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Asimov's Science Fiction – April/May 2009 – Vol. 33 Nos. 4& 5 – (Whole Numbers 399 & 400 )
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Paul Youll (for The Spires of Denon)
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 25 February 2009

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

The April/May 2009 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction is another double issue, numbering 399 & 400. It has stories by Brian Stableford, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Eileen Gunn & Michael Swnawick, Damien Broderick, Robert Reed, Kate Wilhelm, Chris Beckett, Jack Skillingstead, Deborah Coates, and Nancy Kress.

Asimov's Science Fiction 's April/May 2009 issue is another pretty good one with all the stories, but one, enjoyable.

The issue begins with a novella, "The Great Armada" by Brian Stableford. We are told in the introduction that this is the last in a series about the galactic adventures of Sir Walter Raleigh, Edwin De Vere, John Dee, and Francis Drake (all real 16th century men). These have been fun stories so far. In addition to those mentioned, there is also John Faust and Rabbi Low (and his famous companion). In 1588, Francis Bacon, Raleigh, Faust, Low, the golem, a woman named Patience Muffet and others become involved, with the help of aliens in defending Earth against an Armada - from the Moon. This is an amazing story with familiar modern science-fictional concepts being interpreted into 16th century terms. I enjoyed it immensely.

You know that whenever you find a story by Robert Reed, that it will be something very different and "True Fame" certainly lives up to that reputation. A young couple, who we eventually learn are named Troy and Kora, are quite adept at using facial recognition software and other devices to identify anyone they see. They are not alone in this. When they follow a mysterious man who they can't identify, things take a very different turn. This was another little gem from Reed.

In "An Ordinary Day with Jason", Kate Wilhelm demonstrates why she is one of science fiction's great writers. April marries a good man named Vernon after he confesses to a family secret. As a child, he could wish a staircase into existence. This ability was something that vanished when he was six and his father had the same power. They marry and have a son named Jason. When Jason exhibits the same power, she learns more about the family secret. This story was a joy to read.

Chris Beckett's "Atomic Truth" is set in a near-future in which everyone wears "bug-eye" glasses that connects them to the internet. They can see some of the real world through it but it's like people are on cell phones all the time. Jenny Philips is one such person. Richard Pegg is not. He's a schizophrenic who has visions of characters like Electric Man, Night Man and other characters. He also still sees the real world which just about everyone else shuts out. I won't spoil how they connect but will say the story truly touched me.

"The Armies of Elfland" by Eileen Gunn and Michael Swanwick is a modern day fairy story in which the Fey Folk find themselves in our world and destroy it out of boredom. The Queen makes a young girl named Agnes become her handmaiden and makes Agnes watch her debaucheries. Another young man named Frederic finds something about the elves' weaknesses and tells Agnes what she must do. This was a rich and well-imagined fantasy.

"Human Day" is another of those unique tales from Jack Skillingstead. Raymond is hiding in an underground shelter. He has been there almost a year after an accident with a super-collider killed his daughter. He sends a robotic dog out to see if they, "his children of the Rift" have taken over. Such begins a mysterious tale. Is he insane? What is really happening in the outside world? This was another effective piece by one of the genre's best writers.

The "Cowgirls in Space" in the story by Deborah Coates are Jennie, Penny, Sallie, Callie, Big Patti, and Martha. They had been a horse drill team called Junkyard Girls back in high school. Some years later, they've dispersed but Jennie still owns her family's ranch and takes care of horses. Penny calls her about something that had been found in China and asks her to get the gang together. Flashbacks show that, years ago, they had found a strange object that seemed to grant wishes. As the story unfolds, we learn more about them and what had happened to them. Coates creates some good characters here and tells a good story about them.

"This Wind Blowing, and This Tide" by Damien Broderick takes its title from a Kipling poem and concerns scientific researchers using a psychic remote viewer to find the origin of an old abandoned alien spacecraft. I'm afraid I found this one much too talky to sustain my interest.

"Exegesis" by Nancy Kress is a hilarious look at Rhett Butler's famous exit line and how it might be re-interpreted in the future. It starts with one from 1950 and goes on to 2050, 2150, 2250, 2350, 2450 and finally 2850. Each time we get a look at how the world has changed. This was a funny little piece that I enjoyed quite a bit.

The other novella bookends the issue. "The Spires of Denon" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch takes us to the planet Amnthra and an amazing artifact called the Spires of Denon. Meklos Verr has been hired to work security for the team of archeologists headed by Dr. Gabrielle Reese. The Spires are considered fragile and many precautions are taken around them Verr is good at his job but Reese has her own agenda and they clash. There is also another group, headed by a woman named Navi Salvino, with objectives of their own. How all these characters come together and what they learn about the Spires makes for a very good read.

Even though I did not care for one story, Asimov's Science Fiction continues to show why it has lasted 400 issues. Congratulations on that achievement. Subscribe!

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