Asimov’s Science Fiction – June 2012 – Vol. 36 Nos. 6 – (Whole Numbers 437)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Dorottya Mathe/shutterstock.com
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 23 April 2012
Links: Asimov's Science Fiction / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The fiction in the issue begins with "Final Exam" by Megan Arkenberg is something very different: 15 multiple choice questions, 2 short answer questions and an extra credit that detail: a.) the dissolution of a woman’s marriage and b.) the attacks of horrible creatures that come out of the sea. There's even an answer key. It all tells a very good story.
"Waiting at the Altar" by Jack McDevitt is another story about the career of Priscilla Hutchins, previously seen in "Maiden Voyage" in the January issue. This time, she's on her qualification flight when, because of a power failure, the ship suddenly drops out of the transdimensional universe and into normal space. All this is part of an exercise, testing Hutch's response, which she handles well. Then, Benny the AI tells her that they have received an artificial radio transmission. Jake, the captain and her tester, says this is not part of any test. The nearest star is more than 200 light years away. It turns out to be a distress signal, one sent nine years ago. With some prodding from Jake, Hutch decides to seek out the ship that sent the distress call. The story gets even more interesting from there! This was just a perfectly told story and I really have to read more stories featuring Hutch.
We are told that "The Flowering Ape" by Alan DeNiro is a coming-of-age tale and it seems to be. It's set in some future in which young people with telepathic ability are paired with aliens they call shepherds, making interstellar travel possible. Our narrator is unnamed and, as we eventually find out intersexed. Since I cannot use a proper name or pronoun, I'll just refer to this character as UN. UN has not been linked with a shepherd yet and is in training. UN is going to a a place called the Flowering Ape and hopes to run into a boy named Kathy (don't ask). UN winds up going with Kathy and his friends (who have shepherds) on an interstellar joyride in which conflicts happen. Not much more to say. I found the story more annoying then interesting.
In "The Widdershins Clock" by Kali Wallace, Marta's grandmother disappears on a Sunday afternoon. Also gone is an unusual clock that her grandmother's first husband had built in 1905. Marta had been studying mathematics when she married Stanley, a mathematics tutor. Discouraged by her professors, she drops out to become a housewife. Only her grandmother is disappointed. As the story goes, we learn more about Marta and her grandmother and we begin to suspect something is going on. I won’t spoil any more of the story except to say, that it is definitely worth your time.
"Missionaries" by Mercurio D. Rivera. Cassandra Quiles is part of a religious group that calls itself the Saviors. They make much of pain and suffering and Cassie, who has terminal cancer, makes her suffering part of their worship. They have traveled to Sagittarius A, "the black hole at the center of the Milky Way", and managed to make contact with the aliens there, the first humans to have done so. They have one of these beings encased in an orb with them when they are visiting another planet which is home to these aliens. They hope to make more contact. The story gets bogged down into mystical religious ideas that will probably impress neither atheist or adherents of the traditional Western religions. It was also not particularly interesting.
"Free Range" by Bruce McAllister stars Michael and Johanna, her dog Mignon, a Vietnamese friend named Pham, a bunch of black chickens and one big owl. Johanna is very New Agey and believes a Chinese legend about giant owls that steal pets and small children. The only defense against them are these black chickens that she's purchased. Michael's skeptical, but he sees the large hole that something had made in Johanna's roof, so he asks his friend Pham for help. He knows all about giant owls and black chickens. All this results in what is really a science fiction story and quite a good one.
In "Scout" by Bud Sparhawk, Falcon is a reconstructed marine sent to a planet occupied by the murderous aliens called Shardies to find out as much as he can about them and transmit that data back to the ship. Most of his body had been destroyed in an attack. Now he is in a form he describes as "a ten kilo turtle". He has enhanced sensors that can see and analyze what is down there. He can leave behind little transmitters of what he has collected. The story details his mission. This was a taut, well-written story with a good little stinger at the end.
The issue concludes with "Possible Monsters" by Will McIntosh. Cooper is returning to his hometown after six years in Triple-A baseball having given up his dream of being a major league pitcher. Entering the house he had inherited after the death of his parents, he sees something unbelievable – part of his living room in enclosed on some sort o clear material and there's some creature with multiple eyes looking at him. He flees but decides not to call the police and bunks in with an old friend. He winds up spending a night, back at home, watching television as the creature watched with him. The next day he begins to see ghostly images of alternate realities of his life. He is spooked by them at first, but eventually makes some sense of how to deal with them. This developed into quite a good little story with a nice ending.
As I said, a pretty good issue. I still say subscribe to Asimov’s!