Stories by Allen M. Steele, Erick Melton, Alan Wall, Neal Barrett. Jr, Carol Emshwiller, Ian Creasey, R. Neube, Robert Reed. Stories now being read and reviewed.
Reading it as a .mobi ebook in the Kindle Reader on an iPAD.
Allen M. Steele. The Observation Post.
Steele goes back to the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s, by way of the reminiscences of a man looking almost half a century back on his time as a crewmember on a Navy blimp monitoring Russian sea traffic around Cuba. There was someone else monitoring what’s happening, which is where the sfnal stuff comes in, and Steele wraps up the story nicely with another layer, in a nicely paced story that doesn’t try too hard.
Neal Barrett, Jr. D.O.C.S.
A brief look at one possible future for the US healthcare system – and it’s scary enough as it is.
Carol Emshwiller. Danilo.
Emshwiller turned 90 earlier this year, and whilst being published in an SF magazine at that age is remarkable, she still has five years to go to match Jack Williamson. The story here shows little sign of having been written by someone in their tenth decade, a gentle and tender story of a middle-aged woman yearning to meet the man of her dreams, who finally does. Or maybe doesn’t. There’s somewhat of a dream-like quality to it, almost as if the story is the equivalent of an old sepia-tinted photograph in which it’s difficult to make out exactly what’s happening.
Erick Melton. Shadow Angel.
A complex story from Melton, in which you need to be strapped in as tight as pilot Emil, as he desperately tries to plot a route through space and time, with time itself both helping and hindering, as all the future possibilities that lie ahead try to influence the route he takes.
Ian Creasey. The Odor of Sanctity.
On a backward planet, primitive superstition holds that when a religious leader destined for sainthood dies, there is a wondrous odor at their passing. Sitting at the bedside of an aged priest and community leader, a woman has to decide whether the opportunity to capture an odour, should it exists, is one that she should take – will good or evil come from it?
R.Neube. Grandma Said.
A dryly black look at a community living with (or, indeed, dying of) a particularly vicious plague. The young protagonist has volunteered for the plague crew, taking a huge risk in disposing of the bodies and disinfecting their surroundings. It’s not a long-term career choice, but he heeds his Grandma’s advice
Robert Reed. Stalker.
A dark and disturbing story, which you can imagine Reed working through in his mind whilst doing his long-distance running.
He looks at the darker side of technology, or rather the darker uses to which technology might be put. The POV character is an artificial intelligence, commercial AI wetware used to help humans. In the case of this AI, certain functions have been edited out, to the extent that it can remained detached from what it’s owner is doing, and retain its primary need to serve. And his owner uses him to assist in his psychopathic activities, which we find out about in scary detail I’ve not come across since reading Silence of the Lambs some while back.
When a new victim starts to fight back, the psychopath and his AI are both given pause for thought. A tight, unsettling thriller.
Alan Wall. Burning Bibles.
A bit of a disappointment, truth be told. Firstly, the editorial introduction, outlining Wall’s publication history, academic status as a Professor of Writing and Literature, and his being a poet, led to me anticipate something at the higher end of literary SF. In fact, it’s a fairly routine thriller, more of a Dan Brown than you would expect to see in Asimovs. And the speculative element is that the character brought in is a deaf-mute, who has enhanced abilities that enable him to virtually mind-read. Perhaps there was some mixup and the story should have appeared in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine?
A bit of a curate’s egg of an issue, with some strong stories, some average, and a couple weaker.