Friday, May 9, 2008

April/May Asimov's (Part the first)

The spring double issue of Asimov's starts off with a good story by Kathleen Ann Goonan, "Memory Dog." She continues her focus on bio- and nanotech (seen in her "Queen City Jazz" tetralogy and other short stories). Thus this story is narrated by a very special dog, or rather the person within the dog. Stories such as this depend on the slow reveal, where the audience keeps reading to find the answers to mysteries and get new enigmas to draw them forward. It's almost impossible to review that kind of story without spoilers. Let's just say that the narration and world-building is very cool, with an interesting extrapolation of dispersed blogging going on. The story is a paean to dogs and dog lovers (and as a dog person myself, it's mighty refreshing after all the cat stories!). However, the ultimate solution to humanity's problems, as presented here, didn't really fly with me, no matter how tear-jerking and dog-related it may be. (The tears are honestly come by in this story; it doesn't feel horribly manipulative.) This is a good story, but again (see my Marsbound review from yesterday) I'm not sure that the intimate milieu of the story can support the global scale of the ending.

Next up was the only story in the issue that I skipped, "Slidin'" by Neal Barrett, Jr. It relies heavily on amusing dialects in the dialogue:

It's bad enough your baby sister's hopping 'round like a frog. Worse still she flat looks like one, ick-warts and all. 'Course, there's folks look worse than that. I got family it is hue-miliating to call 'em kin. Like ol' Jeb-Reb and Ducko Bill. Don't even talk about Grandpa Foot. 'Least Ducie's got a head, and just one, we can be thankful for that.

It keeps going on in this vein for quite some time. Everyone's ugly (mutated) as the result of an "ugly bomb" (nuclear weapon, I assume we're suppose to assume). Laureen (the narrator) is a typical teenager and is being bratty. It's not very pleasant reading, but the author has a good ear for dialogue and good rhythm, so I decided to keep going despite my initial reservations.

What tipped me over the edge was what I regard as just a tease. Laureen's Mom promises something big:

Now, you're going to see something not ever'one gets to see, and I expect you to behave and do as you're told. This isn't no ordinary place we're going, I don't have to tell you that. It'd be something to tell your younguns 'bout. I mean, if you was going to have some, which, God help us, you're not.

After a build-up like that, I expect something interesting, cool, and central to the plot, if there is one. However, after the "big reveal," they go on like nothing's changed. Laureen keeps being snarky and observing her ugly family. They don't interact with the special place/thing, and it doesn't look like they're going to. That's when I decided to bail out and head on to the next story.

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