Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, February 2000

The Royals of Hegn. Ursula K. Le Guin

A short tale from UKLG, describing the small country of Hegn, particularly notable for having a population all of whom are of blue blood – they can trace their royal forebears back many generations. Well, not everyone is royalty, for there is a small family of commoners, whose lives the rest of the population follow with fascination. And when one of those commoners dies there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Very, very acerbic satire in true Swiftian style – indeed the story could easily have been written as one of Gulliver’s travels.

How Josiah Taylor lost his soul. L. Timmel Duchamp.

A slightly unwieldy title, but an excellent story which probes the morality of developing clones to use as experimental subjects and to furnish spare parts for the person from whom the clones were developed, the eponymous Josiah Taylor, a most unpleasant businessman millionaire, who has gone further than simply creating a clone: he has several.

Number Two clone, with the aid of medical staff in the employ of Taylor, hatches a plot.

The question of what constitutes a true human soul is explored deftly.

Downriver. James Sarafin.

Civil disturbance in Alaska has lead to a nuclear conflagration, taking out most of Anchorage. Downriver, in a fishing lodge, the aggressive owner has all but imprisoned a number of the residents at the lodge. Adrift in the river, a boat passes by, and a young girl is ‘rescued’ – although for her what constitutes a rescue is somewhat out of the normal.

Steve tries to help the girl, but ends up going further downriver himself, in the hope of recovering what is dear to him.

The Shunned Trailer. Esther M. Friesner.

Trailer trash from your worst nightmares. Your most eldritch nightmares.

Harvard student finds himself in a very strange situation in a well executed and enjoyably written take on a very strange gene pool.

Tyrannous and Strong. O’Neil De Noux.

Slightly out of place in Asimovs, to my mind. On the planet of Octavion, a farmer defends his land against a marauding Tyrannosaurus Rex-like threat.

A gripping adventure yarn, but not what you normally read in Asimovs.

The Forest Between The Worlds. G. David Nordley.

An interesting blend of almost ER Burroughs-type adventure with a hard SF pedigree. The diagrams are supplied to support the scientific rigour behind two planets with an interconnecting gargantuan volcanic forest.

Akil Mateo has not been on the planet for long when he and Marianne Jones have to search for a missing fellow scientist and a young girl. The fellow scientist, Sharada Fina has been having a lesbian relationship with Marianne, which is pretty much de rigeur in SF nowadays, although she has taken xenoscience a bit too far by having sexual relations with the indigenous race.

Akil and Marianne find each other amongst the forest before they find Sharadna, and have a pell-mell captured, escape, and recaptured adventure which finishes most unexpectedly.

Good stuff, although perhaps over long and I felt the capture-escape-recaptured sequence could have been more usefully kept to a simple captured!

Conclusion

A good range of stories – some well-written humour, adventure, and some hard SF.

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