Asimov's Science Fiction

September 2005

Cover image

Editor: Sheila Williams
Issue: Volume 29, No. 9
ISSN: 1065-2698
Pages: 144

Robert Silverberg has more this month on Robert Burton, which continued to be quite interesting. Also rather interesting was James Patrick Kelly's article on SETI. I do dislike the style Asimov's uses for the "On the Net" column, though. Inline URLs works fine in HTML, but in a printed article they should be collected at the end or at least presented in some way that doesn't constantly cause ugly word-wrapping. Paul Di Filippo's book column is longer than average this month, but for some reason it didn't really grab me.

On the stories, there are a two this month from major writers who aren't seen as often (Frederick Pohl and Brian W. Aldiss). One really can tell that a story has been written by a veteran author. There's a certain polish that shows regardless of the subject matter. The whole issue was of a consistent high quality. There was one excellent story and only one real miss for me.

"Generations" by Frederick Pohl: Speaking of polish, Pohl certainly knows how to tell a story. I enjoyed this one quite a lot even though nothing was really happening for much of it. I'm not sure why Pohl chose to use the generational approach to tell this story, since the premise that finally comes out doesn't seem to require it. Still, an amusing and unusual (if not completely original) explanation of how the universe came about is offered and the resulting social satire entertained me. Pohl went more for poking fun than serious extrapolation, and the resulting politics were a touch cartoonish in places, but I was satisfied. (7)

"Finished" by Robert Reed: I'm amazed at how Reed can keep turning out quality short stories with original ideas at the pace that he does. This is another solid idea exploration, this time of a curious form of technological undeath and its implications, and the emotional twist at the end has a nasty barb. Well worth reading. (7)

"Pipeline" by Brian W. Aldiss: This turned out to be a nearly pure travel story. I thought there'd be a bit more in the way of politics and intrigue, but apart from one quickly resolved action sequence, it's primarily a tour along a hypothetical Middle East pipeline to the Mediterranean. Aldiss is a good travel writer, though, and I liked the journey, even if I wish it had had a bit more. (7)

"The Company Man" by John Philip Olsen: I know very little about art, so I wasn't sure about a story that clearly was going to focus on the art of Edvard Munch. I need not have worried; the descriptions of the paintings were excellent and didn't require that one had already seen them. The plot, about alien art buying, and the message were both very predictable, which was a drawback. Still, satisfying ending. (7)

"Second Person, Present Tense" by Daryl Gregory: In an issue featuring both Pohl and Aldiss, Gregory managed the best story. (At least in my opinion; it features a viewpoint character of a type that I love, so I'm biased.) This was a great story about the emotional consequences of total amnesia, blended with some fascinating speculation about the nature of consciousness and identity. The ending was happy in a way that felt a wee bit forced given what happened before, but I appreciated the happy ending since the rest of the story was an emotional wringer. Great stuff with a memorable premise; worth seeking out. (9)

"A Rocket for the Republic" by Lou Antonelli: A short and amusing tall tale about an experimental rocket and an encounter with aliens in the early 1800s. There's not a lot here, but it was good for a laugh. (6)

"Harvest Moon" by William Barton: Sorry, I just don't care this much about the space program. If you live and breathe rocketry, can recite the hardware involved in various eras of space exploration, and want to read and alternate history, full of hard-bitten explorer-engineer types, of what could have happened in the space program if we'd stranded a colony on the Moon, you may want to look for this one. I found it boring and tedious, mostly because I just don't care. The epilogue explaining the derivation of the history salvages it somewhat; this should be a more common feature in alternate histories. (3)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-12-18

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