Asimov’s, July 2010
“The other Graces”, Alice Sola Kim Grace is a high school senior who’s on her way to an Ivy League school. Which Ivy? “Who gives a shit which one?” She needs to get in because her home life is dysfunctional, with a stay-at-home older brother in his mid-20′s and her mentally ill father living in a nearby shelter. Grace is confident she’ll get in to an Ivy because other Graces in parallel dimensions opened a portal to her mind to give her the answers to the SAT. The possibility that Grace may suffer from a similar condition to her father is there just below the surface of, but absolutely never mentioned in, the text, making the story all the more compelling. This is a story that really deserves thoughtful reading.
“Haggle chips”, Tom Purdom Trader Janip is kidnapped while making a delivery, and becomes a bargaining chip in an ongoing conflict between a wealthy landowner and a charismatic cult leader. The story tries to keep fresh, but the Stross-style capitalist dystopia seems somewhat derivative, the character interactions are predictable, and the action sequences come off as obligatory rather than exciting. Not my type of story.
“Eddie’s ants”, D. T. Mitenko An alien stole my girlfriend! Worse, the alien is not even an individual, but a hive mind made up of ant-like component parts, and smug in its superiority to the human race. Mitenko is very clever in building up the protag’s rage against the interloper and mixing in the implications of the alien’s character.
“The Jaguar House, in shadow”, Aliette de Bodard Set in de Bodard’s alternative near-future where Chinese reached the new world before Europeans, and allowed the Aztecs to grow into a viable power in modern times. Onalli is an exiled Jaguar Knight, fighting to return the Jaguar House to its traditional ways, in opposition to her childhood friend Tecipiani, who’s taken over the order. This is a great mix of world-building, character, and action in one story.
“Amelia Pillar’s Etiquette for the Space Traveller”, Kristine Kathryn Rusch A short, witty piece about the possible perils and pleasures of a far-future cruise.
“A history of terraforming”, Robert Reed The life history of a terraforming scientist, spanning hundreds of years as terraforming (and medical) technology constantly advances. The story is epic in scope, but the narration is dry as (unterraformed) Mars, making it difficult to feel empathy for the characters, and the length of the story only exacerbates the challenge posed by the distant tone.