Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, August 2001 (Peanut Press edition)

The Caravan from Troon. Kage Baker.

A non-Company story by Kage Baker. Instead Baker furnishes a semi-comic fantasy tale. The intro promises ‘a host of .. marvelous characters’ which I am not entirely sure I would agree with. A host of stock characters, many called Smith, would be my description. The novella length stretched my patience a little, but as I am not much of a fan of either humour or of fantasy, I would have expected that to be the case.

I found the story began quite well, painting an interesting picture of a community and setting up a potentially interesting merchant caravan train story. But after that promising start the story becomes fairly run of the mill, and simply overlong, with the final scenes hurried through with the minimum amount of effort. A splending opportunity for some (fundamental) scatological humour was rather missed!

Civilians. Tom Purdom.

Some more standard fare next up (in the Peanut Press edition, which has the stories in a different order from the print version). A shuttle of civilians are caught up in a revolution, and are in dire threat of becoming kidnap victims. The drama is heightened by the media coverage of the shuttle’s flight and their predicament. Young Daj is one of the passengers, who is with one of his fathers (tripartite partnerings being the norm in this society), and as you might expect, he has a key role to play in helping the heroic pilot, Lieutenant Kim, from evading their pursuers.

Passkey. Charles L. Harness

Veteran writer and lawyer, accredited to practice before the Patent Office, brings us a good old-fashioned courtroom drama with a twist about a …. patent case.

The Cold Sink. Stephen Baxter.

In between huge novels, Baxter continues to write excellent short stories. This isn’t one of them, though. Set in his Xeelee sequence, it adds a little to the oeuvre, but doesn’t do much as a standalone story. Jack Raoul (who has presumably appeared in a previous Xeelee story?) has been indicted for his previous actions. Can one of the Ghosts offer him another ending to the one to which he is facing?

The Infodict. James van Pelt.

One of several stories in recent years concerning the individual human’s response to constant information from various sources. Van Pelt’s angle is to explore how love will be affected – just how much do you need to know about your significant other?

The Great Goodbye. Robert Charles Wilson.

For me, the pick of the bunch. A short, but effective, story about generational differences. An elderly human and his grandson come to a parting of the ways. The stars beckon, and will separate the two, the unmodified staying behind. Nicely told. Conclusion

Conclusion

Your response to this issue will doubtless hinge on your liking of the lengthy Kage Baker story. I found it overlong and without a great deal of invention – not that I read much of Terry Pratchett, but there is IMHO more original humour in one page of his (rather samey) novels than in the entire Baker story. Other than that the rest of the stories are moderately entertaining, with, as I have said, Robert Charles Wilson being the pick of the bunch for me.

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