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Asimov's Science Fiction – June 2008 – Vol. 32 No. 6 (Whole Number 389) by Sheila Williams
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Mark A. Garlick
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 10652698
Date: 26 March 2008

Links: Magazine Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The June 2008 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction is here with fine stories by Nancy Kress, Forrest Aguirre, James Patrick Kelly, Felicity Shoulders, Derek Kunsken and Lawrence Person and an Excellent one from Ian MacLeod.

The June 2008 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction is an especially fine one. One of the stories got an Excellent from me and the rest all got a Very Good.

"Call Back Yesterday" by Nancy Kress features Caitlin, Seena and the other inmates of an institution for people afflicted with Cathcart Syndrome. They see people who are not there in mirrors and other reflective surfaces. One night, Caitlin, Seena and a young man escape from the institution and discover the real story.

James Patrick Kelly's "Surprise Party" take place in a future in which people entertain themselves through "neuros," live stories pumped directly into the brain. A performer in these neuros, Mercedes Nunez, is celebrating her 51st birthday. She is flattered to have a "beamer" in her head, someone who is interested enough in her to want to see everything she sees. Grieving over the death of the man she loved, she will get a true surprise before the day is over.

Next, we have a first sale, "Burgerdroid" by Felicity Shoulders. Elsa is a single mother and must support her son by working in a fast-food joint called "Burgerdroid." The novelty is that the staff all pretend to be robots, and elaborate measures are taken to convince the public this is true. Shoulders makes an impressive debut here, telling a nice little story with characters that you care about. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Forrest Aguirre's "The Auctioneer and the Antiquarian, Or, 1962" is set in that year with a background of the Space Race and the Cold War. A young boy has lost his father and is suffering from cancer. Helping his mother deal with this situation are two older men with very different viewpoints. In the midst of all this, the boy starts receiving messages from beyond. In "Beneath Sunlit Shadows," Derek Kunsken tells us of the colonists of a dangerous planet around the distant star Epsilon Eridani. The colonists traveled far from Earth to find things not as they had expected. To survive, they have had to use genetic engineering to alter their bodies. The problem is that their minds are still human and they are miserable. One man wants to put a stop to it all. This was a grim, depressing story but sometimes the "cold equations" demand it.

The issue concludes with the story that I found Excellent. We are told that Ian MacLeod's "The Hob Carpet" is an alternate history and, indeed, it is. In what seems to be a very different medieval-style Europe, a man born to comfortable wealth begins to wonder about a slave race called "hobs." They are pale, blue-eyed, slope-headed and "guiltlessly deferential" and they see to every need of the humans. The hob carpet of the title refers to a time when he had broken his leg and the hobs, en masse, carried him around in an upright position as if he was walking. The boy grows up and marries but becomes curious about the hobs and eventually comes to some startling conclusions. MacLeod has done some great work here and I will remember this story when it comes time to nominate next year's Hugos.

So this is another issue of Asimov's well worth picking up. Better yet, why don't you subscribe?

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