Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Asimov's December 2010

A generally mediocre-but-not-bad issue of Asimov's Science Fiction.


Short Stories:
There are also 3 poems, nothing special but not too bad overall.

There was nothing truly outstanding in this issue, but nothing truly bad either. Despite being clustered around the middle, it was quite easy to establish a hierarchy. Variations is just outright more powerful than Prize or Warfriends, and given that it is his first work, I think Werkheiser is worth looking out for in the future. I was waffling between 3.5 and 4 for him, while the others were more on the 3.5 vs. 3 end.

Likewise, Uncle E was strictly better than Sins of the Father. Both are simplistic stories, but Emshwiller writes more beautifully and captures the thinking of children, plus there is a bit more underlying subtlety there.

Russia and Excellence are both partially fumbled stories by well-established masters. It's funny that the three most famous writers in the issue all got scores of 2.5, I'm not trying to hold them to a higher standard, but I'll admit there is a subconscious possibility when I see things by such prolific writers. On the other hand, maybe they've all gotten a tad lazy. Regardless, my feeling is that the stories are well-written enough, but they have essential plot failings. But Excellence is a clear top because it is trying to make a less common and, I think, more significant point.

The pairs of stories by rating really do complement each other nicely. But I put Libertarian Russia at the bottom of the issue, and some people have loved it. I don't think it is actually bad, just not good enough to recommend. But I feel safe in saying that nothing in this issue is actually a waste of time if you do happen to be reading it.

As to the Departments:
Editorial: Sheila and Ted's Excellent Adventure has a most triumphant title, and while it has little substance, provides a nice bit of human-interest news about the SFWA gathering for the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch. The neat pictures are the kind of thing worth seeing, and justify the page count.

Reflections: Rereading Kornbluth provides a bit of history, and performs the valuable public service of increasing C.M. Kornbluth awareness.

On Books: Reviews The Bird of the River by Kage Baker, Kraken by China Mieville, Coyote Horizon and Coyote Destiny by Allen Steele and The Business of Science Fiction by Mike Resnick & Barry Malzberg.

It's somewhat annoying that all the reviews are positive buy-this-now endorsements, but given the caliber of the writers, it may be more than blowing smoke. Given the reviews, I definitely need to read Kraken, and while I suspect I can leave the others alone, the reviews provide enough interest that were I to see a few more positive reviews, I might give them a shot, although I suspect they aren't exactly my thing.

I am a bit disappointed in the reviews because they don't provide much depth beyond plot summary, and they are somewhat out of date, but nothing really wrong here.

I'd say that is the overwhelming theme of this issue: Nothing wrong, no big problems, but nothing really outstanding. Adequate.

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