Review: Asimov’s SF, V32 #2, February 2008

Asimov’s Science Fiction, V32 #2, February 2008

Overall a good issue for Asimov’s. I think the quality of stories is improving and while I am not entirely happy with all of the selections, it is nice to see a good diversity of interesting story telling styles.

Stories

  • (short story) From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled…Michael Swanwick
    There are times when I marvel at the imagination of some authors. Mr. Swanwick is one of those. I admit there are times when I weary of some of his work, but, realistically that is true of just about every author I have read. This story I enjoyed. The point of view bothered me at first, but once the story hit its stride it really flowed. The work he has done to attempt to depict communication attempts from an alien mind intrigued me. {ss4}
  • (short story) Sex and ViolenceNancy Kress
    This is a very interesting short. I especially like the humor associated with the study for the [hopelessly untranslatable term] being conducted by the antagonists. A very fun read! {ss6}
  • (novelette) The Ray Gun: A Love StoryJames Alan Gardner
    I was enamored with this story. As a lonely kid growing up on family farm there were many times that I’d pick up a stick and pretend that it was a ray gun. This story explores the situation where the stick really was a ray gun. It is well told and the main character seems so utterly realistic that I ended up feeling a kinship with him. The omniscient point of view was perfect for the tale as well. {nt7}
  • (novelette) The Egg ManMary Rosenblum
    This story is part of Mary Rosenblum’s Drylands series. I am a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, and this series fits. The thing that intrigues me is that in this future world mankind sat idle and let it happen. Apathy wins. Welcome to the Drylands. In this particular story we catch a glimpse of what it really means to be living on the fringe of society, and the risks and dangers inherent therein. This is a powerful story, and is my favorite of the issue. {nt8}
  • (short story) Inside The BoxEdward M. Lerner
    Time travel, Schroedinger’s Cat and a university lecture hall give us plenty of food for thought. Mr. Lerner’s tale gives us a bit of pragmatism and shows us how indeed those faced with unsettling events can choose to deal with them. The final line of this story is fantastic. I wish I could share, but that would be spoiling it for all of you.{ss5}
  • (short story) The Last AmericanJohn Kessel
    This is a subtly dark tale. I found it interesting in the way it was presented. Mr. Kessel uses descriptive media clips of varying kinds to paint the picture of a person that twists the truth. I found this story was too close to reality at certian points to be able to get lost in the tale. If this was Mr. Kessel’s intention, then job well done.{ss4}
  • (novel serial) Galaxy Blues (part 4 of 4)Allen M. Steele
    The Great Beyond – I decided to wait until the serial ran its course before reviewing this novel. Now that it is concluded, I will be reviewing the novel in a new post and will provide backtrack links for it within the reviews for the four issues of Asimov’s SF it was in.

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

  • (cover art) (no title)- Bob Eggleton
    This month’s cover is not directly related to any story. It is a very vivid cover of what I think is perhaps a cosmic event involving a neutron star. I lament that Asimov’s does not let us know the name that the artist calls their artwork. [Note: after a little digging on Mr. Eggleton’s website, I find that the piece is called “Cosmic Hunger” and is his interpretation of a black hole. I was close!] {a4}
  • (poetry) Where Seelie ShopGreg Beatty
    I liked this poem. It has many fantasy elements, but I grant it slipstream status. I like the idea of fairy folk visiting the local big box mart in the twilight hours. {p4}
  • (poetry) The Mirror SpeaksJessy Randall
    I laughed out loud at this one. I think that says everything I would want to say. {p5}
  • (Cartoon) Trends for the 21st Century (so far)Steven Utley
    I am not going to review cartoons. I am pleased to see their return to the pages of Asimov’s SF. I do want to provide a link to the creator when possible. {c 5}

Departments:

  • (editorial) My Rowboat by Sheila Williams
    I caught the SF bug early in life. I credit my mother reading “A Wrinkle in Time” to me as a small child. It is interesting to listen or read about how other people became science fiction or fantasy fans. In this month’s installment we find out how editor Sheila Williams caught the SF bug.
  • (column) Reflections: Toilet Nirvana by Robert Silverberg
    Okay. If you think the title to this month’s column is a little weird, just wait until you read it. Mr. Silverberg discusses his trepidations about attending the World SF Convention in Japan (an event in the past upon the publication of the column, but in the future when it was written). One of his concerns is with the possibility of encountering a toilet more sophisticated than is the norm in the USA. He shouldn’t worry, he did extensive research on high tech toilets, and should be ready in any contingency. I feel prepared just having read what he wrote. Shame that I wasn’t able to afford to go to Japan. I wonder when WorldCon will be within driving distance for me?
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Review: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

I enjoyed this move much more than I thought I would. I have a soft spot for musicals, and when in the mood I like a gruesome horror flick. This movie was both, and it was very well done.

