Asimovs. October/November 2013.

asimovs131011A bumper double-issue offering ‘a mix of terrifying chills and SF thrills’ : exactly what you want on a muggy mid-August evening.

Charlie Jane Anders. The Time Travel Club.

Time travel but through the lens of an individual part of a time-travellers ‘self help’ group. Truth be told I struggled to engage with the story, unable to make a connection to either the characters or the narrative.

Neal Asher. Memories of Earth.

I felt a bit sorry for myself this afternoon, having been stung at the very back of my mouth (bang on my uvula if you want the exact location) by a bee which I hit at about a combined speed of 30mph whilst cycling. The sting was instant and the pain shot through my mouth and (it felt like) out through my ears. So, with ibuprofren and piritin inside me, an afternoon that was scheduled to be spent in the sun at a beer festival in the sunshine was spent indoors in the front room reading some short SF.

All of which is by way of a preamble to say that I would have been disinclined to like anything I read, but I found Asher’s story a clever one indeed. The set up is quick (it’s a shorter short story) and the main character interesting – due to an alien attack, he’s left grounded planetside, no longer connected to the vast web of knowledge and technical support that gave him what was tantamount to godhood when up is space.

He has one task to finish, as his previously virtually immortal body is now struggling with increasing decrepitude – setting the planet on the terraforming road to being a new Earth for his fellow travellers (who will spend many centuries in cryosleep).

It’s cleverly done and with a neat ending, more to my liking than his previous Asimovs story The Other Gun.

Ian McHugh. When the Rain Comin.

Three-pager in which far future humans (I guess) are facing climactic challenges, and it’s a harder, somewhat different life, as we find from the pidgin-English what is spoked.

Meg Pontecorvo. Grounded.

In an near-future where climate change is causing serious difficulties, a teen girl rails against her mother and her confinement, with disastrous results.

I’m not a fan of teen protagonist perspectives – I’d much rather have the parental POV, for a deeper understanding of issues, sacrifices, challenges, and dealing with the next generation!

Jack Dann. Waiting for Medusa.

An interesting protagonist – a regenerating cyborgised K9 combat troop, who drily relates some of this previous lives. He finds a new companion, and the bond between the human and dog in an intense one.

Igor Teper. Quantum Orpheus, At The Light Cone’s Apex.

Excellent hard SF from an author new to me. What could have been average scientist fiction, with a plot involving a scientist working with a quantum computer which achieves sentience. But the scientist has a depth of character, and in redeeming his relationship with his daughter, which throws a lens on his widowhood, there is depth to the story.

Gregory Frost. No Others Are Genuine.

A chilling horror set in the days of knickerbockers and wax cylinder phonographs. Those two items are pertinent to the story, as the main protagonist is a young boy wearing knickerbockers, and the wax cylinder phonograph is a key to the story and to the horror. The young boy is enamoured of the young woman who lives in the room across the corridor of the boarding house in which he lives with his widowed mother. When she mysteriously disappears and is replaced by an altogether less pleasant character thinks take a turn for the worse, as the new lodger also has a phonograph, and his can record……

Frost sets the scene nicely and builds up a palpable sends of dread.

Joel Richards. Deep Diving>

The Deep Diving of the title relates to the protagonist, part of small group of people who are able to connect with people and divine from their minds who they were in previous lives, and just how long their current life has yet to run. There’s a locked room mystery at the hub of the story, but with the protagonist fairly convinced he knows the guilty party. After esconcing himself in a chair and being visited by the First Officer, the reader is let into some of the political intrigue. Visiting the captain, esconced in a gimballed chair, the protagonist tutors him in how to deal with the AI-controlled ‘Fury’ that has been let loose to find the guily party/ies. There’s a denouement, with the First Officer brought to book, despite being esconced in the captain’s chair.

So, political intrigue in space, but slightly heavy-handed, and three references to people esconcing themselves in seats that you would have thought the author/editor would have spotted! Writers, eschew esconcement!

Ian Creasey. Within These Well-Scrubbed Walls.

Short mood-piece in which an adult son clearing his recently-deceased mother’s house has cause to reflect on his upbringing, constrained by her OCD cleanliness issues. The reflection is aided by a holo-projector that he had as a child that enabled him to have a virtual pet, and which is mother clearly used to have virtual instances of himself at various ages, once he had flown the maternal home.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Encounter on Starbase Kappa.

Another in the prolific Rusch’s ‘Diving’ series, with Captain Jonathan ‘Coop’ Cooper struggling with the anacapa drive and other challenges. Having started reading it, I baled out as it didn’t seem that much different from other recent stories in the sequence, and as I couldn’t recall exactly how it followed on from previous stories and it felt just a bit like a story rolled off a production line rather than something artisan and hand-crafted.

Conclusion

Wow, I started reading on a muggy mid-August evening, and finished well after Halloween. Perhaps I wasn’t being grabbed by the stories? Gregory Frost and Igor Teper the pick of an otherwise average bunch for me.

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