Thursday, April 17, 2008

March Asimov's

In the March issue of Asimov's, Cat Rambo contributes a cute story about alien life on a space station. In "Kallakak's Cousins," our eponymous merchant hero is trying to keep his store front, but some more powerful aliens appear to be trying to legalistically maneuver it away from him. The station administration turns over every few months, and if they win this time it will be a fait accompli when the next administration comes in. To add to his very bad day, when he gets back to his quarters he finds himself with a trio of his wife's cousins to deal with. They are comically inept, messing up everything as they try to be helpful.

Kallakak is a down-on-his-luck, weary, but fundamentally good guy. He's easy to root for, and his robotic shop assistant is awesome. The resolution of the story comes from manipulations of alien psychology, in a traditional yet well-done manner. It's a light story, but genuinely entertaining.

Another very short story comes from Steven Utley. "The World Within the World" involves physicists at a station, observing that things seem haunted. There are all sorts of places a story can go when you mix physics and spooky apparitions, but this story takes one abrupt twist and then ends. I felt let down - I was settling into the story nicely, reading what felt like a developing plot, when the words seemed to simply stop. I hope it will be taken as a testament to Utley's skill that I really wanted more from this story - more development after the twist, more examination of the core concept. Maybe he'll go there in a future story.

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