Review: Asimov’s SF, V31 #10&11, Oct/Nov 2007

Asimov’s SF, V31 #10&11, Oct/Nov 2007

This is a double sized issue which explains why there are two issue numbers. This is a fairly typical issue of Asimov’s with a good cross section of stories. The only complaint I have is that once again the cover came damaged. If there was one thing I could change about the magazine it would be the quality of paper used for the cover.

Stories

  • (novelette) Dark Integers– Greg Egan
    Ahh… Hard Science in the form of math. Just the stuff I have been craving for in Asimov’s. This tale has good suspense and I like the characters. As a sequel some parts don’t seem to stand alone and is likely due to the reliance on the previous story, Luminous. It was published back in 1995, and I honestly can not recall it after all this time. Still this story got me intrigued. Again we have an author that can speak about computer technology and not fall flat. Not being a mathematician I couldn’t say how well the math holds up, but it made sense to me. I would like to see more short fiction from Egan. {nt5}
  • (short story) At Sixes and Sevens– Carol Emshwiller
    Continuing a bad trend in my eyes, I found this tale predictable. Regardless it was still fun to read. Emshwiller’s name is one I recognize and associate with solid stories. Perhaps it was due to the strong characterization and point of view that led me to guess the ending, because the main character seemed very real and her actions quite plausible within the scope of what we know about her. Despite the predictability, it is a very good story. {ss6}
  • (short story) Paid In Full– Susan Forest
    This one was fun. It did not take me long to get an image of this world in my mind. The descriptions were great and I really liked the usage of common terms to describe otherworldly things. Gnats are pesky critters on any world I guess. And so are humans; Susan Forest gives us characters that we can all identify with. For me this made it easy to suspend reality and immerse myself in her tale. {ss6}
  • (novelette) Night Calls– Robert Reed
    This was billed as a homage to Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall, and it was. It was overly predictable because of that, and had all the taste of a pastiche. There is only one Nightfall, and while this was a good story, it does not compare in strength of characters or in plot. Only the theme is as strong, and that is because it is the same. I have to give Mr. Reed credit for even attempting this story. It must be hell being held up to and compared against Asimov. {nt4}
  • (novelette) Nightfall– Isaac Asimov
    I promised myself that I would review every story in each Asimov’s SF magazine. I seriously considered breaking that promise. I have decided to go ahead and give this a serious review even though there has been enough said about this story over the years. I first read Nightfall as a teenager when it was already being billed as a classic SF story. I am happy to say that the story still gives me chills, and I love the night sky. What makes this story so great for me is that Dr. Asimov was able to take something as comforting and romantic as a night sky and turn it into it’s opposite. Not just within the story, but within me as I read it. It is a classic that stands up to modern sensibilities. It was a joy to read again. {ntClassic}
  • (short story) Leonid Skies– Carl Frederick
    This was a haunting tale for me, but only because I love the freedom of woodlands and open skies. I liked the characterization here. The point of view was perfect for this story. The adult character was wistful and sorrowful, something I can relate to, and the children were just the kind of kids that I hope I was. The ending was a great outcome and flowed naturally from all that had gone before it. This is my favorite story in this issue.{ss6}
  • (short story) Debatable Lands– Liz Williams
    It is bad enough that the story was predictable, but the editor had to go and telegraph the direction it was heading by assuring the reader it was SF. ARRGH! I guessed the climax before reading much at all. I can’t blame all of this on Liz Williams. It is possible that without the word choice in the intro, I wouldn’t have been subconsciously scrutinizing each sentence for that science fiction element I was promised. On the plus side the story was very readable. I did like the descriptions very much, and the main character did feel real to me.{ss4}
  • (short story) Skull Valley– Michael Cassutt
    Since this is a double issues, I get to name my second favorite story. This is it. The description was vivid and the characterization was strong. Mr. Cassutt must have encountered bureaucrats at some point because he nailed the type. The story kept me interested and it did not have a predictable climax. Both are things I like about stories.{ss6}
  • (novelette) Dark Rooms– Lisa Goldstein
    I really couldn’t get into this story. It had a lot to do with the main character and that the story was being told from his point of view. More than once I was pulled out of the story thinking that the guy was a putz. I am sure that the author intended to have an unlikeable character, so in this regard the characterization was marvelous. It just is not the type of character I enjoy reading about. {nt5}
  • (short story) The Turn– Chris Butler
    This was a fascinating story. The theme is one I think most of us have pondered, and I can’t discuss it further without giving away the climax. I enjoyed the description of the world, such as it is, and found that I could picture it in my mind’s eye. The entire setting was so different from anything I have read recently that it was very refreshing. I have complained here about the predictability of so many stories that Asimov’s publishes. It is heartening to know that they are still interested in some uniqueness. This is a good story.{ss6}
  • (novel serial) Galaxy Blues (part 1 of 4)– Allen M. Steele
    Down and Out on Coyote – I have decided to wait until the serial has run its course before reviewing this novel. This first installment did not disappoint me.

