Asimov's Science Fiction – July 2008 – Vol. 32 No. 7 – (Whole Number 390)
by Sheila Williams
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Tor Lundvall
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 26 April 2008 / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
The July 2008 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction is here with stories by Gord Sellar, Michael Bishop, Steven Utley, R. Neube and Kij Johnson and an excellent one by Brian Stableford. Asimov's Science Fiction's July 2008 issue is another great one. The novelettes and short stories all got a Very Good from me and the novella rated an Excellent.
The fiction begins with "Lester Young and the Jupiter's Moons' Blues" by Gord Sellar. In a 1948 in which aliens (called the Frogs) had landed on Earth and brought some technology, Robbie Coolidge is a "colored" jazz musician wanting to get a sweet gig on a Frogship. The Frogs like jazz because it fits with their tendency to "blur," be more than one personality at a time. On the ship, Robbie and the other musicians are given drugs so they too can blur and remember any tune they've ever heard. Of course, there is a bit more going on and we find out about the "Jupiter's Moons' Blues" in this atmospheric, way cool story.
Next up is a short story from Steven Utley, "The Woman Under the World." Phyllis has gone through a jump station. The problem is that an anomaly has produced a very strange result and Phyllis ponders her own consciousness.
In "Cascading Violet Hair" R. Neube gives us one of the more pathetic relationships I've seen in a while. Henry is a down-on-his-luck widower, just scraping by on a space station around Jupiter. He meets up with Diane, who is going through a rough patch of her own. This is a pretty depressing future and we get hints of a lot of bad developments. But it has its odd charm and something might work out for Henry.
The veteran writer Michael Bishop contributes "Vinegar Peace, Or, the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage." It's a grim tale set in a future in which parents of dead soldiers who have no other progeny or other family are sent to "Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanages." When her only remaining child is killed in the War on Worldwide Wickedness, Joyce is sent to just such an institution with the name Vinegar Peace. With her, we get a tour of the many rooms in this "mansion," each more depressing than the last. This was a powerful and disturbing tale.
We get a distinctly lighter tale with "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson. Aimee has an traveling act with 26 monkeys. They do all kinds of tricks and for a finale, they crawl into a bathtub that's been hoisted 10 feet in the air and vanish. They come back to their little tour bus some hours later. Aimee has no idea how this works -- she bought the act for a dollar when she was down and out. Things have worked out well. She even has a boyfriend. All this is told in a delightful way that makes for a fun read.
The issue concludes with a novella, "The Philosopher's Stone" by Brian Stableford. This is the third in a series of stories about an alternate 16th century featuring the other-worldly adventures of some famous men (like Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, John Dee, etc). As the story opens, a man named Edward Kelley has arrived at an inn en route to meet with John Dee and show him a black stone and red powder with strange powers. He is being pursued, but his wife (traveling separately) actually has the stone and the powder. In this 1588, the ruler of England is Queen Jane, but the Archbishop of Canterbury sides with the Puritans. Roman Catholics and others are being persecuted. Kelley is taken by the Church Militant along with a Dominican friar named Brother Cuthbert. Helped by a mysterious being, they escape and make their way to Dee. Edward's wife, Ann, is already there, but neither Dee nor the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno can see the "angels" in the stone that Edward can. The angels are "ethereals" from space and there is war amongst them. Stableford waves this conflict with the religious conflicts of England and fashions a great story that will be on my Hugo-possible list for next year.
So this is a very well-recommended issue of Asimov's. Pick it up, or, better yet, subscribe.