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

Moby Quilt. Eleanor Arnason.

Another formulaic Lydia Duluth story which gets perilously close to plot lines hackneyed even for nautical made-for-TV drama : there are tales of ships going missing when getting too close to the bizarre native aquatic life, so what do those on the scientific ship do when their propellers get fouled when close to said life-form? Do they heed the warning and beat a hasty retreat. Nope, they carry on regardless.

In the story we read that Duluth takes a shower no less than six times, and are introduced briefly by reference to their skin colour to any number of enter stage left/exit stage right ‘characters’.

There is little invention in the story, with a lot of comfortable contemporary references (as I have mentioned in previous reviews): Duluth checks into, and gets the key for a non-smoking hotel room, and has toast and marmalade for her breakfast. No real sense of the truly alien nature of the marine creature with which Duluth is able to communicate is given, and she is able to communicate and empathise to such an extent that she finds herself falling for the octopod.

Hero. Robert Reed.

An unfortunate juxtaposition, IMHO, in putting stories with some similarities next to each other. Reed’s story also features a film-maker taking an opportunity to seek out footage. However, Reed’s story also has invention, several well-drawn characters, and evidences more craftmanship than the previous story. By no means a classic Robert Reed, but obviously a story by a class short-story writer.

The Saturnian upper-atmosphere is the location for heroism, intrigue, jealousy, sabotage, drama and derring-do, and provides an enjoyable romp.

The Color of Envy. Brian Stableford.

To help pay her way through university, Tess Eliot volunteers for a scientific study which involves her having artificial chloroplasts pasted on her arms and legs. How will this human somatic engineering affect her beyond the obvious discoloration?

Stableford leaves the reader wanting more.

Cut. Megan Lindholm.

Body art and freedom of choice conspire to create a fad for female circumcision. A grandmother is horrified when her granddaughter decides to opt for this procedure.

A short, but powerful story.

The Lesson Half Learned. Daniel Abraham.

A religious order in which young boys are faced with a harsh regime, the better to learn hard lessons. Fairly routine stuff.

The Men On The Moon. John Alfred Taylor.

The story of the men (and women) who tamed the Moon, told through the means of what is essentially a transcript of an oral history session with an elderly female colonist reminiscing about her early life and loves.

A Boy in Cathyland. David Marusek.

Marusek has been holed up in the woods working on his first novel, but he has also produced this short but effective story. In the rural steppes of Russia, double centenarian Cathy, from the West, is experiencing first hand the effects of the major technological collapse that is returning society to more lo-tech solutions. The hi-tech is that which Marusek described so vividly in “Wedding Day” – and Cathy has some contrabrand hi-tech to protect.

Conclusion.

Most good material, although the Lydia Duluth stories don’t do much for me (neither do Kage Baker’s Company series for the most part, nor Niven’s Draco’s Tavern, so maybe its just seriesitis on my part).

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