The Mystery of Laura Molson. L. Timmel Duchamp.
An e-wake following the evident suicide of the eponymous celebrity fashion designer starts a lengthy mystery which twists and turns, no doubt to the delight of those who enjoyed SF mystery stories. They generally do little for me, and about halfway through this story I became extremely disengaged, to the point of not even wanting to flick the virtual-pages to get to the end.
Coming to Coyote. Allen Steele.
Steele’s ‘Stealing Alabama’ (Asimovs Jan 2001) provided an intriguing start to this series of stories, with political intrigue and a far-right US government being the background to a high-risk colonisation flight – a journey of two centuries in biostatis to a star which might have planets which could support human life. All but one of the crew make it to the destination – the odd one out being the feature of the second story in the series, ‘The Days Between’ (Asimovs, March 2001).
I found this story, like the second in the series, less enjoyable than the first. It felt pretty routine in its plotting and telling, with a b-movie evil villain (called Gunther, for heaven’s sake!) threatening the success of the mission. The crew, revived after two centuries, seem little affected by the fact that their family and friends are long, long dead. There is little suspension built up with regard to waiting to find out if habitable planets are available in the system, and a meeting of the crew and colonists in which a lot of info-dumping takes places comes across as somewhat wooden (more Analog than Asimovs). And the opportunity for getting across a sense of wonder for those who are first on the the future home is missed, big time. And the thought of a planet seeded by the WASP middle-class colonists – eugh!
Latency Time. Ruth Nestvold.
A first professional fiction sale, which bodes well for the future.
Unlike the previous story, we get some insight into human motivation, moral choices, and difficult decisions to be made. A representative from a biotech company visits Yugoslavia, desperate for help from the company, regardless of what that company has been responsible for in the past, and what the cost of its help will be. Will the biotech rep take the moral high ground, or will she accept the price to be paid, as the local population wish?
The Ghost Pit. Stephen Baxter.
Another in Baxter’s XeeLee sequence, and one which more than perhaps is really acceptable, requires a fair knowledge of that sequence for the story to work.
Without any background knowledge of the predecessor stories, this short story is essentially a very short vignette of two ill-matched spacefarers who crash land on a deserted moon (this within the first few paragraphs). Background to the female character is mentioned, and after a short trek across the planet, and intriguing link between two moons provides the backdrop for a conflict which would be dramatic if the reader had been able to engage with the characters.
Sparks. Robert Reed.
A Chalk Mine, now a tourist destination, with the tour guide in a side-slip reality condition. Flitting between variations on her life, a visitor appears to offer her the chance to become fixed in one reality.
An intriguing short story, although the sexual activity is a little off-putting – is Reed attempting to make a point?
The World Without. Steven Utley.
Utley has had several stories published recently in which scientists visit Silurian Earth, which are evidently to be collected together shortly. In this short story, slighty unfortunately placed immediately after another QM multiple-universe story, one scientist struggles with the reality to which he has returned.
A slightly weaker than usual issue perhaps – certainly for someone like me for whom the opening SF mystery did little for, and certainly considering the calibre of the authors in this issue.