Asimovs September 2013

asimovs1309Drop-dead gorgeous cover by Kinuko Craft.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The Application of Hope.

Lengthiest story in the issue. Captain Tory Sabin has some back-history, issues with high command, and a very personal reason for wanting to go to the rescue of The Ivoire, which jumps into foldspace when attacked in orbit around Ukhanda.

Some historic issues are resolved, but there are new ghosts in her closet, presumably to be investigated in yet another installment in her Diving series.

Ian R. MacLeod. The Discovered Country.

MacLeod brings a fresh take on the trope of humans uploading to a virtual space upon death. He posits a world where only the super-rich can afford to do this, and they take their money with them, with their virtual space economically more powerful than the world they have left behind.

Into this setting comes Northover, a man who finds himself there slightly unexpectedly. He was not a supporter of uploading, but finds himself with the chance to roll back the years and renew an old acquaintance. It’s well told, information unfolding as the story progresses, with the final pages upping the ante, with believable characters and motivations, and more.

Lead Cypess. What We Ourselves Are Not.

There’s a bit of a fashion these days for a bit too much information in the editorial introduction to stories, which can get in the way of allowing the reader to find out what the story is about. The reference to the inspiration from Michael A. Burstein’s ‘Kaddish for the Last Survivor’ tipped the wink for me, event though that story is 13 years old and my memory is notoriously weak.

So Cypess looks at a technological way in which the horrors of the past can be prevented from disappearing into the past, and from the denyers (deniers?) to rewrite that history. The story struggles a bit though with the ‘show don’t tell’ issue, as the issues around which the story revolves are all discussed between the protagonists

James Sallis. As Yet Untitled.

Two-pager which leaves the reader almost as much in the dark as the protagonist who finds himself (whoever he is this time around) clip-clopping onto a Western set, and getting hisself whisky at the bar, a-wonderin’ what role he has in the scenario, and indeed, just who he is.

Tom Purdom. A Stranger from a Foreign Ship.

A story with an interesting conceit that rather misses the opportunity it offered, and ends up in hectic pell-mell thriller with the protagonist mind-hopping quickly enough to disorientate this reader, let along himself.

Jay O’Connell. The Universe We Both Dreamed Of.

Gentle story that looks to answer the Fermi Paradox and confirm the Drake Equation, through a young man offered the chance, following first contact, to reach for the stars, leaving humanity to its ultimate fate. A nicely handled relationship between the protagonist and the alien in human clothing, with plenty of dialogue without dropping into the didactic.

Dominica Phetteplace. What Changes You, What Takes You Away.

Charming little coda to A Flower For Algernon (referenced in the text, alongside The Rats of NIMH). The impact of Down Syndrome is reversed during a scientific trial, giving the youthful protagonist a new outlook on life – at the same time that aliens have visited. Her eyes are opened to many opportunities, far more than others can see.

Benjamin Crowell. A Hole in the Ether.

Excellent, cautionary story from Crowell, which could easily be expanded into a novel. Indeed the structure of the story, shifting between perspectives quite quickly within the tight narrative was a bit jarring at times, as was the fact that time passed quickly through the story.

Crowell looks at the potential risks of technology, allied with decisions made on copyright and IPR, to posit a future where an old phone with an archive of non-DRM ebooks can have very, very serious consequences.

Bill and his cousin Shona are the sole inheritors of an ageing relative, who has said phone hidden in his house. As the story unfolds we find out just how bad things have got in terms of surveillance, ubiquitous AIs, and political ‘supervision’ not far distanced from Orwell’s 1984.

We follow the impact the phone has on Bill and Shona, and Bill’s partner Fari, and their lives. As things get progressively worse for them, they get positively (or negatively!) dire for Earth, as the political situation unravels. There’s a lot to like in the story.

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