts a young couple, one of whom succumbs to the food and the … relaxed atmosphere.

Exactly why the restaurant is happy to feed up some customers and keep them on the premises, is eventually revealed in a Most Excellent ending.

Only one minor quibble, The Clash sung ‘Armagideon Time’ not ‘Armageddon Time’. (The Clash, Leeds University, January 1990 – ‘yes, I was there too’. FFS someone invite a time machine so I can go back there)

Gray Rinehart. What is a Warrior Without His Wounds?

An army veteran, without his legs, has a fairly bleak outlook. However, due to medical advances, he is given an offer that will see him returned to a full health. However, there’s a big ethical consideration…

The denouement rests somewhat on the believability of a major technologically-based medical ‘intervention’ being carried out by an army surgeon and an assistant, more like a rural doctor carrying out a routine surgery.

David J. Schwartz. Today’s Friends.

An interestingly different look at alien invasion/occupation. The Grays have landed on Earth, inscrutable beings, prone to approaching humans and getting into their minds – not a pleasant experience.

Having suffered contact on a train, the narrator has to make sense of what has happened, finding himself changed.

A neat story, and a setting well worth a revisit.

Rick Wilber. At Palomar.

Last year Wilber introduced wartime baseball player Moe Berg as more than the “brainiest player in MLB” (wikipedia.) Whilst in our world Berg did work for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, Wilber’s ‘Something Real’ (review here) took that involvement further, putting Berg in a position, in his world, where he has to find out whether Heisenberg and his team are sufficiently close to creating an A-Bomb to need assassinating.

The story gets picked up against, and dialled up several notches in this equally engaging follow-up. Berg finds his services called on again, an in a quite memorable train journey, several changes of alternate versions of Earth are flicked through. Fortunately I know enough about baseball to spot the reference to a lithe pitcher called Babe Ruth as being a quite radical departure from our reality.

There’s another task for Berg, with several complications, ending with a cliff-hanger leaving this reader looking forward to more.

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