Asimov's Science Fiction

April/May 2005

Cover image

Editor: Sheila Williams
Issue: Volume 29, No. 4 & 5
ISSN: 1065-2698
Pages: 240

This is one of the double-sized issues, which also gives Asimov's a chance to print some longer novellas. I'm again impressed by the consistency of Asimov's and am starting to get a feel for the magazine. There's less mind-bending, odd fantasy, but it's also not a magazine full of spaceships and rivets. It seems to try to walk a middle ground with some fantasy and some character-driven SF, with at least one straightforward action-adventure story per issue.

As usual, the Silverberg essay was quite good. I also enjoyed, although didn't particularly agree with, the Norman Spinrad book column, and would be quite happy to read more from him. And the letters column is back, which I quite enjoyed.

Story-wise, this issue was solid, if not particularly exciting.

"Solidarity" by Walter Jon Williams: This is the first of Williams's writing that I've read, and is the straightforward action-adventure story of the issue. It's sort of a combination resistance and spy story set on an planet conquered by (I think) a space empire, apparently sharing a setting with Williams's current novel series. I thought it started slow, but then ended up enjoying it fairly well, although it didn't make me want to run out and buy the books. (6)

"Mason's Rats" by Neal Asher: If his novels are this good, I need to start reading Neal Asher and not just walk past his books in the store. Good thing I have one on loan. The basic idea is amusing but not that original; an infestation of intelligent rats prompts a farmer to obtain ever-stronger technological weapons against them. The humor in the writing is great, though, and I loved the ending, even if it was a touch obvious. (7)

"La Gran Muerte" by Liz Williams: A story about immigration, borders, ex-patriots, and particularly the US/Mexico border. I appreciate what Williams was doing here, and the connection between a limbo-like world between life and death and the process of crossing the border is nicely done. It was, however, heavy reading, long on description and metaphor and image, without a lot else to it (and very little plot). Memorable, but not really my thing. (5)

"Dark of the Sun" by William Barton: This is an odd story in that it very much happens in the middle of something else, that something else being apparently "Moments of Inertia" from an earlier issue. The setup is that a strange space phenomenon has extinguished the sun, and people are trying to figure out how to survive as the temperature falls. Some imaginative disaster writing is hurt by an incredibly annoying protagonist, and since this is a side story, there's no information about what happens to the world and what theories about the aftermath are correct. Okay, but not great. It probably would have been better if I'd read the earlier story. (5)

"Down Memory Lane" by Mike Resnick: I'm not really that interested in reading depressing stories about Alzheimer's with very little SF material. When they end up being mostly a description of the course of the disease with an ending that added little to the story for me, I really would have preferred something else. (4)

"California King" by Michael Jasper and Greg van Eekhout: This was a fun bit of fantasy edging on horror. This is street-level fantasy, involving people with weird abilities living next to us in a modern society. It ends up being about succession and will, and lives and dies by its quirky, disturbing characters. Weird, but strangely fun. (6)

"Bean There" by Jack Skillingstead: A very nicely done story of a man living in a world on the edge of a Singularity or a general psychic awakening, who almost gets left out and left behind. It's an old lesson about being willing to take a chance, a sort of mental coming of age, seeing the life behind the plodding day-to-day life. Not a new theme, but done well, I think, and it didn't outlast its welcome. (7)

"Dallas: An Essay" by Robert Reed: A story that starts very prosaically, being a somewhat autobiographical account of a depressed writer trying to write SF who has just moved to Texas. There are hints of the paranormal around the edges, but they all fail to materialize, except for the idea that maybe there is an agent "up there" that is making everything come out right. It's just not at all like any god that mankind has imagined. This is a story that more hints at its ideas that addresses them head-on, and it doesn't reach much of a conclusion, but the idea and its implications were intriguing. (6)

"Lover of Statues" by Ian Watson: Very nice setup for what's in essence an alien first contact story, except the alien came to Earth instead of the other way around. I liked the build-up and was a bit disappointed with the conclusion. Not bad, just not carrying quite the punch I was hoping for. (6)

"They Will Raise You in a Box" by Wil McCarthy: Huh? I understand all of the words, but this "story" (more of a description, really) must have been written to make some sort of point as well, and that was completely lost on me. (2)

"Shadow Twin" by Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin, and Daniel Abraham: That's a lot of authors to write a fairly straightforward story. An unlikeable mineral prospector on a colony planet runs across a hidden colony of aliens, with a very inflexible and frightening mindset. He ends up under their absolute control, but with a connection to their thoughts and mindset as well, and struggles to understand their bizarre perspective so that he can find a way to escape. The result is a significant change in his life and an alien perspective that slowly makes a degree of sense. Not very fast-moving and not very idea-packed, but competently done. (6)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-08-03

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