I guess I was afraid that it would be campy like “Little Shop of Horrors” or “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, but it wasn’t. That’s not to say it didn’t have any humor. It had plenty of humor like any good drama does. Which is my point, I think. It was a drama. The story kept me riveted to my seat even though I was familiar with it.

Perhaps the movie had too much gore for some people’s sensibilities, but I found my self fascinated by how realistic it all looked. I don’t know if they used Computer graphics or if it was entirely makeup, but either way, it rocked!  It was gory, but not over done. For me it was not the blood spurts that made it horrific. It was the situation, the helplessness and the madness, and how a simple, caring man can be taken beyond the point of redemption that really scared me.

On to the acting. Johnny Depp seems to gravitate towards the bizarre. I pray that he is not being type cast because even back when he portrayed Pvt. Lerner in “Platoon”, you could see that he has a talent for drama. That said, I am very glad that Depp chose to portray Sweeny Todd. He was outstanding.

Helena Bonham Carter fit the movie well, but I am afraid that I kept being reminded of her role in “Big Fish”. Perhaps it was the costuming…

The surprise for me were Alan Rickman and newcomer Laura Michelle Kelly. They both were fantastic and seemed to really understand the characters they portrayed.

I completely recommend this movie to anyone that is a horror fan. I also recommend that care be taken when exposing young adults and children to it. View it first, then decide if it is appropriate for the youngster in your life.

Review: I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend

First, I want to be clear that I enjoyed this movie.

Second, I want it understood that I am disappointed in the adaptation of the SF Classic novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

I can understand when a movie changes events from a book because of cinematographic or time constraint reasons, but to change the theme to the point where the title no longer fits, well, I think at that point there should be some obligation for the movie folks to make it clear that it has become a totally different story.

I liked this movie very much.  It had some plot elements in common with the Matheson novel, but not enough. During the first half of the movie, I had high hopes that the movie would be true to the novel.  In fact the first part of the movie was riveting.  Then during the second half the movie inexplicably takes the ending from “The Omega Man”, a 1970’s movie based on I Am Legend, and creates a typical Hollywood ending.  Ugh.  They should have given it a different title and only claimed it was inspired by I Am Legend.

As I have said, I did like the movie.  It is a very good action SF film.  The cinematography is marvelous, and for the most part the CGI is seamless.  I didn’t care for the zombiesque bad guys, but that is likely a personal preference showing through.

What I really liked was the acting.  Will Smith continues to impress me.  He has to carry this movie because for the most part he is the only person on screen.  He does it well.  His portrayal of Robert Neville is wonderful.  He gives us subtle emotions when it would have been easy to go over the top.  He convincingly walks the razor edge of madness and takes us there with him.

Are We Letting the Terrorists Win?

{The political lamp is lit}

The world in general, and the USA in particular, is overcompensating about terrorist attacks. Yes, terrorist attacks are terrible. Yes, we here in the United States need to take precautions that events similar to those that happened on 9 September 2001 are less likely to succeed. But at the same time we should not embolden terrorists by overreacting.

By definition the goal of a terrorist is to inflict terror, with the goal to disrupt and change how we behave.  From where I sit the terrorists are winning.

But I am wondering why the collective “we” are overreacting?  Part of it has to do with our media that makes every news story item sound like it is the end of the world.  Over the holiday’s four French citizens were killed in Mauritania.   Local law enforcement have given “an al Qaeda cell” credit for the attack.  This attack, added to the constant threat talk of all terrorist groups, resulted in the cancellation of the 2008 Dakar rally motor race.   In a quick search I found two news articles in which four people were killed by gangs here in the USA on the same day (I am sure there were more, but I stopped looking at 4.)  Should we have canceled the BCS Championship Football Game because of this threat?  What if local law enforcement had give an al Qaeda cell credit for the gang slayings?  How about then??

People get angry at me when I toss statistical facts at them to show how out of proportion their, and our government’s, reactions are.  Back to 9/11.  Yes it was tragic, should never have happened, and should have caused us to be more vigilant.  But do you know what else is tragic?  Statistically every month more people die from auto accidents here in the USA than died on 9/11.  So why hasn’t more government time and money been spent on better automobile safety regulations and more effective traffic law enforcement?

