Asimov's Science Fiction - April/May 2011 - Vol. 35 Nos. 4 & 5 - (Whole Numbers 423 & 424)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Benjamin Carre
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Magazine ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 26 April 2011
Links: Asimov's Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
Asimov's Science Fiction's April/May 2011 issue is another great one, with a Hugo-worthy story.
The issue begins with the novelette, "The Day the Wires Came Down" by Alexander Jablokov. Andrew and Aarabella are young people, brother and sister who live in an ancient city in which cables were built on the rooftops of building for a kind of cable car called a telpher providing a way to get from building to building without descending to street level. For somewhat obscure reasons, these cables will soon be shut down. The siblings are looking for a gift for their father and are riding the telphers for probably the last time. Andrew tells Arabella of the wilder days of the telpher, a time when rival companies competed and sabotaged each other, before they were taken over by the city. In their journey, they discover the truth behind the legend and we get a very good story.
"An Empty House With Many Doors" by Michael Swanwick is narrated by a man whose wife, Katherine, has died. He misses her terribly, has emptied his house of practically everything and is drinking himself to death. One night he goes out for a walk and something strange happens. I won't say more as that would spoil it but would only say this was a beautiful story.
I think one reason that Mike Resnick is nominated for so many Hugos and wins so many of them is that his serious stories all have a lot of heart and "The Homecoming" certainly does. Jordan is an old man taking care of his wife, Julia, who has dementia. She might be her old self for a minute of two, but that's it. After an absence of 11 years, their son, Phillip visits them, but he is changed. He had himself turned into an alien so that he could better explore another world and Jordan no longer considers him his son or even human. Resnick resolves this story in his usual wonderful way and puts another of his stories on my Hugo short list for next year.
In "North Shore Friday", Nick Mamatas leads us on a wild romp through an occurrence in 1965 that involved the INS, illegal Greek immigrants, mindreading, computers, and the big blackout. Not sure what else to say because it really defies description.
In "Clockworks" by William Preston, a man named Simon Lukic awakes to find he is in the presence of a big man in an unfamiliar room. The big man has gold-flecked eyes and sounds a lot like the "old man" in Preston's story in the March 2010 issue, "Taking the Old Man Down". This story is set in 1962 and Lukic had been known as Doctor Blacklight who had implanted fibers in men's minds, behind the Iron Curtain. The big man has operated on Lukic's brain, enabling him to make better choices. The story revolves around Lukic, the big man, and his assistants (who have nicknames like Tug, Birdy, and Randy to search out a nefarious machine that Lukic had been building. Like the previous story, this has echoes of classic pulp fiction and was a delight to read.
Rudy Rucker doesn't write normal stories and "The Fnoor Hen" is anything but normal. Bix is a freelance programmer, married to Vicky with a son, Stoke. He did some work for Cardo but wanted extra money for a user's guide. Cardo refused and then Cardo's wife Maricel gave Bix some special feed for his hens. The result is as wonderfully bizarre as it can be.
"Smoke City" by Christopher Barzak is an unusual tale, told by a woman who, in bed with her husband, descends into another city where she has another family and certain obligations from which she cannot escape. It's hard to summarize this one but I'll just say that it bears reading.
Tom Purdom is one of my favorite writers and his "A Response from EST17", once again, shows his talent. Two ships from Earth have arrived at a planet called EST17. The ships are actually small craft containing intelligent programs from competing sources on Earth. They are each contacted by members of competing societies on EST17. The conflict from the EST17 natives revolve around sending a Message to Earth that will solve every technological and medical problem they have, but throw them into chaos resulting in death or, at least, inactivity in space. That way, EST17 and the rest of the intelligent species in the universe will not have to worry about them. This is the way things have worked since the beginning of time. EST17 had survived its receipt of the Message and had not ventured in to space since. Purdom resolves all of this in a very interesting way.
Esther M. Friesner writes some funny stories and "The One That Got Away" is one. The story is told by a woman of easy virtue about an encounter with a callow sailor in a bar. We know something's up because they both have pointed teeth. When we meet his captain, we have a good idea. It's a lot of fun, just what you'd expect from Friesner.
In "The Flow and Dream" by Jack Skillingstead, Bale is the only surviving Monitor on a colony ship. His family and fellow Monitors have died of a fever. Years have passed and the world has been terraformed, but Bale has not revived the sleeping colonists. One day, one of them comes up out of the sleeping chamber and forces a change upon him. This was a pretty good story by Skillingstead.
In "Becalmed", a story by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the star ship Ivoire is becalmed in "foldspace" because the anacopa drive has failed. Our narrator (whose name is Mae though we only find out at the end of the story) is becalmed in her life because of horrific events on a planet on which she was part of a diplomatic team, negotiating a peace between two cultures. All but two others on her team died as did many natives on the planet. She is being blamed for the events. As we gradually find out what has happened, we learn more about the two cultures, the violent Quuorzod and the more controlled Xenth. It is all quite fascinating and another fine tale from Rusch.
Another fine issue of Asimov's Science Fiction! Subscribe!