april/may asimov’s

Since I have it right here and I can't concentrate on anything more complex tonight, here's the capsule review of the April/May 2010 double issue of Asimov's.

  • "The Union of Soil and Sky", by Gregory Norman Bossert (novella) — As mentioned previously, I don't usually read the novellas, but the description of an archaeological dig in the first couple paragraphs grabbed my interest, and I found myself reading it in spite of myself, so that should tell you something. The resolution felt a little clichéd to me, though I'm not sure how many resolutions the "alien archaeological dig" story really has, and it was also spoiled a little for me by something that has nothing to do with the story itself. But there's a nicely consistent alien civilization that the archaeologists are exploring, there's a nicely-realized alien character and (to my eye) an alien sign language that displays knowledge of real-world sign languages. The archaeologists are interesting characters without needing to be action heroes, and are obviously intellectuals without needing to prove it to us every other sentence. I felt like they were scientists like the scientists I know, which is to say, people I'd like to get to know and hang out with. In the end it's not a groundbreaking story in the "alien archaeological dig" sub-genre, but I'd still highly recommend it.
  • "Mindband", by Pamela Sargent (novella) — This one didn't grab me after a few pages, so I skipped it, but I might go back to it. It has an interesting hook — a bridge collapse mixed up with some kind of memory-erasing something.
  • "Jackie's-Boy", by Steven Popkes (novella) — It was clear from the first couple paragraphs that this was going to be another post-apocalyptic story, and I'm kind of running thin on interest in them right now, so I punted it. Wins points for evoking its world with an economy of words, though, to wit: "The Long Bottom Boys had taken over the gate of the Saint Louis Zoo from Nature Phil's gang. London Bob had killed in single combat, and eaten, Nature Phil. That pretty much, constituted possession."
  • "Alten Kameraden", by Barry B. Longyear (novellette) — An interesting story of the last days of the Third Reich, and it doesn't pull too many punches.
  • "Unforseen", by Molly Gloss (short story) — A story about an adjustor for a company that insures against freak coincidences resulting in death, ie. "Remediable Death". It took me a few pages to get into it, but it turned out to be an interesting premise, and well-executed.
  • "Adrift", by Eugene Fischer (short story) — A story about human trafficking. For all that the subject matter is barely SFnal, it's a well-written, affecting, and humane story.
  • "They Laughed At Me In Vienna and Again In Prague, and Then In Belfast, and Don't Forget Hanoi! But I'll Show Them! I'll Show Them All, I Tell You!", by Tim McDaniel (short story) — The long title is cute but could be abbreviated to "The Mad Scientist's Daughter". Despite the boringly conventional gender roles on display, it's a cute story.
  • "Malick Pan", by Sara Genge (short story) — Less interesting than Ms. Genge's earlier stories, though set in the same universe as "Shoes-To-Run". Post-apocalyptic, about a little boy who doesn't want to grow up (and has a bit of nanotechnological help with that).
  • "Pretty To Think So", by Robert Reed (short story) — Apocalyptic fiction, and an undifferentiated entry in that genre.

I don't usually comment on the columns, though I do usually read the book reviews, which are often useful, and Robert Silverberg's column, which is consistently awesome. I got a couple pages into Norman Spinrad's review column, "Third World Worlds", though, and got fed up with his defensive reviews of white men writing books about the so-called Third World. It read like another entry on the side of white privilege in RaceFail 2009 (warning: addictive in a trainwreck kind of way), and I don't need any more of that stupidity in my life right now, thank you very much, so I skipped it.

Conveniently, I just picked up the June issue of Asimov's. 🙂