Review: Asimov’s SF, V32 #1, January 2008

Asimov’s Science Fiction, V32 #1, January 2008

An enjoyable issue. Slightly above average for what Asimov’s has given us lately. Perhaps I should explain why I have been down on Asimov’s SF in these reviews. Selective memory. I have been a reader since I discovered the Fall 1977 issue in a sundry store’s magazine rack here in rural southern Ohio. Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (IA’sfm) was a joy and escape during my awkward high school years. It was science fiction. Then came slipstream authors, contemporary fantasy writers and the surreal literateurs–all whom have found a home in Asimov’s. At one level I find this a bad thing, I have lost the pure SF outlet of my youth. Most of the time these reviews are written from the part of my brain that longs for Harry Harrison, Barry B. Longyear and Gordon R. Dickson, Tanith Lee, etc., etc.. Yet, realistically on another level, I know that that part of my brain is exercising selective memory, for even back then there were authors providing us with excellent stories that years later would retrofit into the slipstream sub-genre. And who am I to complain? I have two slipstream stories of my own that are in final editing and will be sent out to publishers in the near future. Yet still, my flawed memory and longing for years past can be soothed: Tanith Lee returns and Deborah Coates wades out of the slipstream to give us excellent SF stories in this issue.

Stories

  • (novelette) The Perfect WaveRudy Rucker & Marc Laidlaw
    This tale starts out with strong science fiction possibilities yet ends with the surreal. Not that I am complaining (much) because it was a very enjoyable read. So many times a story diverts into the surreal because it seems the author can not avoid painting them self into a corner. There was enough plot set up and insight into the inner mind of the main character to make this ending not feel like a cheat. I am actually a little curious as to what might happen when the perfect wave does break. {nt4}
  • (novelette) Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of WondersMike Resnick
    This was a fun story for me. I like antique stores and junk shops equally, and any excuse to visit one, even in fiction, is always fun. I really was able to relate to the theme in this story and I didn’t know exactly where Mr. Resnick was going with it until the end. Not guessing the ending of stories is always a plus for me. I always admire a first person story that avoids the feeling of an information dump or a series of soliloquies. {nt5}
  • (short story) The Whale’s LoverDeborah Coates
    In my opinion a previous story by Deborah Coates in Asimov’s fell squarely into the genre of Fantasy. This one falls just as squarely into science fiction. I have to say that even if this had been another fantasy, I can not place blame on the author. It is the editor that selects the stories to be included in each issue, and if the previous fantasy story earned the author credit with the editor and in any way helped this story see publication then perhaps a bit of fantasy is worth having in an SF magazine. This story as some exciting concepts and shows thought into the logistics and expense in the operation of a freighter/spaceship. While I was not excited about the ending it was probably the correct one. Looking at this story from a critical point of view has helped me understand better how important the set up is for the climax. In my opinion, this was very well done in this story. {ss4}
  • (novelette) The Beautiful and Damned By F. Scott FitzgeraldTanith Lee
    The title of this story may be awkward, but it is entirely appropriate. It may just be the best story title of the year, and this is only the January issue. I have enjoyed Tanith Lee’s work for many years now. Learning that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing is a lesson that some of us have to learn over and over. This story holds onto that theme and unveils to us why it is an axiom without preaching. I was moved by this story, and that has mainly to do with the characters. It is a first person tale, but the Tanith Lee is able to have our narrator paint vivid pictures of those he encounters. It is remarkable to have this kind of character depth in a first person tale. Well, it is remarkable to me. {nt6}
  • (short story) UnlikelyWill McIntosh
    I haven’t been this amused by a premise since I first read Larry Niven’s birthright lottery in his Ringworld series. The story flows beautifully and because of this it seems entirely plausible and real. What really struck me, besides the strong characterization, was the ending. I was not only happy to see a change in one of the main characters, but was moved by the way that change was presented. This is my favorite story of this issue. {ss6}
  • (novel serial) Galaxy Blues (part 3 of 4)Allen M. Steele
    The Fool’s Errand – I have decided to wait until the serial has run its course before reviewing this novel. This thrid installment picked up the pace a bit, which is expected if the final part is to finish out the novel with a good climax. I continue enjoy reading it.

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

  • (cover art) The Perfect Wave- Jeremy Bennett
    Visually I like the cover. I like the harsh lines and bright colors that stand out against the blues and whites of the background. The cover makes me wonder, not for the first time, if the artists have the opportunity to read the story that they are illustrating, or if they work off a synopsis or scene description provided by the editorial staff. The scene just does not seem to fit with the descriptions provided by the author in the story. {a3}
  • Hmmm. No poetry this issue. I don’t think I ever noticed before that it was dumped in January issues to make room for the yearly index and annual readers’ awards.

Departments:

  • (editorial) Harry Potter and the Future of Reading by Sheila Williams
    I have yet to read any of the Harry Potter books, but I that is going to change now that I have decided to read all the Hugo Award winning novels. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is part of that list. In this month’s editorial, Sheila, like a lot of us, is seeing hope that an new generation of kids embrace reading as a fun pastime. She sat in line with her daughter to purchase the latest release at midnight the morning of the of the official release. These days it seems that there are a lot of very intelligent and fine people that find reading anything a chore, and consider it a waste of time. For those of us that revel in the written word this seems odd and unnatural. The Harry Potter books may not be what I would normally seek out to read for my own enjoyment, but I recognize the powerful draw that they have on younger people. Back when my boys were discovering reading fiction, they latched onto the Redwall books by Brian Jacques, and the Goosebumps series by RL Stein. What I am looking forward to is the fiction that will capture the imagination of my grandson. And I just might sit in a line at a store to buy him a copy when it goes on sale at midnight.
  • (column) Reflections: Aladdin’s Cave by Robert Silverberg
    I am so jealous. In this month’s column, Mr. Silverberg recounts how he was able to purchase a large library of golden age pulp magazines when he was fifteen. I want it! I got a flashback of my own. I spent many hours in my small town pouring through the discarded paperbacks from my county free public library searching for anything remotely resembling science fiction. I had the same cravings in 1975 that Mr. Silverberg did a twenty-five years earlier. Over the years I have scored a sum total of three golden age Astounding magazines, and only a handful of silver age Galaxy and Fantasy & Science Fiction editions. Reading about his jaunt down memory lane has prompted me to open the gate and stroll down my own. I hope Mr. Silverberg has made provisions for the preservation of his collection. I guess I should do the same for my (nearly) complete collection of Asimov’s.
  • (column) On The Net: SFWA by James Patrick Kelly
    The memory lane theme continues. Back when I first discovered science fiction I had dreams of being a famous author. Part of that dream included qualifying as a member of the SFWA, the Science Fiction (and Fantasy) Writers of America. Recently, I have found myself yearning to tell the stories that have been bouncing around in my head. The yearning to join the SFWA has diminished. I think that Jim Kelly gives us a good overview of what the SFWA is all about these days. I haven’t changed my mind about joining, but who knows how I will feel when (not if) I qualify to be a member.
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