Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, June 2002

Having had to hand back my PDA upon leaving my last employer, I had gone without a mobile e-reading facility for a couple of months. Struggling with this lack, and also really not wanting to have to go back to copying from my MS Outlook in to a paper diary, I purchased my own piece of kit – a Palm m130.

This little beauty is a lot lighter than my previous PDA (a Cassiopeia), although it has much less functionality and a much smaller screen. However, whilst I miss the ability to play ‘Doom’ on the previous PDA, the m130 links with Outlook fine, and the screen, whilst smaller, proved to be easy on the eyes.

One of the benefits of buying through Fictionwise is that you can download the same story, or magazine, in a variety of formats, such as PDF and PalmReader. You can buy this issue for only a few dollars from Fictionwise, but only to the end of June 2002

James Patrick Kelly. Luck.

A trip to ancient caves with prehistoric paintings therein was evidently the inspiration for this story in which a Cro-Magnon tribe face the near-mythical mammoth. The story doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, which is a bit unusual as that is one thing which Jim Kelly tends to do as a matter of routine.

Brian Stableford. Taking the Piss.

It is worth pointing out that the title is also a British colloquism, meaning ‘to be sarcastic.

Stableford has written a number of stories relating to genetic modification of late, and this entertaining story describes how one young man, who is not being terribly succesful in making a life in near-future England, finds that having signed up as a ‘guinea-pig’ for some scientific tests which require frequent urine samples and sexual abstinence, becomes rather exciting when something in his genes causes most interesting results. He is kidnapped by a private company who want his genetic code, and he finds himself having a choice for once in his life – in this case whether to side with the commercial company or the government.

Allen M. Steele. Lonesome and a long way from home.

I don’t as a rule read novel serialisations, but got started on what it transpires is going to be a novel, with the very entertaining first installment, which was presented as a singleton.

This episode I skimmed through, as it was little more than a routine adventure story following directly from the last installment. Here the young man has to come to terms with his recent actions, and decide whether to face up to the consequences back at base, or to continue a life alone. He finds sentient life on his travels, which is the highlight of the story, which rather reminded me of the Heinlein juvenile stories I read 30 years ago.

Charles Stross. Halo.

Now this is what I call Science Fiction.

Halo continues the story of hi-tech semi-anarchistic Manfred Macx, although through the viewpoint of his daughter, whose conception was one of the more remarkable episodes in recent short SF. (hem hem).

Humanity is now in space, joining the lobsters (you’ll just have to read the back stories to catch up, dude), out as far as Jupiter, nearer to the teasing undecipherable message from outside the solar system which has been an underpinning if submerged background to the stories to date. Amber, a generation beyond Mafred, is even more wired-up to the processing power which is available. She is out in space thanks to a plan whose cunning was worth of her father (in fact it came via her father and his French partner). Liberating from her domineering mother, or so she thinks, Amber’s freedom is threatened by her mum taking the drastic step of becoming a muslim. Is the young woman about to fall under the jurisprudence of muslim law?

Naturally she finds a way out of a sticky situation, and (rather too quickly for my liking) we have an excellent denouement which, and this is difficult to believe if you have read the previous stories, takes the story forward by a quantum leap. More!

Liz Williams. The Banquet of the Lords of Light.

Another quantum leap – in this case in the nature of this story by Liz Williams, which, for my money, is a big step forward in her writing. The short, subtle, enigmatic and explosive story reminded me somewhat of some of Robert Silverberg’s short SF, which is no mean comparison.

A dark, downtrodden Earth has been encircled and enslaved by creatures of the dark, and it is down to the bravery of otherwise small, insignificant people, to fight back as best they can.

Howard V. Hendrix. Incandescent Bliss.

Somewhat of a pale imitation of the Stross story, and perhaps being placed in the same issue does not do the author any favour.

Another somewhat dense story in which quantum cryptography and ancient documents are the key to a multiplicity of universes. The protagonist looks back (at rather too great a length of time) at the back story, and then a somewhat OTT spell in virtual reality preceded by a denoument in which longevity and infertility will be set against each other, and in which universes may or may not fall.

Robert Reed. She Sees My Monsters Now.

Shades of Hannibal Lecter, in which an inmate in solitary confinement takes advantage of a well-meaning virtual prison visitor to wreak his subtle but evil psychological revenge on society.

Conclusion.

A very strong collection of stories.

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