But, no.  Our government does exactly what the terrorists wants.  It overreacts.  It changes its foreign policies.  It attacks a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no capability to mass-destruct anything.  It holds people, indefinitely thus far, in prisons technically not on our soil, for the sole purpose of circumventing our own rule of law, and leaving these suspects to rot in prison without a fair USA style, honest to goodness, day in court.  Our popularity world wide has fallen drastically.  And it is all because our government’s reaction to 9/11 was to become thugs; which is exactly what the terrorists wanted.  They wanted to prove our government was evil, and it worked.

I could rant even more, but I think the core of my point has been made.  We are letting the terrorists win.

Review: Staffs & Starships, V1 #1, 2007

Staffs & Starships, V1 #1, 2007

This new magazine is brought to us by Sheer Speculation Press. The magazine is a mix of speculative fiction from Sword & Sorcery to Hard Science Fiction. The balance of stories was very good, and overall I was very pleased with this first issue. The lack of a fancy cover startled me at first, but after a short time the simplistic presentation began to grow on me.

Now for some bad news. The print version of the magazine was abysmally late in arriving. The publisher cited problems with the printer, and based on what I have in my hand my guess is that he failed in getting many problems corrected. Nearly every story has a typesetting problem, with the most common issue being that parts of sentences have been left out of the majority of the stories. I think my local small town printer could do better than this first issue. It is no wonder Sheer Speculation has announced that it will only continue to sell electronic subscriptions of the magazine for the time being. I am torn. I realize that they want a professional looking magazine and are likely not happy with their first issue, but I really want a print version. I am one of those people that is tied to a computer at work. A large portion of my free time is also spent at the computer writing stories and blog entries. The main times I get to read are those times I am away from the computer. I hope they return to providing a print version soon. Maybe I can beg them to sell me a print version (ahem) as a reviewer.

Production concerns aside, the content of the first issue is very solid. I enjoyed every story. I have not been able to single out a favorite story; they are all very, very good.

“At War” by Karl El-Koura

As a military history buff, this story struck a strong chord with me. I have read about how soldiers in the current wars the USA is engaged in are struggling with emotions and sanity and concentration because they feel obligated to rush to a computer after every patrol to send an email, or to chat, simply to assure their loved ones that they are still doing fine. It has a demonstrable impact on their effectiveness at war. Karl El-Koura takes this one step further and his story makes a powerful statement about keeping focused and doing the right thing in a dangerous situation.

“The Ken of Man” by Barbara E. Tarbox

This is a stunning story. The descriptions, the characterization and theme are very strong. I could picture the world and see the characters struggling within it. There was one scene near the end that made the entire piece ring true for me. The hero stays true to her character even to the point of being willing to sacrifice herself to save those less virtuous and less deserving.

“Trompe L’Oeil” by Katherine Shaw

I had memory flashes of Isaac Asimov’s “Bicentennial Man” while I read this story. I think that Katherine Shaw’s take on this theme is in some ways more realistic and thus more believable than the Good Doctor’s tale. Our main character does what is right, for her, instead of what is easy, and because the characterization is strong it really makes the entire story work. I normally don’t mention titles, but I will for this one because it is spot on perfect.

“Darkened” by Joanne Anderton

This is a very dark tale that is filled with kindness. The juxtaposition is wonderful. We can really feel empathy for the dark soldier, and can marvel at the openness of the child Jenn. The narration flows well and evokes good imagery. The ending is fitting, yet I would like to revisit the world and stories of this dark soldier.

“The Oracle Unlocked” by Lindsey Duncan

For the second time in this issue I was reminded of a favorite author. This time it is Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories that come to mind. And before anyone balks at this, I am not saying that this tale is a Conan clone or anything like it. For me Howard had a gift with description; of places and things. This story has that wonderful vivid touch. The setting and theme are very much like a Conan tale, but hero is completely different. A lot of people forget that Conan has a brain, and it is this aspect that this hero uses in her quest. This story was simple, elegant and a lot of fun.

“The Carrier” by James Michael Steimle

I must admit that I struggled with this story’s theme, but I recognize that as a personal reaction within me due to…well… my life. To say more would give away too much. I like the setting which seems familiar and very “modern day”, yet has an edge to it like the futuristic utopias in Huxley’s “A Brave New World” or Nolan’s “Logan’s Run”. The ending, while not a surprise to me, was reached without cheating or trickery resorted to by so many stories of this theme. Very enjoyable.

