Asimovs. June 2011.

Ian R. MacLeod. The Cold Step Beyond.

MacLeod returns to the setting of his story ‘Breathmoss’ from Asimovs back in May 2002, to explore the strange relationship of a very odd couple. Bess is a fighting machine, an orphaned child raised to take on a role that is simply to kill. Ellie is an altogether more ethereal child. Their futures are inexorably intertwined, and MacLeod gets the meeting of the two just right, as he does with the backstory and the background to the story, making a three-dimensional read. Or four.

Carol Emshwiller. All the News That’s Fit.

A remote village community is reliant on a travelling news-teller for their contact with the outside world, and when he fails to turn up on schedule, there is concern for him. A young woman decides to risk herself in the wilderness to seek him, but whilst she does find him, she finds that things are not quite as he has led their community to believe. Nicely told story looking at whether it is right to protect innocence.

Alan DeNiro. Walking Stick Fires.

A buddy story, the buds in question being aliens, but still most excellent and savoury. Their gnarly adventures are set on (and under) and Earth that is under terrible onslaught from a wide range of alien species, both small and very, very large. Totally non-bogus.

Felicity Shoulders. Apocalypse Daily.

The title refers to a computer game, or to be more specific a MMORPG with a strong social networking element. Katrina is an employee with the company who make money through subscriptions, but she’s got problems : junior co-worker after her job, jobless sister moved in with her.

She plays the junior co-worker at his own game, and the stakes get very high as the daily apocalypse inflicted on players is suddenly quite different – instead of social co-operation, there is competition (mirroring her real life situation).

Neatly handled, which stories featuring computer games aren’t always.

Colin P. Davies. The Fighter.

Fine as far as it goes, but it’s a short story with a simple plot twist and it does really go that far.

Mary Robinette Kowal. Kiss Me Twice.

Lengthy near-future police thriller in which an AI which is the detective’s constant companion, is removed from the police station. Cue some detective work, in the real and virtual worlds, to solve the case. But I confess, reader, you broke me down and I cannot tell a lie, I didn’t read to the end of the story (sob) I … didn’t … read to the end … of the story.

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