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Asimov's Science Fiction November/December 2017 - Vol. 41 Nos. 11 & 12 (Whole No. 502 & 503)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Eldar Zakirov
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov Magazine (print/digital)  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 29 October 2017

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

The November/December 2017 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has stories by Connie Willis, Greg Egan, Rick Wilber, Jason Sanford, Nick Wolven, Jack McDevitt, James Patrick Kelly, Michael Cassutt, Emily Taylor, Tom Purdom, James Gunn, Joel Richards, and Norman Spinrad, along with the usual poetry and columns.

The November/December 2017 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction is a great issue with a Hugo-worthy novella and a Hugo-worthy short story. It's a great way to wind-up their Fortieth Anniversary. May they have many more.

The fiction begins with the novelette "The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine" by Greg Egan. -+- Dan has been fired from his job and apparently replaced by a computer. He's not the only one. But how can an economy function when the consumers aren't working? A curious solution is found. Interesting look at a possible future.

"Confessions of a Con Girl" by Nick Wolven -+- In a near future, Sophie is a college student but things are not going well for her. People are constantly rated on a pro-con scale by others, with color codes of green, yellow, and red. She has run afoul of some bad judgments of other people and mistakes on her part. Quite chilling speculation.

"In Dublin, Fair City" by Rick Wilber -+- This is the third story in an alternate history written by Wilber about a real-life baseball player, who became a spy. It is March 1940 and things are not going well for those opposing Germany and Japan. The Japanese are occupying San Diego and threatening San Francisco. The United States has a shaky armistice with Germany which has overrun Europe, including England. Churchill and the English government are in exile in Dublin, something the Irish resent especially since the Nazis are bombing the city. Moe and his woman friend have been sent to Dublin on a secret mission to meet with Michael Collins and someone else, who I will not spoil. We are promised two more stories and this one certainly leads to more interesting alternate history. There's also some great baseball background in the beginning of the story, Wilber's specialty. Loved the story and can't wait for the sequels.

"The Last Dance" by Jack McDevitt -+- Ethan's wife, Olivia, had died in a traffic accident nineteen months ago. Now, she is back as a hologram recreated from computer files and Ethan's own memories. They have a daughter, Sarah, who has difficulty accepting the replacement. But this recreated Olivia really loves Ethan and Sarah and makes the choice the original would have approved of. Great story, with a nice little twist at the end.

"And No Torment Shall Touch Them" by James Patrick Kelly -+- Carlo Bonnacorso has died but he left an uploaded version of himself that still lingers. Various people have different reactions to the situation. Interesting.

"Timewalking" by Michael Cassutt -+- James Follet is in his 60s and bothered by sleepwalking, something he had done as a child. He is getting some sort of treatment that has him reliving sleepwalking episodes from his past. But something odd is going on. Is he getting messages from the future? And what does this have to do with the company he and his partner, Pham, have started to give organic materials (like moss) the ability to support silicon operations? Great little story with two new ideas in it. Cassutt is one of those authors that never disappoints.

"Skipped" by Emily Taylor -+- Our narrator is traveling in a high-speed transport compartment when suddenly she is not alone. There is a man with her and apparently, he knows her and calls her, "babe". She has "skipped" winding up in an alternate timeline and this man is her husband. Apparently, the quantum measurements made when building the high-speed system were off and people sometimes "hit a space-time pocket and get twisted to a different tail in the braid of the multiverse". But that's okay, the government and the corporation that built the transport can get her back. But a glimpse of one of her alternate lives leaves her unsettled. Another good story.

"Afloat Above a Floor of Stars" by Tom Purdom -+- Revali and Kenan are on a long journey in space to see the galaxy from the outside. But part of the agreement is that they have to alternate changing their personalities to be more compliant to the other. It turns out to be more of a challenge than they thought it would be. Pretty good.

"Love and Death and the Star that Shall Not Be Named: Kom's Story" by James Gunn -+- This is another story about a character first encountered in Gunn's Transcendental trilogy. Kom has taken off on a mission of his own to explore the area around a star that is forbidden by his people. He finds a capsule with a creature inside it that Kom manages to revive: a human named Sam. They learn a lot from each other in this poignant, touching tale.

"Nine Lattices of Sargasso" by Jason Sanford -+- Amali is recording her experiences in a lattice so that others can experience them. She is a refugee, along with her father and brother, on an island in the Sargasso Sea ruled by a woman called Lady Faye. The world was disrupted by a powerful AI that destroyed a lot of technology. Amali discovers something about the AI and her world changes. Very good. Good character development. Sanford is one of the best.

"Operators" by Joel Richards -+- In a near-future in which trucking is all done by self-driving vehicles, some are being hijacked. Barry is hired by a group of executives to find out who's behind it all. What Barry finds is surprising but he makes it all work out for everybody. Great little story.

"The Nanny Bubble" by Norman Spinrad -+- Teddy Smithson has grown up, protected. He's been given Strong and Smart pills and Heads-Up Glasses with full 3-D audio. But he has to keep in a proscribed area called the Nanny Bubble. He likes playing his Little League Baseball and is pretty good. But when he sees kids playing on an unkempt field in an area that his father forbids, he gets a hankering for the real world. He gets it in a splendid afternoon. Great story and another one that involved baseball. What more can one ask for? This is a story to put in my Hugo shortlist for Short Story next year!

The issue concludes with a novella, "I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land" by Connie Willis. -+- Our narrator is a male writer in New York City to meet with his editors. He is wandering about Manhattan and trying to get out of the rain when he winds up in a bookstore called Ozymandias Books (hence the title) which is unusual even for that kind of place. The guy in charge seems straight out of central casting and tells him the books in the store are "rarer than rare". As he looks around the books seem to be in random order and truly obscure. When another employee appears and tells the owner that they are "swamped", our narrator finds his way to a back room and quite a bit more. The idea behind all this is so fascinating that I don't want to spoil it further. This is just the kind of story you get from Willis and it will be on my Hugo Short List for Novella.

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