Asimov's Science Fiction

March 2007

Cover image

Editor: Sheila Williams
Issue: Volume 31, No. 3
ISSN: 1065-2698
Pages: 144

I fear I'm not enough of a fan of Brian Stableford's alternate past scientific adventures to appreciate the long novella that occupies much of this issue, but thankfully several of the other stories this month were first-rate. The non-fiction was also good. Silverberg's retrospective on Jack Williamson was worth reading and James Patrick Kelly continued an informative tour of SF web sites. Williams's editorial memories of a very passing aquaintance with James Tiptree, Jr. failed to hold my interest but the letter reprinted there made the editorial. The miss was Paul Di Filippo's book column, in which a survey of small press productions mostly failed to discuss anything I found interesting.

"Breeze from the Stars" by Mary Rosenblum: I'm starting to think I should pick up one of Rosenblum's novels, since I've liked every short story of hers I've read. This is my favorite to date, telling the story of a graduate of space interceptor pilot training who is assigned to dispatch instead. The huge disappointment turns into exhaustion and bafflement and then into a very different reaction as dispatch turns out to be a far different experience than he could have imagined. Rosenblum has a deft touch with character and does an excellent job of describing emotional reactions. Probably the best story of the issue. (8)

"The Lion" by Bruce McAllister: A short piece about the legend of a lion who fought in the streets of Paris in 1792, here McAllister turns invented history with a slight fantastic twist into a meditation on duty, calling, bravery, and war. He takes a light touch with morals or conclusions, but I liked the way he handled questions of the worth of bravery when put into a larger context. Nicely done. (7)

"Public Safety" by Matthew Johnson: Most of this piece is devoted to setting the scene of a world in which the French Revolution never fell, where the renamings of months and the metric system of time are established and normal, and where New Orleans is patrolled by a half-black detective with an intuitive leap for deduction. I had a hard time getting into the scene even with some mild familiarity with the odd naming conventions and scientific beliefs of the French Revolution, and then found the barb at the end of the plot unsatisfying. This is one of those stories that I come away from thinking it means more to people with more prior familiarity with the background. Still, I found myself rooting for the protagonist by the end of the story. (6)

"The Sanguine" by Jim Grimsley: This story has the best character development of anything I've read from Grimsley. In a somewhat battered (but recovering) future, the protagonist is a sanguine, a memory editor who suppresses knowledge of past atrocities so that people can build new lives and leave the time of the troubles behind them. The premise seemed a touch iffy from a social standpoint, but the story is less about the premise and more about the tangled things one loses with one's memories and the difficulty of dealing with things that hurt too much to think about. It reaches no firm conclusion, being more a study of emotion and reaction. I thought Grimsley made the morality and justification of the technology nicely ambiguous and arguable. (6)

"Babel 3000" by Colin P. Davies: A very slight story about time travel (of sorts) used to nab forgotten words from the past as part of a high-class social game. I think there was a point here that I missed. I know I completely missed the ending payoff. Possibly more enjoyable to someone who got it. (4)

"Chainsaw on Hand" by Deborah Coates: This story could easily live in a mainstream collection; the SFnal bit may be purely in the mind of one of the characters and exists to set up a story about belief, truth, and their interaction with love. The scene-setting (South Dakota in the winter) is the strongest part of the story. It fits the emotions and sets up a strong, affecting conclusion. A very solid character story, even if I never saw in the guy what the first-person protagonist does. (7)

"Doctor Muffet's Island" by Brian Stableford: This is the aforementioned long novella, starring Sir Francis Drake in an alternate past where Jane sits on the throne of England and Earth is menaced (possibly) by a galaxy of advanced insectoid life. This is a direct sequel to "The Plurality of Worlds" and written in much the same tone, so I can comfortably say that if you liked that story, you'll like this one as well (although arachnophobes will want to give this story a miss). It's full of mannerly high adventure and strange encounters with monsterous creatures, and I think the best way to review it is that it's very well-written and enjoyable if you like that sort of thing. Which I mostly don't. (5)

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2007-04-25

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