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Asimov’s Science Fiction – January 2012 – Vol. 36 Nos. 1 – (Whole Numbers 432)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Michael Whelan
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 27 November 2011

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

The January 2012 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has stories by Elizabeth Bear, Paul McAuley, Katherine Marzinsky, Jack McDevitt, Zachary Jernigan, C.W. Johnson, and Eric del Carlo along with the usual poetry and columns.

Asimov’s Science Fiction‘s January 2012 issue is a pretty good one to start the year.

The fiction in the issue begins with the novelette, "Bruce Springsteen" by Paul McAuley. After talking to an alien in a bar on another planet, our narrator, the bartender, has a conversation with a beautiful woman who convinces him to help her steal an alien artifact for some reason that's unclear. They go off on their adventure and wind up killing some people to get this artifact back to where it belongs. Things, quite rightly, do not work out for them and we are supposed to care because they are Bruce Springsteen fans? Not buying it. If Mr. McAuley wants to indulge his love for rock and roll, he should do it elsewhere.

Things look better with our next story. "Recyclable Material" by Katherine Marzinsky is a first publication by a young writer living in New Jersey. Ross is some sort of robot who works for an outfit called Robotic Sanitation Services. He's quite efficient knowing what kind of garbage (usually organic) he can pick up and what might be recyclable. In his travels, he comes across something different and must evaluate it. I won't say more except that Ms. Marzinsky makes a fine debut. With more stories like this she might be nominated for a Campbell Award.

Jack McDevitt's "Maiden Flight" tells a story using Priscilla Hutchins from his six Academy novels at the start of her career. She is going for her license to pilot interstellar flight. The final step in that is to captain a craft on a routine mission. As you might expect the mission is anything but routine. An important discovery is made. This was a very good story but I'll have to say I disagree with a decision that Hutch makes at the end. Of course, without that ending, you would not have much of a story so I'd also say that McDevitt wrote it the only way he could.

"The War is Over and Everybody Wins" by Zachary Jernigan takes place in a world in which white people were mostly wiped out in a plague that started at the end of 2017. Mike's father, apparently, had something to do with it, but that is not made clear. The remaining races do not get along and things are not for the better. Mike is appalled by this world and is estranged from his father. His grandfather has just died of the plague which took more than 20 years to kill him. This one was just a downer and did not really have much of a resolution.

C.W. Johnson contributes a beautiful little story in "The Burst". Cayla has been looking at star photographs for the erudite Professor Maune. She has found anomalies she calls 'bursts' in several places and has come up with a theory behind them. This is told in tandem with a crisis in her personal life. All this comes together in a very good way and an enjoyable read.

"Friendlessness" by Eric del Carlo is a brilliant piece set in a future in which adults have an implant that connects them to a social network. Daric Dandry has one but is so socially inept that he has to buy friends. This leaves him bankrupt and unemployed and alone. He eventually finds himself in his hometown where he makes an important discovery. I can't be more specific without spoiling it but will just say this was one good read.

The last story is the novella, "In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns" by Elizabeth Bear. This is a murder mystery set in a future India. Police Sub-Inspector Ferron has an unusual case. A man has been murdered by being turned inside out. The only witness is his intelligent cat whose mind has, apparently, been wiped. During the course of her investigation we learn a lot about this India and the world and her personal life. Bear seamlessly weaves this all into a very well-told story as we are very used to her doing. It's a good end to an issue that started out a little shakily.

Subscribe to Asimov's! It's still a good place to find promising new writers and talented old ones.

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