“The Fourth Knight’s Quest” by Steve Goble
{Standard Disclaimer: For the sake of transparency, full disclosure is warranted. Steve is a close friend of mine. A fact that has no impact on my reviews as far as I can tell.}

Have I mentioned that I like journey/quest stories? Well I do. It is especially fun when the journey takes you somewhere you do not expect. This story did exactly that. The descriptions of the journey are fantastic; to the point where this reader absentmindedly got a cold drink because the character he was reading about was tortured by a vividly described hot, dry desert. I don’t get that caught up in stories very often, and it is fun when I do. This is a captivating tale.

“127 Fears” by S.C. Bryce

The opening line caught my attention immediately. The rest of the story held it. Fears are something we all have, and SC Bryce uses that to allow the reader to understand the motivation behind the main character. I have had to reword this review several times because I keep giving away the ending. I guess I will have to conclude by simply stating that this is a fantastic story and should be read without some silly reviewer spoiling it.

“Last Contact” by Peter Andrews

The flow of this story troubled me at first, but in the end its disjointedness works well in setting the tone. There is a strong feeling of the children’s “telephone” game as the events progress and the recollections are repeated through the lens of progressing history. The story left me thinking about truth and perception of truth and how a first contact can be the last.

“Problem in Logic” by Barton Paul Levenson

This story purposefully invokes Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and places a today’s world situation on them. What results is a gritty realism that points out the one flaw with Dr. Asimov’s laws. Implementation. Some day we may be able to devise an expert system or baby artificial intelligence that can handle the enormous scope of decisions that must be made to reconcile acting upon the simple intent of Asimov’s three laws, but not with today’s computers. It is not so much a problem in logic, as it is a problem with robust specifications. As a computer programmer I must congratulate Mr. Levenson on his depiction of computers as real world machines, and not as magic boxes that perform miracles. Well done.

Review: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

I have had this book on my reading shelf for a few years now. I read it back in high school, and have been meaning to read it again ever since. Because I have set myself the goal of reading all of the Hugo Award winning novels that I have yet to read, I figured I’d kick off the effort by reading this novel again.

This novel consists of three distinct novelettes, portions of which were originally published in the science fiction magazines Galaxy and If. The three stories are appropriately subtitled: “Against stupidity …”, “… the gods themselves …”, “… contend in vain?” It is the middle story that I feel won the Hugo for the good doctor. It is the strongest of the three and rightly lends its title to the overall title of the novel. It is an amazing piece of fiction. The entire story takes place in an alien parallel universe with alien characters, both so different from human experience that when one stops to think about it, you must wonder if Asimov himself was an alien to have even imagined them. As I have said in past reviews, I really love great characterization. With Odeen, Tritt and Dua, Asimov introduces us to alien creatures and then sets about crafting them into people that we care about. I found myself wondering how the climax of the third story was going to impact the parallel universe characters. As a young man, I longed for a sequel that furthered the story of the struggle for communication between our universe and the para-universe.

I have had many people tell me that Asimov is not the greatest science fiction writer of all time because he lacks literary flair. But I contend that he should be considered for the position based on his alacrity and accuracy with words. There are times when reading that many of us finding ourselves backing up to assimilate the meaning of a sentence. Not so with Asimov. I dare say that even the deep science content of this novel can be easily understood the first time by anyone who reads it.

I recommend “The Gods Themselves” as a good introduction to Asimov’s work, especially those who may be daunted by the multi-volume Foundation and Robot series.

Review: Origins of the Crash – by Roger Lowenstein

Origins of the Crash: The Great Bubble and Its Undoing – By Roger Lowenstein

When the dotCom stock market bubble collapsed, it left behind a similar bubble of overvalued “legitimate” stocks. This is the bubble that Lowenstein writes about. I personally don’t see what happened as a crash a-la the crash of 1929. The bubble was pricked and has been leaking air ever since. True, there was a big gush of air that escaped the bubble when Enron and WorldCom imploded with accounting irregularities. The Wall Street wiz-kids try to pump air back into it, but because the leak is still there, it inflates a little and then sputters back out. There have been other business that had accounting regularities, but many of these were able to survive financially even if their stockholders didn’t. The current sub-prime lender fiasco is related to these “technically legal” but ethically reprehensible accounting practices. If I didn’t own a water bed, I just might be stuffing my investment cash into the mattress.

I think Roger Lowenstein does a commendable job discussing the things that caused the bubble to be created in the first place. He uses language that a lay person can understand. I had never really considered how paranoid the threat of a leveraged buyout could make a CEO, or how many CEOs would come to view their stock options as a god given right to profit, no matter what. If I were in the position of running a start-up company today and the chance for an IPO (joining a stock market) presented itself, I would decline in a heartbeat. Not only are the current laws still open to accounting fraud, but the current stock purchaser still has not learned the dotCom lesson and is constantly trading trying to find that deal that will make them rich. Every commercial ad for investment firms discuss cheap trading, and if they mention long term strategy, it is an afterthought or is day-trading dressed up for the party. The stock market is no more stable today than the day the Enron closed its doors.

