Saturday, November 15, 2008


My never-ending quest to catch up on my SF magazines continued this past week with the Sept. issue of Asimov's. It is the third issue I've read since the start of September, so at least I'm on a better pace. Anyway, here's what I thought...

The opening novelette was William Barton's "In the Age of the Quiet Sun." I have had my share of frustrations with Barton in the past and have given up on his stories in the middle more than once. This tale about a future where long life and space travel are possible, though you have to become less human to do so. It's a story of failure and redemption and the discovery on an alien and its ship on an asteroid. I liked it.

Robert R. Chase's "Soldier of the Singularity" takes a turn in the middle that I didn't see coming and that was a good thing. It's set in the office of a psychiatrist who is helping humanity try to come to grips with the horrors of the advent of the Singularity. His patient? A damaged robot who is a part of the Singularity...or is it?

There is a very intriguing idea at the heart of Mary Rosenblum's "Horse Racing" - that there is an auction where companies bid on kids based on their future potential. They will then try to manipulate the circumstances of those children to get them to evenutally pay off as investments. It's social engineering and profiteering wrapped up in one. A very good story.

Ian Creasey explores what life would be like if a destructive parent could be downloaded and part of your life forever in "Cut Loose the Bonds of Flesh and Bone." Here's a hint: it wouldn't be ideal for some people.

"Slug Hell" is another Silurian tale by Steven Utley. I really like the series, though the last couple stories haven't done much for me. This one, however, is a keeper. It's a quiet, reflective tale, a character study. It has an odd shifts in viewpoint and I'm not entirely sure why but maybe it just adds to the overall tone.

My favorite story in the issue and one of the best stories I've read this year is Will McIntosh's "Midnight Blue." It's set an an alternate world where different-colored spheres were found out in the wild. If you found the three of the same color, you could put them in a staff and absorb its power. You could get powers like Good With Machines or Better Looking or Flyer. At the time of this story, there aren't many spheres left in the wild and David dreams of finding one. He does and it not only changes his life but the world. It's a great idea, it's well done, and I would love to see more stories or a novel in that world. Get to it, Will!

Derek Zumsteg takes a look at cross-country racing in the near future in "Usurpers." It's short, prickly, and to the point.

Finally, Stephen Baxter gives us an alternate history where aliens made of ice overrun Britian in the 18th century in "The Ice War." We have a less-than-heroic main character, Jack Hobbes, and he meets Isaac Newton, Daniel Defoe, and Jonathan Swift along the way. It's not a happy story by any means but I liked it.

I think this might be the strongest issue of Asimov's in a while - I liked every story and the McIntosh was outstanding.

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