Asimov's Science Fiction January/February 2018 - Vol. 41 Nos. 11 & 12 - (Whole Nos 502 & 503)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Eldar Zakirov
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov Magazine (print/digital) ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 28 December 2017
Links: Asimov's Science Fiction / How to Purchase / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The January/February 2018 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction is a great one with a Hugo-worthy story
The fiction begins with "The Seeds of Consciousness: 4107's Story" by James Gunn, the first of two stories in this issue in which Gunn tells us more about characters who were in his novel Transcendental. 4107 is an intelligent flower from the planet called by outsiders Flora. The story tells about the plant people of Flora and how they developed when they were invaded by the Alpha Centaurans and eventually repelled them. It leads up to 4107 becoming part of the novel mentioned above. The story is beautifully told and utterly fascinating.
That is followed by the other Gunn story, "The Final Commandment: Trey's Story". This is the story of the guilt-ridden robot, Trey, and how organic life developed on its world and what happened to it. Another richly told story.
"In the Lost City of Leng" by Paul Di Filippo & Rudy Rucker -+- An homage to H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, this takes place on New Year's Eve, 1933. Doug Patchen, a reporter for the Boston Globe is convinced by a former smuggler named Stan Gorski, to go on another expedition to the Lost City of Leng in Antarctica. Also in the party are Patchen's dog, Baxter, Leon Bagger, an assistant professor at Harvard, a beautiful woman scholar named Vivi Nordstrom, and Urxula, who is actually one of the Elder Ones, called cukes, who had built the city. What follows is a great adventure story, a big plot twist, battles with shoggoths, and a lot more. Great story even if it's not much like Lovecraft.
"The Equalizers" by Ian Creasey -+- Pamela is HR director in a near-future company. She feels that if she wants to do her job well, she must wear Equalizers, glasses which obscure people's appearance masking gender, race, name, everything. Is this the way she can run her life? Interesting exploration of this idea.
"Sea of Dreams" by Cixin Liu (translated by John Chu) -+- Yan Dong is an ice sculptor, competing in the Ice and Snow Arts Festival when suddenly what looks like a giant ball of ice appears in the sky. It's actually an alien calling itself a low-temperature artist. It goes to work freezing giant blocks of ice from Earth's oceans, eventually forming a ring of ice around Earth which now has no oceans. What can Earth do to restore its water? This makes for a grand story and one that will be on my short list for Best Novelette Hugo for fiction from 2018.
"Solicited Discordance" by Matthew Hughes -+- This is another of Hughes's delightful Vancian stories involving Erm Kaslo, confidential operative. Kaslo is hired by rich woman Vira Shekhar to retrieve her son, Delabond, who has run off with a young woman named Clotilde Hamp. Kaslo discovers they are being followed by a suspicious character named Bennesh Mah and all three are headed for a planet named Novo Bantry. Kaslo thinks it's part of a scam involving what is known as Tosten's Trove, the legendary hoard of a long-departed rich man. He, assisted by his integrator, follows them. It all leads to a fun conclusion. It's always delightful to read one of Hughes' stories and this one does not disappoint.
"Assassin in the Clouds" by Robert R. Chase -+- Our narrator is calling himself Phil Fogg and has been hired to protect a scientist named Kamiji from assassination while aboard the Francesco Lana de Terzi in a floating craft called an aerostat, kept aloft by a "composite graphene shell" filled with "vacuum". But that's a minor detail. The story depicts a near future where artificial intelligent devices are putting doctors and lawyers out of business. Dr. Kamiji's research is related to this crisis. I won't go into any other detail except to say that it all comes together for a very entertaining story.
"Barren Isle" by Allen M. Steele -+- This is another story in Steele's series about the planet Coyote, settled by humans, which had an indigenous intelligent species. They are called the chireep and have a government-mandated refuge, a place called Barren Isle. They travel in packs and have been known to kill humans. Fast Eddie Gomez is part of the Corps of Exploration and must mount a Search and Rescue mission on Barren Isle to rescue some kids that have made an unauthorized visit there. It turns out the kids are brother and sister escaping an Evil Fundamentalist Cult the leader of which has followed them to the isle. Gomez and his group must find a way to get the kids to safety. Another good solid story in this series from Steele.
"Mother Tongues" by S. Qiouyi Lu -+- Jiawen Liu's daughter, Lillian, has been accepted to Stanford. She needs a lot of money to pay for it. She can get the money by selling her Mandarin. It's a process that will wipe her mind of her native tongue so it can be sold to someone who wants to speak Mandarin like a native. But what price will she pay? Very well told story in only six pages. Just perfectly done.
The issue concludes with a novella, "The Rescue of the Renegat by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. -+- This is another story on Rusch's Diving Universe. Captain Kim Dauber is in command of the Aizsargs supervising the closing down of a sector base when a ship suddenly appears out of foldspace. She is told that it is in distress and that there are almost 200 people aboard. It is identified as the Security Class chip the Renegat which had disappeared one hundred years ago. They have only a little time until its anacapa engines explode. Can they rescue them all? This is an exciting story which focuses on several people on both ships, the sort of good solid story we always get from Rusch.