Man, dates! Here we are just past summer’s true and proper beginning, and already the next issue of Asimov’s promised me is the September issue, to be followed by the October/November double issue. The 2012 Oct/Nov double issue, of course, was the first I reviewed here. So time keeps passing, is the dark truth at the center of this blather.
The August issue starts off with “Stone to Stone, Blood to Blood,” by Gwendolyn Clare (novelette, first person present). Feng, young playmate/bodyguard/warden of young Prince Duyi, aids and abets an escape attempt. Feng’s artificially-induced loyalty and his layered relationship with Duyi are the draw here, more than the slightly ridiculous setup. The royalty of their planet, Moseroth III, possesses a superpower upon which rests their entire economic system, all well and good, but that royal family appears to feature only two members, one of which is a child. I don’t know what the Moserothi would do if Duyi and his sister died unexpectedly. This objection niggled at me all through, which wasn’t entirely fair to Clare’s story. The tale is entertaining, not overlong for the amount of plot, and features a Che Guevara stand-in, so it can’t be all bad.
In “Arlington,” by Jack Skillingstead (novelette, first person past) teen pilot Paul Birmingham lands at an abandoned airfield, where an eerie experience changes the course of his life, and not for the better. The ramifications of the event play out in the second half of the story, and I’m not entirely sure the two halves fit together well; aspects of the resolution tread close to cliche. The dreamy first half raises intriguing questions; it’s a shame the second half doesn’t provide more compelling answers.
The titular character of Leah Thomas’s “the Ex-Corporal” (short story, first person past) possesses an epileptic father, terrorizing his children with stories of war atrocities in some violent parallel world. Perhaps my favorite of the issue, this story wastes no time establishing its narrative rules and central conflict, then resolving them. The ex-corporal’s magical powers and their relationship to the father’s disease aren’t terribly well-explained, but they don’t need to be: it’s a short story. Story goes in, story delivers the payload, story gets out.
“Lost Wax,” by Gregory Norman Bossert (novelette, third person limited past) tells the story of a city in the throes of some kind of revolution, where the secret police intercept the pneumatic post and yeast-powered golems enforce edicts. Nadin and Leena, the creators of an alternate postal system using bird-constructs cast by the lost wax method, make up the core of the cast, and the story cares less about the ultimate outcome of the revolution than the relationship between the man Nadin and the woman Leena (who wishes he were just an eensy bit more heterosexual).
Finally “the Application of Hope,” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (novella, third person limited past) completes the issue. I’m unfamiliar with the Diving Universe, a series of novels of which this forms a sort-of prequel, but enjoyed the story on its own merits. Captain Victoria Sabin and her starship Geneva are but a small part of a very Star Trek: Voyager fleet that travels through space on a millennia-long mission of exploration. The logistics of the fleet’s movements aren’t entirely clear, but that takes a back seat to Sabin’s backstory and her (slightly melodramatic) conflict: her father disappeared when his ship’s FTL drive malfunctioned, you see, and now Sabin’s lover’s ship has disappeared in the same way! She’s an expert on the drive technology and search systems, but is she too close to the problem this time? Her nemesis/mentor certainly thinks so!
The story goes in a direction that I wasn’t expecting; not unlike “Lost Wax” preceding it, Rusch’s novella foregrounds the emotional choices of its main character while placing less emphasis the intricacies of its setting. Some cursory Googling makes it clear this is a intricate setting indeed.
So all in all a pretty typical issue of Asimov’s. While nothing extremely standout among the cast of stories, none of the stories misfired for me, either. Solid, but not the issue I’d submit for a Best Single Issue of a Sci-Fi Magazine award.