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Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2000

Asimov's SF, February 2000
Asimov's SF
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SF Site Review: Asimov's SF, October-November 1999

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

SF master, Ursula K. Le Guin, led off the February 2000 issue of Asimov's with her short story, "The Royals of Hegn." Told in the voice of an objective off-worlder, "The Royals of Hegn" begins with an extensive bit of world-building, detailing the customs and habits of the royal family -- as one might expect from Le Guin. What's unusual about this particular royal family is that practically the entire country is royal, with one exception: a common family. The common family, although not treated royally, gets all the attention due the British royal family -- perhaps calling for a self-examination of how we sometimes glorify the conditions of poverty. Thus, Le Guin turns convention on its head once more. The narrator, however, has little involvement with the tale except to provide a narrative voice with "sly" extended asides on the society itself.

L. Timmel Duchamp, three times short-listed for the Tiptree, wrestles with compelling issues of personhood which, in this story, is represented by clones. Duchamp's "How Josiah Taylor Lost His Soul" spins a good web of intrigue as clone, Ezekial, conspires to kill Josiah, his tyrannical "original" self or "Number One." Clones in this society are not viewed as true individuals, without even the artificial solace of a spiritual soul. In this way, Josiah feels at liberty to remove organs and body parts from his clones for personal use. But before Ezekial can think to kill Josiah, he must understand the motives of his fellow conspirators.

James Sarafin, winner of a few new writer awards for his mystery fiction, writes with post-apocalyptic feeling in his "Downriver," a short story set in an Alaska at war with the mainland states over the remaining reserves of oil. With nothing left to live for, the narrator bides his time in a small hunting lodge in the middle of nowhere until he and Ed, the lodge's proprietor, run across Becky, a 13-year-old girl adrift in a boat with her dead step-father. With no women nearby, Ed takes a keen interest in her. The narrator, too, takes an interest in her, but as a reminder of a daughter of his he had presumed lost. Given a glimmer of hope that his daughter may still be alive, the narrator is faced with some choices concerning Ed and Becky.

Two-time Nebula winner, Esther M. Friesner presents her short story, "The Shunned Trailer," which chronicles two days in the life of an Ivy league, white city-boy who stumbles upon the Cthulhu horrors of the South. By turns filled with good humour and groaners, Friesner's story mitigates whatever playfully stereotyped commentary she might have cast upon Southern country white "trash" by using a narrator even more absurd: high-strung and stranded in a pitifully Lovecraftian mentality. Good for a laugh.

Former homicide detective, O'Neil De Noux, pits Tyrannosaur vs. Man in his mysterious and ceaseless quest for "King of the Food-Chain." Mac, the narrator, has happened to catch sight of a Tyrannosaur crossing the narrows to the narrator's island on Octavion. Inexplicably, Octavion has a number of native dinosaurs similar to Earth's. Aided by no more technology than a Marlin, a Big Game Browning Rifle, a flare gun, a Bowie knife, and an AI with the personality of a surrogate wife, Mac sets out to protect his life and island property, despite orders not to destroy the natural fauna. Piece by piece, the technology gets lost in the great Man/Beast shuffle -- only to thrust the pair into a harrowing cliff-hanger... De Noux quickens the pulse.

Tinkering with the old SF adventure plots to make them new and scientifically sound, G. David Nordley shoots up the carotid with a little of that old-time feeling in his latest novella "The Forest Between the Worlds." On the lam from dumb or mindless native aliens, the narrator, Akil, and Marianne have to rescue a scientist renegade and a young girl the scientist had convinced to come along. Akil and Marianne provide discourse on various aspects of biology and physics on this unusual pair of worlds that swing one another about in a high-speed do-si-do, held together by a network of vines and trees. As forces of nature finally bring the rescuers to their destiny, Akil must balance questions of love and this mortal coil. Nordley caps off this wild ride with an even more outrageous finale.

Asimov's light verse this issue had an engaging poem by Timons Esias, and James Patrick Kelly provided good Internet reference material about SF writers' web pages.

Copyright © 2000 Trent Walters

Trent Walters co-edits Mythic Circle, is a 1999 graduate of Clarion West, is working on a book of interviews with science fiction writers.

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