Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Sepoy Fidelities" by Tom Purdom (and a poem)

In this novelette, Tom Purdom gives us a flat-out adventure story. It's got a handsome, competent man, and a gorgeous, competent woman, and bad guys who monologue. There are gun fights, sword fights, and if there wasn't an explosion it feels like there was. This is a follow-on to a novelette written back in 1992, "Sepoy." I hadn't read that story but I still enjoyed this one.

There are also aliens and some historical resonances here. Apparently aliens landed, set up an enclave for themselves, and took over the world. They're largely absentee rulers, sending out loyal natives to do their bidding as needed. In an interesting twist, the heroes in this story are two of these human underlings. Their loyalty has been firmly bought: born handicapped, they have been transplanted into gorgeous and athletic bodies, the better to complete their missions (the man is actually standing in for a political leader who has disappeared, wearing his likeness). The "bad guys" oppose the aliens for various reasons: human patriotism, hunger for power, and pure greed are all in the mix.

Purdom is obviously a student of history, and the depiction of natives subordinate to powerful yet absent rulers is quite pointed. It gives an otherwise slightly fluffy action-adventure story a bit more gravitas. Not that it needs it: sometimes it's enough just to read for pleasure, and this story is well-paced and enjoyable.

Not to be missed in this _Asimov's_ issue is the poem by Jack O'Brien, "Classics of Science Fiction: 'The Cold Equations.'" In only three short stanzas (with both rhyme AND meter!), he pointedly and hilariously deconstructs this all-time "classic." I wish I could quote the whole thing here, but I'm sure it would violate fair use. Frankly, it's worth the cover price of this Asimov's alone. Combined with the Elizabeth Bear story I guarantee this issue will be worth your $5.

No comments: