Friday, September 13, 2013

The Ice War by Stephen Baxter - Asimov's Science Fiction, September 2008

Alternate History seems to fall into the mix of SF simply because it embodies that "sense of wonder" that is so important to the world of SF.  There was a time that SF stood for Science Fiction which rather limits the genre.  Personally I like boundaries, they help to form an expectation of the entertainment before the reader.  Say what you will about how borders limit creativity; it's those very borders that can help a person find a type of fiction they enjoy.  And what's wrong with that?

Lately SF now stands for speculative fiction which is so broad as to dilute the genre.  Now there is an overwhelming mix of mystic powers and creatures; revisionist history and plain old sword-and-sandals fantasy cluttering my old playground that used to include science and futurism.

NOTE: Steam Punk I like because it is still science fiction just set in the Victorian past.

This last story in the September issue is an alternative history tale where we follow Jack Hobbs a less than admirable narrator.  Set in England 1720 Hobbs is escaping the wrath of a young woman's father.  During his flight a meteor crashes right in front of him. This meteor is a fragment from a passing comet that harbors alien life forms who begin to terrorize the countryside.

While Hobbs is trying to escape this new threat he comes across an overturned carriage containing Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift and Issac Newton, of course. (Sigh.)  Together they go on to be instrumental for the conclusion of the story.

As a story goes it was fine.  It's just that its inclusion into a science fiction magazine disappoints me.

If it took place in the future or even the present day it would have made a better fit.  It's just the contrived notion of playing with history and the well-known players therein seems indulgent to me.

The problem I face with all these magazines is that they reflect the attitudes of authors and publishers of their time.  In 2008 SF - Science Fiction - was a bit of a mess.

Stephen Baxter

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Usurpers by Derek Zumsteg - Asimov's Science Fiction, September 2008

I'm not sure how this story qualifies as SF.

There's a hint of it but its very vague. 

We meet King who is a high school running star in a race against a rival team who spent thier summer in China undergoing some kind of athletic enhancements.

This was the authors' first published work and it WAS good, for sports fiction, but it did not give me that sense of wonder that is so important in science fiction.

 I found no website or image of the author.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Midnight Blue by Will McIntosh - Asimov's Science Fiction, September2008

Set in an alternate reality of middle America in the early 1970's.

In this setting there are orbs, about the size of grapefruits, scattered around the globe.  These orbs have been around for decades and give the person who found them special powers.  Each is a different colour which indicates the power it will give.  

By this time the orbs are getting very hard to find, in the past these orbs just appeared out of nowhere and it is not explained how they came to be.  Jeff Green is a kid who wishes he'd been born earlier so that he could have found an orb of his own.  These days the only way to get an orb is to buy one, most have already been found in the wild.

One day, while fishing with a friend, Jeff finds a very rare orb.  He becomes very famous quickly; he's smart enough not to sell the orb too easily.

When Jeff decides what to do with the orb it changes everything.

This tale was a delight to read - pure escapism.

Will McIntosh

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Slug Hell by Steven Utley - Asimov's Science Fiction, September 2008

This is kind of a non-story where nothing really happens to a group of scientists who've travelled back in time to the Paleozoic era to document and explore the local flora and fauna.

Part of the story touches on how the men are coping with the isolation by talking about the things they miss from their time.  They all seem to be coping well.

Without a conflict or resolution there is no plot, without a plot I wonder what I've missed.

I didn't get it.

According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database this story falls in to the "Silurian Tales" series of short stories.  It was the 30th story of 38 which may explain why it didn't resonate with me.

 Sadly, the author passed away January 13, 2013.

Steven Utley

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cut Loose The Bonds Of Flesh And Bone by Ian Creasey - Asimov's ScienceFiction, September 2008

A story of uploaded consciousness but with a twist.

What would you do if your overbearing mother decided to upload her consciousness and move in to your house after her death?

It was a thoughtful exploration of the effects of such a thing to the people left alive and who would have to add this UC to their lives. 

I liked this one.

Creasey has many stories published, oddly enough, I could not find an image of the man.  However you can visit his website HERE

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Horse Racing by Mary Rosenblum - Asimov's Science Fiction, September2008

What do you get when you cross benevolent social development with the technique of a professional sports draft?

A fascinating twist on a world that still believes in profit but goes about it with a micro social engineering component to it. 

What a wonderful, thought provocative story.

Mary Rosenblum

Friday, September 6, 2013

Asimov's Science Fiction, September 2008

In honor of it being September I thought I'd review this magazine published in 2008.

