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Asimov's Science Fiction – October/November 2008 – Vol. 32 No. 10 & 11 – (Whole Number 393 & 394)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Virgil Finlay
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 25 August 2008

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

The October/November 2008 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction is one of their double issues, with stories by Nancy Kress, Robert Reed, Brandon Sanderson, Ian R. MacLeod, Peter Higgins, Sara Genge, Leslie What, Gord Sellar and Jack Skillingstead and has a cover by Virgil Finlay.

Asimov's Science Fiction's October/November 2008 issue is one of their double issues and boasts a great cover from the legendary Virgil Finlay. One story was exceptional and two had weak endings but the rest all got a Very Good from me.

The fiction begins with "The Erdmann Nexus" by Nancy Kress. Henry Erdmann is a 90 year-old nuclear physicist, now living in the St. Sebastian Nursing Home. One day he feels an odd sensation in his brain. It's not a stroke, he's fine afterwards, but others in the facility, and elderly people all over the world experience the same thing. There are more incidents and physical manifestations resulting from them. Meanwhile, something is approaching Earth that is sensing an important change in its people. Kress creates many interesting characters and her prose is a joy to read. This will be on my Hugo short list for next year.

In Peter Higgins' "Listening for Submarines", Lieutenant Christopher Osgerby of the Royal Navy is stationed at a submarine listening post in Wales in 1983. He lives in a flat near the house, sharing it with a Sara who he barely knows but who has a male visitor every night. He becomes fascinated by strange sounds on the tapes of the sonar readings. These two elements in his life come together. I liked the story, but the ending was a bit inconclusive.

"Prayers for an Egg" by Sara Genge is set on some alien world. Lasa is a servant whose Mistress has mated with a Master, But Lasa carries the egg in a marsupial pouch. The egg could grow to be a Master, Mistress or just a servant. The Master becomes overly "familiar" with Lasa. What can she do in this interesting look at another culture. "Defending Elysium" by Brandon Sanderson features Jason Write, a chief operative for an organization I'll just abbreviate PC (which doesn't stand for either of the obvious phrases). The PC has an exclusive right on alien contact and they have been withholding FTL drive from their fellow humans to protect these aliens, who are waiting for humans to develop "Prime Intelligence." An incident on a remote space station brings Jason out and to some interesting conclusions.

Leslie What contributes a little three-pager in "Money is No Object". When her mother dies, Allison inherits her "magic wallet". I won't spoil this fine story by going into any details but I will say that this is a cautionary tale. In "Dhuluma No More", Gord Sellar tells us of a near future and one solution to global warming. But today's solutions are tomorrow's problems. Dhuluma is Swahili for "injustice." How can injustice be stopped? Sellar quickly gives us some good characters and an interesting set-up, but leaves a lot to our imagination.

"The English Mutiny" by Ian R. MacLeod is an alternate history in which the Sepoy Mutiny had taken place in an England that has been conquered by a Muslim India (with help from Portugal) more than 200 years before. A charismatic leader named Johnny Sponson leads the revolt and we get the story of all of it from his best friend, a simple Sepoy Private. This was good alternate history and a fun read.

Jack Skillingstead says he always wanted to use a Hemingway title so he brings us "Cat in the Rain." Daniel Porter is a police detective down on his luck. His wife threw him out and he's been drinking heavily. But things are going to get much worse in this scary little tale. "Truth" by Robert Reed is the kind of story that really keeps you guessing. A woman is sent to interrogate a very special prisoner. His previous interrogator has just committed suicide. The subject claims to be one of 199 "temporal jihadists" who have come from more than 100 years in the future to cause havoc. Wars have been fought to prevent this from happening. What caused the previous interrogator to kill himself? How can his new interrogator find out? Reed tells one heck of a story here!

All in all, an issue well-worth the double length!

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