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Asimov’s Science Fiction - December 2010 - Vol. 34 Nos. 12 - (Whole Number 419)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: John Picacio
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 22 October 2010

Links: Asimov's Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The December 2010 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has stories by James Patrick Kelly, Tom Purdom, Michael Swanwick, Sara Genge, Gregory Norman Bossert, Ian Werkheiser, Robert Reed, and Ian Creasey, along with the usual columns.

Asimov's Science Fiction‘s December 2010 issue ends the year with another very good issue.

The issue begins with "Plus or Minus" by James Patrick Kelly. Mariska Volochkova is, in many respects, a rebellious teenager. The difference here is that she is actually a clone of her famous mother Natalya Volochkova and is part of the maintenance crew of the ship Shining Legend, transporting nickel-iron ore and dirty ice from the asteroid belt. Her 'mother' had had her designed for something else, deep space travel. She had been enhanced with the ability to go into deep hibernation. She doesn't much like her job and her boss seems to have taken a dislike to her. A crisis will change things significantly in this nicely told story.

Michael Swanwick follows with "Libertarian Russia". In some near future, Russia has suffered something called the Depopulation and a dictatorial government could not rule the entire vast country. So, the repression is centered on the big cities and there are vast areas our hero, Victor, calls "Libertarian Russia." He is motorcycling through the Asiatic part of the country and meets up with a whore named Svetlana. Together, they find what the wide open spaces are really like. This was another fine story from Swanwick.

In "Sins of the Father" by Sara Genge, our narrator is a merman who had himself converted to a legged man so that he could live in the remnants of Spain that still exist after the Earth's waters have flooded most of the land. His merfolk are a matriarchal race and his mother despises what he has done. If he ever tried to return to the sea, his mother would have him killed. When he falls in love with a girl named Rosita, we learn more about this future world. Genge writes beautiful prose and tells a touching story.

Most of "Freia in the Sunlight" by Gergory Norman Bossert, is told from the point of view of its eponymous character. Freia is actually FREIA™ which stands for Fully-autonomous Reconnaissance, Electronic Intelligence and Attack™ system, a weapon. We get a description of her by her inventor but what makes the story interesting is her thoughts about her mission.

The "Variations" in the story by Ian Werkheiser (his first science fiction story) are related to the music of Joe Novak's father, an accomplished pianist who died years before. Experts in a new technology want to use Joe's eidetic memory to recreate and expand upon his father's work. This was well-written and provided an interesting speculation on the future.

One of the genre's best and most prolific authors, Robert Reed is represented here with "Excellence". Larry Voss lives comfortably in a time when the world has been experiencing a long economic stagnation called the Great Repression. He is an expert at creating virtual realities for his own amusement and especially likes one called the Kingdom of Abalone. Then he receives an amazing offer and things change for him significantly in another imaginative story from Reed.

In a future in which athletic records have reached an asymptote that makes it hard to set a new one, Delroy is told by his trainer that conditions are perfect for him to set a new record in the 100m dash. This sets up a nice little story about excellence and its affect on people called "The Prize Beyond Gold" by the talented Ian Creasey.

The last of the short stories is not actually listed in the table of contents but it's the best story in the issue. "Uncle E" by Carol Emshwiller seems to mine that old idea of children whose only parent has died and trying to hide that from the world, so they can stay together. Sarah is only twelve, going on thirteen, but takes on the parental responsibility for her siblings. Things are tough but she is helped by familiar looking adult who shows up, and calls himself "Uncle E". You might figure out what is going on, but that does not detract from this lovely story.

As the issue began with a novelette, so it is concluded by one, "Warfriends" by Tom Purdom. We are told in the introduction that this story is actually a long-awaited sequel to a story Purdom published more than forty years ago as The Tree Lord of Imeten as part of an Ace Double. The story here, I assume, takes place after a human named Harold has convinced the two peoples of a planet to unite against a common foe. The tree people had always thought the itiji as inferior, to be treated as slaves. Harold defeated their chosen champion and they accepted the itiji as equals. This tale deals with the two races banding together for an attack on Lidris of Drovil who has subjugated four cities. The alliance is not easy and Purdom tells a very good story about it. I hope to see more.

This was another excellent issue by Sheila Williams. You should subscribe!

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