Asimov’s, January 2010
Marya and the pirate, Geoffrey A. Landis Space pirate Domingo Bonaventura attempts to hijack a water shipment on its way across the solar system, but runs into unexpected problems. As usual from NASA scientist Landis, the technology is all kept pretty close to the present day and seems very plausible. He doesn’t quite break out the greek letters to explain it, but he goes pretty deep into the technical details. And yet, he also works in a pretty exciting plot revolving around a major systems failure on a Earth-orbitting space station. The one glaring flaw its the wildly unbelievable relationship that develops between the pirate and the sole crewmember of the captured vessel. The story is a throwback practically to the 1940’s with its tech-heavy plot, which is great, but I don’t think the equally retrograde assumption that any female character is automatically available to our hero needs to be added to complete the nostalgic tone.
Conditional love, Felicity Shoulders Grace Stellar is a doctor responsible for children abandoned by parents dissatisfied by their genetic modifications. It’s a fascinating premise, as is the affliction of the key patient, who constantly imprints on every new adult he sees, as a duckling imprints on its mother. This is a problem because with every new imprint, Danny loses his memory up to the moment his new “mother” entered his view. It’s a great concept, and a strong story, although the ending seems a bit rash, hinging on the semantics of the description of Danny’s problem rather than a scientific or psychological one.
A letter from the emporor, Steve Rasnic Tem On the distant edges of a vast empire, Jacob and Anders are responsible keeping the scattered planets in touch; but communication with the imperial center is muddled, at best. When Anders commits suicide, Jacob must deal with his ship’s authoritarian command computer, which is acting on orders that are probably obsolete, and certainly poorly understood. Just so, he himself delivers equally obsolete and confused messages to planet 960G4-32. Tem does an excellent job capturing the ambiguity of Jacob’s situation, and builds a fine story around it.
Wonder House, Chris Roberson An alternate history of the creation of … well, telling you what would spoil just about the only surprise in the whole story. This is one of those alternate histories where even though history diverges long in the past, there are still parallel characters holding parallel places in history to what they did in our world. Atmospheric, and fun to read, but I won’t remember this story in a week.
The good hand, Robert Reed An alternate present, rather than an alternate history, in which the US takes its role as “global policeman” to a dangerous extreme. American Kyle Betters is caught in France when hostilities break out over the French pursuit of biological research. This is apparently an imaginative riff on Reed’s own recent experiences travelling to France, but, like many of Reed’s stories, it left me grasping to catch the point of it, and not particularly sympathetic toward the protagonist.
Wilds, Carol Emshwiller About a man getting back to nature as completely as possible. Like many Emshwiller stories, this one is focussed on the internal dialog of an outsider from society. Unfortunately I didn’t find this particular outsider as compelling as many of the others she’s created.
The Jeckyll Island horror, Allen M. Steele An atmospheric description of the habits of the truly wealthy as they weathered the storm of the 1930’s on a posh Georgia resort island, until their idleness is broken by a visitor from above. The setting is the highlight here, and it is well presented. Without question this is the finest story I know from Steele.