Asimovs. September 2012.

Dropping w-a-y behind in my reading of Asimovs. I ditched the print copy for the Kindle copy, and have found that spending most of my work day at a laptop, and spending the evening starting up close at another screen isn’t a particularly attractive proposition. Here’s the contents from the September 2012 issue (reviews as an when!) :

William Preston. Unearthed.

Another excellent piece of adventure writing with a retro-vibe to it. It starts off classilly :

“It was in 1925, in a teardrop of land no map remembers, a land absorbed decades ago by other countries pressing from every side. I had come for work, a young woman sent by a man I met only once to tell the story of a people whose language I couldn’t speak.”

The narrator is a young woman of native American descent, and we see her view on the indigenous tribespeople she is observing through that lens. When there is a dramatic roof-fall in a mine, the miners are dragged out – not physically damaged, but each a gibbering wreck. There’s clearly something strange, very strange underneath their feet.

Thus arrives the son of the mine owner, known only as Little Boss, a man of many strengths and skills, and what follows is a touch of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger, H Rider Haggard and H P Lovercraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, as the young woman and the Little Boss have to dig deep to solve the problem and ensure that threat from both below the ground and from neighbours, is averted.

Dale Bailey. Mating Habits of the Late Cretaceous.

Bailey takes us back to Bradbury’s seminal time-travel tale ‘A Sound of Thunder’. Quite literally, as the couple taking a holiday back in time to the Cretaceous are in effect in a sequel, as the impact of the protagonist in that earlier story, Eckels, is referenced. Bailey also uses the phrase ‘a sound of thunder’ in the narrative.

It is made clear from the start that due to the nature of the visit, no butterfly-wings are going to take place, and the travellers have a much more advanced technology at hand – no being constrained to walking on a specific path floating above the land, and with a technology that can spot danger and yanks the travellers back to their own time and safety before a T. Rex can say Raaaaaargh. (A missed opportunity though is Bailey not referencing the change of political landscape, or indeed, English language at the end of Bradbury’s story).

The story focuses, as the title suggests, on the relationships of the characters. A husband and wife are taking the trip to try and save their marriage, with Gwyneth, the main character having a palpable sense of malaise and ennui about her. It’s steamy out there in the Cretaceous, and there is a handskome tour guide, and another married couple. An a Big Fuck Off T. Rex to highlight the tensions.

More happens than in a whole batch of Steven Utley’s ‘Silurian Tales’ sequence, which is good. However, a quick google to found me reading a treatise on the Ray Bradbury story, and pulled out of that story is the paragraph describing the entrance of the T. Rex in that story, and I still remember reading that first 40 years ago as a spotty 13-year old in school, who was finding the set text book in English ‘The Stars and Under’, an SF anthology, far more to my liking than the usual Bronte, Shakespeare and Chaucer.

Robert Reed. Noumenon.

Another in Reed’s ‘Great Ship’ series, with xeno-researcher Mere travelling away from the ship to explore some worlds they are passing. She finds much more than she was expecting, and her story is intertwined with than of another person, the two stories meshing against a very big backdrop.

Chris Willrich. Star Soup.

Neat take on the post-fall of humanity trope. A visitor arrives in the remaining village on the planet Dimhope, and through his use of some advanced tech, he teases stories out of some of the villagers – full humans, and those that are less so. Regardless of their nature, strong elements of humanity come out from their stories, and we find out more about the fall of humanity (its rise) and exactly what happened on Dimhope.

Well-handled, showing a lot, via the stories, but not everything, sketching a picture in an effective manner.

Matthew Johnson. The Last Islander.

Effective story of a displaced person and a displaced people. Saufatu has taken on the role of the keeper of his community’s memories of their home – a half dozen beautifully tranquil islands swallowed by the rising sea levels. Those memories are virtual ones : they have a virtual re-creation of their islands, which Saufatu tends, and develops as best he can with limited resources. The VR is a shared dreamspace one, and this technology is used to good effect by Johnson in the story. When a megarich Internet mogul substantiates (memorably) in the sea nearby, Saufatu and his neice, and his fellow islanders are enabled to come to terms with their loss and their migration.

Suzanne Palmer. Adware.

Short, wry look at the risks of parenting in a connected world, where even children are not safe from advertising spam.

Conclusion

Some strong stories in the issue!

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