Over all I enjoyed the issue it had some fun moments and included some sense of wonder that is so important to the genre.

Starting today and running to the 13th I will post a review of each story.

Hope you enjoy it.

Sep 6 - In the Age of the Quiet Sun by William Barton
Sep 7 - Soldier of the Singularity by Robert R. Chase
Sep 8 - Horse Racing by Mary Rosenblum
Sep 9 - Cut Loose the Bonds of Flesh and Bone by Ian Creasey
Sep 10 - Slug Hell by Steven Utley
Sep 11 - Midnight Blue by Will McIntosh
Sep 12 - Usurpers by Derek Zumsteg
Sep 13 - The Ice War by Stephen Baxter

In The Age Of The Quiet Sun by William Barton - Asimov's ScienceFiction, September 2008

An interesting novella where an ex-con is prospecting through the Jovian asteroid belt with one crew member and an uploaded consciousness.

The trio discovers a crash landed alien ship, complete with its dead occupant. 

They go against the rules and take ownership of the wreck, running away from the authorities, towing the ship with them, so they can learn everything they can from the technology. 

I liked the structure and how the author was able to tie our present day to this possible future. A future unforeseen but completely plausible. 

A very good opening story. 

I love me my space ships.

William Barton

Monday, September 2, 2013

Book Report #68 - Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman

The opening pages made my heart race; it was so intense and scary.

Bruen's work has a quality of malevolence that I've encountered from no one else.

The structure of the book is interesting; it begins at the end and works its way back to it in two separate narratives.

Each part of the book tells the same story, in first-person, but through the eyes and minds of the two main characters.  Nick and Todd have been life-long friends both have become involved with an Irish mobster.

The book tells the story of how each one got involved and, ultimately, out from under the thumb of their boss.  The lies, betrayals and violence are impressive.

If you like your crime fiction stone-cold then you should pick up anything with Ken Bruen's name on it.  This is my first taste of Coleman's writing and it tied in very well with Bruen's.  I'll be adding his books to my watch list.

This book clocked in at 172 pages, at throwback to the paperback era, which makes it a perfect summer read with a fast moving plot.
Ken Bruen
Reed Farrel Coleman

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Analog Science Fiction and Fact - September 2013

After a rocky start to the issue I came enjoy it every time I picked it up.

The Whale God by Alec Nevala-Lee -

Golly, what a bad start to the issue.  Set in Vietnam during the American involvement, a US military doctor gets involved in a local village's event when a whale is found beached.  After an attempt to rescue it fails three more whales are found and the "mystery" of why this is occurring is pursued.

Honestly this was a weak story with only a hint of technology and zero sense of wonder.  As a matter of fact it felt like this event could already have occurred. I really don't know what it was trying to be but science fiction it was not.

Full Fathom Five by Joe Pitkin -

Marooned under the ice sheet of Europa?  Now that is science fiction.

Maria is a scientist living in a submarine together with the AI that controls the ship. In flashbacks we learn that Maria made it to Europa as part of a crew of ten. Once in orbit a tragic accident occured. 

In an effort to survive the tragedy she pursues the science mission under the ice. 

This was a very interesting story.

The Oracle by Lavie Tidhar -

Three pages in and I gave up. Tidhar was so intent on world building that the STORY was lost. 

Perhaps the author is trying to condense a novel into a short story but by introducing concepts with strange names and not having the space to explore them only makes the story confusing. 


Life of the Author Plus Seventy by Kenneth Schneyer -

What a fun story!  An author takes out his own book from the public library. And forgets to return it. 

What follows is comedy of trying to avoid an overdue fine for decades. 

A very well told story that had me chuckling out loud a few times. 

Creatures from a Blue Lagoon by Liz J. Andersen -  

This was a cute an funny story about a reluctant "space" veterinarian who must treat a large and grumpy farm animal on an other planet.  There are some good bits when the vet argues with her various AIs.

Murder on the Aldrin Express by Martin L. Shoemaker -

This was the last and best story in the issue.  It hit all the marks for me; it was set on a ship in space, it involved exploration, it dealt with humans with all their faults and it had a mystery.

I love it when authors bled two genres; Mysteries and Science Fiction work very well together.  In what I felt was a tip-of-the-hat to Rex Stout and his Nero Wolfe stories the captain of the ship takes on the Nero Wolfe role while his second in command takes on the Archie Goodwin role.

The story was well told and I look forward to reading more from Shoemaker.