If there is one complaint I have about this book is that it really only scratches the surface. There is no in-depth study, and only superficially points to other major greed mongers that for political and popularity reasons have gotten away with fleecing the stock buying public. I guess he might have been afraid of being sued if he aired more than those facts he had ample documentation for. The end notes are thirty pages long; more than 10% of the book’s text.

Right, Wrong, and Technically Legal

Quite a bit of my reading lately coincidentally has had a similar theme. What is right, what is wrong and what is technically legal. Two stories that I am working on have the same kind of theme, but I did not realize it until yesterday.

It really eats at my hope in my fellow man, because this theme has shown up more in my nonfiction and current events reading than it has in the fiction I have read. Politics, Wall Street, business contractors, insurance companies, billing services and the guy on the corner all seem to have some justification for not doing what is right. It has gotten bad enough that I am actually thinking that those that do wrong, and are up front about it are better people than those that squeak by yet remain technically legal.

Perhaps I should explain the theme a little better.

It is wrong to steal, and most people seem to abide by this truism. Yet there are those that for whatever reason, steal. They may be hungry or need to support a drug habit, or whatever. When these people get caught, they may do everything they can to ameliorate their punishment, but by and large they end up accepting their punishment and in some cases make reparations to those they have harmed. It is the third category of people that are leaving me with a bad taste. Those people for which nothing morally, ethically and compassionately humane can get in the way of their quest for greed, power, status or pleasure. Those that twist things to remain technically legal to get what they want, even if they do not need it, not caring who or what they break along the way.

My personal big brushes with the technically legal mindset has come from dealing with insurance companies.  The biggest involves my Med-Flight from Waverly to Columbus when three Pike County doctors thought I was having a massive MI. (No heart attack.  I have a natural arrhythmia that mimics an MI.) Because the flight originated at a hospital the flight was considered an ambulance run, and the insurance company would only cover the amount that a on road automobile ambulance company would charge.  But that wasn’t the worst part.  Because my insurance will not consider ambulances or med-flight companies as providers, they will not send any money directly to them.  This would be fine, except they also have a policy to not send the insured a check when the amounts reach a certain level.  And while they did not pay much of the Med-flight bill, the part they had to pay was still a large amount.  When confronted about why they did not send me the money they eventually told me that they were afraid that I would not send it to the med-flight company.  They would not send money to me or to Med-flight.  It took months to convince them that they had to send it to me because they were refusing to send it to med-flight themselves, and med-flight was pressuring me for the money.  I was living my own Catch-22.  Then they shorted me by a few percent, and it took about six months to get that cleared up.  Their reasoning behind this is that if they withhold payment as long as possible, they can still earn money on the interest.  And I was told more than once when I threatened to engage the services of a lawyer that what they were doing fit within the insurance laws and regulations.  It was technically legal.  It was okay with them if they screwed up my credit and finances to earn a few more dollars.

I despair about the goodness of my fellow man because this attitude has permeated our society.  You would think that after the Dot.Com crash, and the fall out with Enron and WorldCom, that people would wake up and realized that unabated greed is not good.  And I’m not just talking about money, but greed of status or power or even personal gratification.

It is not okay to cheat just because it is technically legal.  Cheating is cheating no matter how you dress it up.  So, yes.  I believe in doing what is right simply because it is the proper thing to do.  Shouldn’t everybody?

Review: ChronoSpace by Allen Steele

Chronospace by Allen Steele

I enjoy time travel stories where the time travel is just a vehicle (and not overly explained) and also ones where the time travel in integral to the story, plot and characters. The second kind are the ones that, if not written properly, fall utterly flat. But when they work, they are the most enjoyable.

This one works, and Steele does a very credible job in explaining paradoxes, and alternate universes and the like, without being preachy or resorting to an information dump. I especially liked that he did not cheat the ending. Everything leading up to the climax and denouement was set up properly in the prose that preceded it.

Enough about the plot device. I think Mr. Steele also did a fine job with characterization. He gives us enough of the characters to care about what is going on, but also not so much that the story bogs downs into character angst and introspection. At times the characters are swept along by the events, but they also grab the plot and carry it in some instances. It is a nice balance.

I enjoy Mr. Steele’s prose. I picked up this book on the strength of his short fiction alone. I am glad that I did. I think others who enjoy straightforward science fiction would enjoy this work as well.

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.