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Asimov's Science Fiction - February 2010 - Vol. 34 Nos. 02 - (Whole Numbers 409)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Paul Youll
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 21 January 2010

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

The February 2010 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has stories by Stephen Baxter, Caroline M. Yoachim, Bruce McAllister, Aliette de Bodard, Damien Broderick, and David Erik Nelson along with the usual columns.

Asimov's Science Fiction's February 2010 issue is another good one that includes a new story by one of my favorite authors, her first for the magazine.

The fiction begins with "Stone Wall Truth" by Caroline M. Yoachim. Njeri has an important task in her culture. She is a surgeon and performs an operation on people being punished that involves tacking them up on The Wall and cutting them open. After some time, they are taken down, sewn up again and released. Njeri has had to perform this on an old friend. When a new warlord comes to power, she must do this to the former warlord and another man. This sets her on a journey that makes for a moving story and a good start to this issue.

"Dead Air" by Damien Broderick is inspired, we are told, by Phillip K. Dick. That said, this is not easy to summarize. Jive Bolen lives in a New York City in a future Earth in which the dangerous rays of the sun are filtered through a platform in space, lest all life on Earth would end. Other things too complicated to describe make this a nightmarish place and the story is the sort of ride the late Mr. Dick took us on all the time.

In the introduction to "The Woman Who Waited Forever”" we are told this is an episode of a novel that Bruce McAllister has just finished. It's entirely self-contained and takes place in 1960, in Northern Italy. Our narrator is Brad, a young Navy brat whose father had been assigned to a NATO base there. He has met up with the sons of another naval officer, Bobby and Kevin Speer. They're the kind of bad kids we all knew when we were kids. One day, the brothers propose a trip to a cove to shoot some bows and arrows they have. Brad goes with them, accompanied by a local boy named Marco. Bobby insists they check out an old abandoned hospital that the Germans used during the war, one that had an odd statue of a woman in front of it. It will not be an ordinary day for the boys. The introduction calls this a "haunting tale" and I can't think of a better description. The characters are well-drawn and the story compelling. I want to take a look at the whole book if it's as compelling as this part.

"The Bold Explorer in the Place Beyond" by David Erik Nelson is a wild, entertaining piece, with most of the story told to our narrator by an old rebel named Dickie Tucker. He is relating the adventures of a "lil squid, the bold explorer" on dry land. This is set in a world in which a civil war was fought against clockwork soldiers. All in all, this was a truly bizarre read.

I have been a fan of Aliette de Bodard for some time and "The Wind-Blown Man" is her first story for Asimov's. In the introduction we are told that it began "as a thought experiment on what science and space travel would be like if the Chinese had become the dominant culture on Earth – and then sort of morphed along the way." The story opens with Yue Shinxie, Abbess of the White Horse Monastery, seeing something come out of the sky. It is a Transcendant on a glider, a man who had ascended to Penlai Station and was not supposed to come back. At the monastery, they took those that were exiled there and taught them to let go of all their desires, bring the five elements (fire and wood, earth and water and metal) into balance and, then, create a singularity and ascend to the space station. She had helped this man, Gao Tieguai, transcend some years ago. She cannot get out of him why he has returned and sends for a representative of the Emperor, for this man might mean trouble. As with all of Aliette de Bodard's stories, this is beautifully written and creates an interesting world. I hope that the readers of Asimov's will become as big fans of hers as I am.

The issue concludes with the novella, "The Ice Line" by Stephen Baxter. This is a sequel to "The Ice War" from the September 2008 issue, in which aliens invade England in 1720 and the fight against them is led by real historical figures of the time. The present story takes place 85 years later, beginning on December 12th, 1805 and is told from the point of view of Ben Hobbes, an American forced into the service of Napoleon in an attack on England. In this reality Napoleon has conquered much of the United States and his forces defeated (and killed) Nelson at Trafalgar. Hobbes has built a submersible ship called the Nautilus and the French want him to use it to sink British ships. Hobbes has other ideas and soon winds up in an England invaded by Napoleon. More is going on, though, and the aliens from the previous story come into play. As with the previous story, Baxter does a good job with his characters and all of it makes for a very good read, I hope to see more stories set in this alternate history.

The magazine continues to publish some great stories. If you don't pick this up in your local bookstore or elsewhere, subscribe!

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