Asimov's Science Fiction - September 2009 - Vol. 33 Nos.9 - (Whole Numbers 404)
by Sheila Williams
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: John Picacio
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov's Science Fiction ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 28 July 2009
Links: Asimov's Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
Asimov’s Science Fiction‘s September 2009 issue is a truly exceptional one. Most issues of any magazine I read might have stories I rate “Very Good” but don’t have any that I classify as “Hugo Short List.” Now, I’m happy when I get one story in an issue that could be a potential Hugo nominee. I’m ecstatic when I read two stories that I could nominate. This one had three and I don’t recall that ever happening before. I’ll break with my usual pattern, and talk about those three first.
The issue begins with "Away From Here" by Lisa Goldstein. I love Goldstein’s stories and this one is one of her best. Liz is a fifteen-year old girl, working hard to keep her parents' hotel going. One day, an odd group of people check in. The one in charge calls himself Ebenezer Monologue and seems to have a talking mouse. She checks them in and they pay in cash. The cash disappears from the safe but her mother is strangely unconcerned. These people show up every ten years and they never charge them. Liz sees many wonders during their stay and finds out some surprising things. So, that’s the first story that will be considered by me for next year’s Hugos; this one in the Short Story category.
Mike Resnick is the all-time short fiction award winner and here he is paired with newcomer, Lezli Robyn for the novelette "Soulmates". One thing I always find in Resnick's stories is Heart and this one has plenty of it. Gary is man racked with guilt. His wife, Kathy, had been badly injured in a car accident and was brain dead. On the advice of doctors, he had turned off the machines keeping her breathing. He feels that he killed her. He has begun to drink, heavily, and is in danger of losing his job as a night watchman where he keeps an eye on sixty pre-programmed robots. He starts drinking early in his shift one night and falls down. He is helped by a robot called MOZ-512 and leans on it to complete his shift. He starts talking to the robot and calls him Moze. They have an effect on each other and therein lies a wonderful tale. That's the second story that will be considered by me for next year's Hugos; this one in the Novelette category.
One of the genre's brightest talents, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, concludes the issue with a novella, "Broken Windchimes". This was an absolutely beautiful story and the third story for my Hugo short list, next year. Our unnamed narrator is a windchime, an adult male soprano that performs for a race called the Pané on the planet Djapé. The Pané demand perfection and windchimes are sheltered so that they are not contaminated. The narrator's voice cracks during a performance and his career is ruined. But he has heard forbidden music, music from Earth. So he leaves Djapé for a space station called the Last Outpost, a crossroads between human worlds and Djapé. There, he goes to a club and hears the Blues and that is a revelation to him. That's only the first part of the story and it gets even better. As I said, this was a truly exceptional story and just what I have come to expect from Rusch.
The other stories are all quite good! Ferrett Steinmetz gives us an interesting look at our possible near-future in "Camera Obscured". Victor Pino is obsessed with being the best at something on the Worldwork leader boards. His is a world in which everyone actions are constantly monitored by everyone else. He has tried being number one at things from playing with a yo-yo to keeping bees and has been a humiliating failure. In his latest quest, he meets a girl named Rosalie Atkinson and learns something from her in this delightful story.
"In Their Garden" by Brenda Cooper is a poignant tale about a future of severe climate change. Paulette lives in an enclave that is trying to preserve some of the old plants, but Paulette wants something else and the outside world beckons. This was nicely done.
Steve Rasnic Tem contributes one of his truly unique stories in "The Day Before the Day Before". Kent works for a secret government organization called Office 87. They are time-travelers and are sent on arcane missions to make what seem like minor adjustments to the world. One such assignment proves troubling for Kent and makes for the kind of story that I always enjoy from Tem.
"Tear-Down" by Benjamin Crowell is set in some future in which houses are intelligent. The Benczik’s move into a house with an existing AI and have a bit of trouble at first. But the house finds a way to get smarter and help its family in this clever little story.
I usually encounter Jerry Oltion in the pages of Analog and his story, here, "Her Heart’s Desire" is as enjoyable as those are. Patrick literally bumps into a woman named Michelle on the street and a jar she is carrying, full of some kind of silvery dust shatters. She is upset and says that the jar was supposed to contain what will fulfill her heart's desire. This all develops into a nice little story that I liked a lot.
Sheila Williams really hits it out of the park with Asimov’s 404st issue. You should subscribe, but if you don’t, at least pick this one up wherever you can!