russ (goulo) wrote,

Asimov's, August 2012

I received a subscription to Asimov's Science Fiction magazine as a gift from Anna this year. (Also thanks to Jay Lake whom she consulted for ideas of what would be a good SF magazine to give me.) After enjoying several issues, it occurred to me to blog about the latest (and maybe the future ones if I'm not too lazy to...)

The opening story "Weep For Day" (Indrapramit Das) was great. It has a good sf idea of civilization on a planet that's not rotating about an internal axis, so it always keeps the same hemisphere toward the sun and the other side is dark and cold and unexplored. The civilization has a sort of Asian Indian-flavored steampunk feel. There's a trip on a train which gave me nostalgia to our India trip. The world-building implications of the continual sunlight on a civilization were convincing and interesting. There's some good sociological stuff and family relations and also creepy exploitation of a captured monster. The characters touched me and the mystery of the dark side's nightmare creatures was interesting.

"Heaven's Touch" (Jason Sanford) was a nice classic style hard sf "marooned in space" adventure with a religious cult as an important background element and an AI about which it's kind of ambiguous whether it's really conscious or not. "You know you're in rough shape when you lie to a computer program."

"Beautiful Boys" (Theodora Goss) was a short sort of sociological sf satire about how/why women fall for stereotypical "bad boys" that dump them and move on.

"Joining the High Flyers" (Ian Creasey) was rather odd with body-sculpted humans who can fly very high and live in floating castles. It was written as seemingly hard sf, but some of it seemed so implausible to me (e.g. a giant laser network over the land to destroy anything that falls from the flyers' realms far above?!) that I kept shifting into thinking of it as allegorical fantasy. The flyers had an honor-obsessed warlike raider culture which reminded me somewhat of the middle ages and Njal's Saga (which I'm coincidentally reading now in Esperanto translation), which made it feel like a coming of age / adventure story, except it seems that the main character has already had a successful career as a sculpted athlete, and this is just a new career with a new body. Some of it felt off to me in a hard to define way (maybe because it was a followup to an earlier story I'd not read? or maybe too much telling about the world?), but the protagonist's final quest and conversation with a dying hermit was at least weird and inventive, and there is an unexpected cynical twist.

"View Through the Window" (Ted Reynolds) was an sf version of the movie "Rear Window" (as I imagine it, having never actually seen the film...) A person confined to their hospital bed in a revolving space station observes the various activities outside her window. Things get tense when she thinks she sees an accident of some sort at a nearby structure, and then a chase occurs. (And because of the space station's rotation, she only gets to observe the action at intervals when her window is pointing in that direction.) There was a good message about prejudices and assumptions and xenophobia which was unfortunately too clearly telegraphed, I thought (the character early on expresses clearly unsympathetic prejudices which will presumably get refuted), but I still liked the story and the climax had some good unexpected action.

"Starsong" (Aliette de Bodard) had some good strong portrayals of racism and its effects (in this case of a Chinese minority family on an Aztec planet - which felt kind of random but worked OK), set in a backdrop of military / Top Gun type training (a milieu I'm a bit weary of, I confess, but it didn't dominate too much).

"Stamps" (Bruce McAllister) was a comfortable fun old-style feeling sf story with alien visitors helping earth get through the Cuban missile crisis, but with the modern idea of the coming Singularity, and one of the aliens becomes a stamp collector... The middle section is enjoyably told in funny epistolary style (with an interesting little observation about a difference between east and west during the cold war). The ending feels nicely optimistic about humanity.

"The Bernoulli War" (Gord Sellar) is sort of the anti-"Stamps": told in a very modern cyberpunk computer-jargon style in the future when humanity has long since died off and now various machines are fighting strange wars like ants versus grasshoppers. The prose style (including names of characters which are apparently rather bizarrely implausibly inspired by long randomized L337 text from spammer's emails) and the jumbled confused consciousnesses (including machines/programs spawning local sandboxes of themselves and infecting others) made it a tougher read, but it was an interestingly strange parable about never-ending war and rigid economic/cultural ideologies.

All in all, I enjoyed the issue (as I've enjoyed all the previous ones). My favorite story from this issue was "Weep for Day".
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