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Asimov's Science Fiction - January 2010 - Vol. 34 Nos. 01 - (Whole Numbers 408)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Jeroen Advocaat
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 23 November 2009

Links: Asimov's Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The January 2010 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has stories by Geoffrey A. Landis, Robert Reed, Allen M. Steele, Felicity Shoulders, Steve Rasnic Tem, Chris Roberson, and Carol Emshwiller along with the usual columns!

Asimov's Science Fiction's January 2010 issue is another worthy effort with stories by a number of my favorite authors .

The issue begins with "Marya and the Pirate" by Geoffrey A. Landis. Domingo Bonavantura is a space pirate but doesn't like to be called that. He's doing what he's doing to survive. He hijacks a water-mining module, in between Venus and Earth, wanting to steal its water. Aboard is a young woman who gives her name as May Hamilton. He treats her well as they head off to Earth where he will divert the ship from the "whip" that is meant to catch it. Things do not go as planned in this nice little adventure story.

In "Conditional Love" by Felicity Shoulders, Grace Steller is a doctor at the Gene-Engineered Pediatric In-Patient Center in a future Cleveland. The children there were all those who had gone through a gene-optimization that had been botched. Minerva was born with no limbs. Danny forgets personal memory every time he sees a new adult face. She tries to do the best she can for them but feels that it is not enough. Shoulders has written a beautiful and poignant story.

Steve Rasnic Tem has long been a favorite of mine as is his wife, Melanie Tem. I am looking forward to a collection of their collaborations, In Concert, due to be published by Centipede Press in April. "A Letter from the Emperor" is another example of Tem's fine craft in story-telling. Jacob Westman is a crewman on a space vessel that cruises the outer reaches of the Emperor's domain. When his crewmate, Anders Nils, spaces himself, Westman is bothered by the fact that they had never become friends. His next planetfall is designated 960G4-32 by the Empire, but called Joy by its inhabitants. The planet has heard little from the Empire over the years, but its outgoing officer, an old man named Colonel William Bolduan is waiting for a letter from the Emperor, a man he says he knows, upon his retirement. All these elements come together for a nice little story.

The latest story from Chris Roberson, "Wonder House", is set in the same alternate history "of the new world that imagined an Aztec and Mandarin supremacy" that was the setting of two previous stories in Asimov's. This one is set in Yerushalayim in Yisrael and features two men Yacov Leiber and Itzhak Blumenfeld who run Wonder House Publications, a publisher of "tenth-tael terribles" or "popular entertainments". They are sorely in need of something to boost their sales when two young men named Kurtzberg and Segal come to them with an idea. They want to create a new continuing character, a man sent back in time from a future Earth, just before its red sun explodes. Future Earth has higher gravity and this man has extreme strength. Kurtzberg, the artist of the pair, has drawn a striking picture of this man lifting a car over his head. The two older men look it over. Itzhak as the idea to publish this character, not in just words, but in a series of pictures on every page. Roberson sprinkles his story with examples of the "terrible" they publish that seem as hauntingly familiar as this new idea and the two young men who came up with it. I loved this one!

Robert Reed is another of my favorite writers and in "The Good Hand", he does something a bit different for him - alternate history. He says in his introduction that when hearing that it was a possibility that we might bomb Iran to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons, he thought about what it would be like if we did that to "people that we know a great deal better." In this alternate history, the United States made sure it continued to be the sole nuclear power after World War II and denied even our allies the right to develop their own nukes. This extended to chemical and biological weapons, too. The story takes place in a France that the U.S. was discouraging their weapons and space development. Reed gives us some interesting glimpses at this world in his usual quality story.

It seems this issue is chock-full of my favorite writers! Here's one from Carol Emshwiller. "Wilds" is not the kind of story that can be summarized easily. It features an unnamed man who lives out in the wild, like a hermit. One day, a young woman invades his domain and his life changes. As with all of Emshwiller's stories, this is more of style and mood and is well-worth reading.

The issue concludes with "The Jekyll Island Horror" by Allen M. Steele. The story is presented to us by Steele, not as his own, but as a manuscript that fell into his hands when he visited Jeykll Island, off the coast of Georgia for a wedding. It is told by a man named Solomon Hess, who was valet to a New York magazine publisher named William A. Russell in the early 1930s. Hess' employer has managed to buy an associate membership in the exclusive Jekyll Island Club and bought a house there. They travel down there in January of 1934 and things start out uneventfully. Then, one night in March, Solomon sees a fireball across the sky and hears a boom in the distance. This sets up a series of events that is wonderfully told by Steele, keeping the conceit of a true story all the way by the occasional footnote. This has the feel of a good old-fashioned pulp story of the type that the fictional Mr. Russell might have published and is a delight from beginning to end.

Sheila Williams begins the 2010 issues with an excellent one. If you don't pick this up in your local bookstore or elsewhere, subscribe.

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