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Asimov's Science Fiction – February 2009 – Vol. 33 No. 2 – (Whole Number 397)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Jeroen Advocaat
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 24 December 2008

Links: Asimov's Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The February 2009 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has stories by Rudy Rucker & Bruce Sterling, Carol Emshwiller, Matthew Johnson, Colin P. Davies, and Steve Utley. There's also a novella by Judith Berman.

Asimov's Science Fiction's February 2009 issue is another pretty good one. While I did not care for the novella, the short stories more than made up for it.

The fiction begins with "Colliding Branes" by Rudy Rucker & Bruce Sterling. Angelo Rasmussen and Rabbiteen Chandra are famous bloggers hoping to avoid the end of the universe by finding the Black Egg of Area 52. Do they make it? That would be telling in this wondrously wild tale.

It's always a good issue when there's a Carol Emshwiller story in it. I've said this kind of thing before but only she could write as beautiful a story as "The Bird Painter in Time of War". The title describes the plot. The narrator, who calls himself "Nor" loves birds and wanders a battlefield, painting them. He is taken prisoner both by his own side and the other one but has trouble communicating because of his stutter. He also meets and falls in love with a young woman named Milla. This one was another rare treat from one of the best in the business.

Matthew Johnson's "The Coldest War" will chill your bones because it takes place in the frozen north, an island in dispute between Canada and Denmark. Stan is one of two Canadians stationed up there and must fire a flare every day to prove they inhabit the island. Johnson's fashions a good little tale of survival.

In "The Certainty Principle" by Colin P. Davies, John Hale has been dishonorably discharged after an incident on Mars involving the "vat-born", people he does not consider human. Hale is staying in a place to get away from all of the furor. As the story develops, we learn about what happened and Hale learns something, too. This was an effective well-written story.

The short story section ends with an amusing little piece called "The Point" by Steven Utley. Our narrator and a man named Parker are slogging through a grim piece of real estate. The narrator hates Parker and wishes something bad might happened to him. What is really going on makes for a very clever piece.

Much of the issue is taken up with "Pelago" by Judith Berman. Ari is a young woman whose family has been killed. Those behind it were a rival faction of a culture known as the Shkiinhe, of which she is a part. In escaping them, she finds herself in the company of the actual assassins who killed her family. They travel to a Shkiinhe artifact called Pelago on the orders of an unseen Boss. Ari finds out much about herself and how she will survive. I was less than enchanted with this story, mostly because all of the dialog was in a "pidgin" lingo that just got more and more tiresome. So the story just gets an "OK" from me.

Even as good a magazine such as this, has an occasional misfire, so I still recommend you subscribe.

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