Since I find myself in MITSFS — which is to say near back issues of Asimov’s, which I don’t keep at home — at an ungodly early hour, with very little brain but unable to sleep, now seems like a good time to go through the January and February issues and do my capsule reviews, as I promised I would. Oh, and I’ve already made a real post this week anyway. As always, I put these up here mostly to jog my own memory later on and on the very off chance someone will find them interesting.
Without further ado…
Asimov’s January 2010
- “Marya and the Pirate”, by Geoffry Landiss (novelette). Geoff Landiss! OMG. Interesting in both its technical and human detail. Nothing wildly ground-breaking, but a good story well-told. (Plot is approximately: hijacking. IN SPAAAAACE! with extra bonus “two people in a locked room for an extended period of time”, which I feel like I’ve seen before, but, still, Mr. Landiss tells it well.)
- “Conditional Love”, by Felicity Shoulders (short story). Really pretty brilliant. A doctor dealing with human genetic engineering patients in a situation equivalent to foster care, in the persons of a brilliant girl with no limbs and a young boy who imprints on everyone he meets. Seems to me to deal well with the disability issues. Short, cutting. Excellent.
- “A Letter From the Emperor”, by Steve Rasnic Tem (short story). This is an interesting piece, hard to categorize, a dialogue between a human and an AI about the outcome of a diplomatic mission and the reasons behind the human’s partner’s suicide. Ambiguous in a good way.
- “Wonder House”, by Chris Roberson (short story). The history of the comics publishers transposed into an alternate-history Israel. Interesting in its recapitulation of that history but not intrinsically otherwise.
- “The Good Hand”, by Robert Reed (novelette). Has as its namesake an interesting alternate-historical Martin Scorcese movie, and is set in an alternate history where the US maintained a monopoly on the atomic bomb, but is otherwise kind of a standard “ugly American” tale.
- “Wilds”, by Carol Emshwiller (short story). Man goes into nature to find his true self, civilization follows, hilarity ensues. Well-written but not hugely novel as a tale.
- “The Jekyll Island Horror”, by Allen M. Steele (novelette). A pitch-perfect lost-memoir updating of The War of the Worlds for 1930’s Georgia, and well-told, but again nothing hugely novel.
- “Louisa Drifting”, by Mark Rich (poem). I read the poetry but am usually not moved enough to comment on it. It’s almost all free-verse poetry, so there’s little interest inherent in the technical requirements of the form, and what ideas they have I usually find either uninteresting or better explored in something a bit longer. This one, though, is a cute dissection of a failed spacecraft and a failing relationship, which is exactly as long as it should be and not a line longer.
Asimov’s February 2010
- “Stone Wall Truth”, by Caroline M. Yoachim (novelette). Lyrically brutal. I feel like the main character’s ending epiphany is a little trite, but the imagery of the story makes up for some of that.
- “Dead Air”, by Damien Broderick (short story). It’s written in a namedrop-heavy style that provides a good simulacrum of modern life and its information overload, but that combined with a bit too much peevish couples sniping at each other over stupid things in the beginning, and I got overwhelmed and bored and bounced off it.
- “The Woman Who Waited Forever”, by Bruce McAllister (novelette). An interesting little ghost story set in an Italian village after the Second World War, and treats with class and nationality issues interestingly — a lot of the story centers around some Army brats’ interaction with a local boy — but not a whole lot more than that.
- “The Bold Explorer in the Place Beyond”, by David Erik Nelson (short story). This is a fascinating little story of steampunky, chibi-Cthuloid first contact gone wrong as narrated by a drunk to no one in particular and overheard by a sober eavesdropper. I didn’t know you could do that in fiction. It wasn’t quite emotionally satisfying, but that doesn’t make it bad per se — I don’t know quite what to make of it.
- “The Wind-Blown Man”, by Aliette de Bodard (novelette). A very Chinese future, this one. A disaffected monk and a potential Messiah. It didn’t quite bowl me over, but it was well-written and worth the time to read.
- “The Ice Line”, by Stephen Baxter (novella). As per my usual novella procedure, it didn’t grab me in the first couple pages and so I punted it entirely.
Oh, also Hugo nominees are up. I’m pleased to see a few things I nominated make the cut. (Though three Doctor Who episodes, none of them good? WTF?) Overall it’s a strong slate this year.