Asimovs June 2014

asimovs1406Cover by Maurizio Manzieri.

Suzanne Palmer. Shatterdown.

A second strong traditional SF thriller from Palmer in the last week or so, following ‘Fly Away Home’ in Interzone #251.

Like that story, this features a strong female central character, evil corporations, spacesuits and threat, with Cjoi the sole remaining child of over a hundred kidnapped, or bought, genmod and used as expendable resources in mining the upper reaches of a gas giant.

There are some good stylistic touches, decent dialogue, and only a little bit of infodumping in order to get the background across. Me, I’d have sent it back and asked to have the story at greater length, to avoid having to have a lecture theatre presentation to get the background in (and also in order to have the pleasure of reading a longer story).

Kara Dalkey. The Philosopher Duck.

A story from a writer new to me and new to Asimovs, although she’s been writing for 30 years and has over a dozen novels to her name.

This is a short, simple tale – it looks at how some space technology could be used to help those in the Philippines for whom global warming has left them very exposed to the more damaging tropical cyclones. A young family use the technology to avoid the destruction that is bearing down on their coastal hut, with a duck who joins them enabling them to be philosophical about matters.

Ian Creasey. Ormonde and Chase.

In an Austerity Britain of the near future, cultivating plants that have the appearance of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet appears to be a way to dig a flagging bespoke plant design company out of a financial black hole…

Truth be told the story didn’t really grab me – it just felt a little leaden and more the like the kind of story that was in Analog back in the day when I was reading it (and the kind of story that led me to stop reading it). The protagonist is a particularly unengaging character, as his his partner (and frankly you don’t care for either of them!). And when a story stoops to describing a sketch from a TV show (Spitting Image and the famous Margaret Thatcher ‘vegetables’ sketch) that suggests a story that was a germ of an idea, but the plant was rushed out of the greenhouse a bit too early, without enough hardening off.

David Erik Nelson. There was No Sound of Thunder.

Dude, is it really 25 years since Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure? And over 60 freaking years since the Ray Bradbury story which the title of this one references, and 40 freaking years since I read that story as a 14 year old at school.

All of which has little to do with this story, which is light-hearted time travelling story.

Mind you I have now had the pleasure of googling ‘sound of thunder’ ‘ben kingsley’ and delighting in the photographs of his hair, and a quick Rotten Tomatoes tells me that the film of that name is not one to seek out…

Sylvain Jouty. The Finges Clearing.

A short piece in which Jouty, through the translation by Edward Gauvin, looks at a clearing in a forest at Finges – a clearing evidently untouched by the hand (or the foot) of man, since time immemorial.

It’s not a plateau atop which there is a Lost World of dinosaurs, merely an otherwise unremarkable clearing, and the narrator reflects on it, and the response of those who come to look at it.

Deep people, the French. Moi? I just gave a gallic shrug after reading.

James Van Pelt. The Turkey Raptor.

It’s a while since I’ve read a Van Pelt story, and was initially pleased with the opening, especially “(the town) was much longer than wide, contained in its mountain valley. Houses ran up the slopes a short way, like weathered lumber and cracked brick waves lapping at the cliffs”.

The main protagonist is a young teen with a grudge, and the means by which he can wreak his revenge on those at school who are bullying him. And this is where the story doesn’t quite work for me, as I just wasn’t quite willing to make the necessary stretch to accept that premise (SPOILER : he’s got an (almost) tame raptor, who he’s able to set in the bullies). And I’d also take exception to the editor putting after the final half page of the story a a half page illustration against a poem called Tea Rex, with said illustration featuring a T Rex lifting a tea bag out of a cup of tea. Rather spoilt any chance of going with the drama of the closing paragraphs of the story, which felt just a little like a (not very good) teen movie from the 1980s, or a modern movie spoofing that kind of 80s movie.

Nancy Kress. Sidewalk at 12:10pm.

The editorial intro details how Kress occasionally ruminates about things which she might have done differently, and the story (a short one) features an older woman who finds she has one opportunity to change things in her past. And that’s pretty much it.

Lavie Tidhar. Murder in the Cathedral.

The prolific Tidhar provides another tongue-in-cheek story with a few digs at SF writers and SF fandom – similar to his ‘Whaliens‘ from Analog’s April 2014 issue.

This is a story, we are told, in the same milieu as his Bookman Histories trilogy, and is a steampunk/lizardpunk story set in a Victorian England where Queen Victoria rules the Lizardine Empire.

This story features a man with the name Orphan, leaving behind a London which has been the recipient of a terrorist attack which has impacted him personally, and his mission, given to him by the Bookman, is to head to France en route to rescuing his girlfriend.

The plot progresses nicely enough, but it is the setting, a Paris hotel which is hosting an SF convention, with Orphan meeting up with one Herbert George Wells that is the best part of it, with Tidhar getting in some subtle (or not that subtle!) digs. My favourite dig being the mining of a dead parent’s milieu.

Conclusion

Book-ended by stories at the beginning and end of the volume which I enjoyed, but with the rest of the issue not doing as much for me.

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