The Arts: (disclaimer: I don’t “get” most art or poetry, but I know what I like)

  • (cover art) Galaxy Blues part 1– Ron Miller
    I like cover art that accurately depicts the story that it is for. I also dislike when a part of a story is spoiled for me. This cover has both. At least the part of the story depicted on the cover was not all that unpredictable to begin with. The character has a minor surprise but it fell flat for me as a reader because of the cover. I guess I have to live with this kind of thing happening because I much prefer accuracy over the alternative. The art itself reminds me of covers from decades ago. I say this as a good thing. It is detailed enough to convey the alien-ness of the world Coyote, yet not so detailed that it looks sterile. {a4}
  • (poetry) Modern Constellations– Pat Tompkins
    This I like. I have always liked stories where inhabitants of a new world invent constellations in the sky of their new world. I have never considered what It would be like to have our own modern constellations. I grinned when I looked up into the star filled sky last night. {p6}
  • (poetry) Star People– Bruce Boston
    I like the imagery Mr. Boston conjures up in his poetry. Yet, sometimes, like now, it leaves me with nothing to say. This offering didn’t spark my imagination as much of his poetry does. {p3}
  • (poetry) Little Red Robot– G.O. Clark
    Another fun poem. Did every kid have an equivalent to a little red robot? Since I started paying attention to poets here in Asimov’s, I have discovered that I like G.O. Clark’s wit. I know I like a poem when it leaves me grinning. {p5}
  • (poetry) Into the Deep– Michael Meyerhofer
    Good poem. I liked it. It isn’t SF or speculative, at least from my point of view. But, I did like it.{p3}
  • (poetry) Endangered– PMF Johnson
    I got a chuckle out of this one. It also sparked my imagination and had me pondering how the human race could get itself into such a situation. This poem fits my desire to have poetry that could also tell a story. I liked it very much. {p4}
  • (poetry) The Angel Who Writes– Ruth Berman
    Sigh. I would rather have more artwork than non-speculative poetry. I can’t fault the author because ultimately it was the editor that chose to publish it, but, darn it this is not a poem that belongs in an SF magazine. Rant over. It was a good poem and I did get a feeling of pity for the angel that writes, although the shadow puppets on the cave wall might have been fun… {p3}
  • (poetry) Staying the Course– Mark Rich
    What a hoot. This poem has it all. Allegory, humor, fantastical whimsy and a healthy portion of sarcasm. Not only is this my favorite poem of the issue, it just might be my favorite poem of the year. Thank-you Mark Rich. {p6}

Departments:

  • (editorial) Trends by Sheila Williams
    This month Sheila Williams discusses trends in science fiction. Basically she is discussing what I call pigeon-holes. What I see as a trend is the desire by many to classify science fiction into sub-genres. Space Opera, New Wave, Hard, Cyberpunk, and now Mundane. Frankly I think it is all just silly. I agree that perhaps a better name for the genre would be speculative fiction but history is against us, and science fiction it is. It fits. After all, sociology and anthropology are sciences.
  • (column) Reflections: Reading Theodore Sturgeon by Robert Silverberg
    Mr. Silverberg takes us back by reflecting on his re-reading of a Sturgeon classic, More Than Human. The perspective he gives us of how he felt about the book back when he was a young man, mixed with how he thinks about it now, is very refreshing. It is nice to know that some classics still stand up. I’ll have to remember in a decade to re-read Lord Valentine’s Castle and give Robert Silverberg the same perspective he gave Sturgeon.
  • (column) On The Net: Pixel-Stained Technopeasants by James Patrick Kelly
    Mr. Kelly demonstrates the lag time that his column has. Nearly six months have passed since the Pixel-Stained Technopeasants flap first hit with online community. At issue is the perception by some, particularly Howard Hendrix the sitting VP for the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) at the time of the flap, that providing free samples of ones work on the internet is somehow wrong. Kelly makes some very good observations. To toss in one of my own, I haven’t seen anyone mentioning that giving away books at conventions or special events is also wrong. It seems that there is a Luddite angle to this in that a publisher can give away hard copy books and call it marketing, but an author can not, or should not, do the same thing using technology. I should point out that I do not get paid for writing the reviews I do here on Blogtide Rising. Like Kelly, I am a member of the pixel-stained technopeasants. And I didn’t even have to meet the SFWA publishing criteria to join. Huh.
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