Astonishing X-Men – review

Astonishing X-Men

When I was a kid I loved the idea of comic books. Super heroes were cool. Spiderman in particular. But the reality was I didn’t get enough pocket money to easily afford comic books, especially on an ongoing basis. It was also difficult to find a newsagent that reliably stocked particular series. So, besides a few Phantom comics that inevitably came with Christmas presents, I really didn’t get into comic books.

When I was old enough to get a part time job, it seemed that the comic book phase had passed me by. I remember spending a few weeks trying to work out which Spiderman comic was the actual Spiderman comic and eventually I just gave it all up as being too complicated. As a result I have a functioning knowledge of superhero lore, based mostly on various animated TV series, but scratch the surface and my lack of depth is instantly revealed.

So, inspired by a combination of childhood regret and reading some of Tansy Rayner Roberts excellent blog series on female super heroes Where the Wonder Woman Are, I decided to read the Astonishing X-Men run written by Joss Whedon.

Plot summary: A group of X-Men (Cyclops, Wolverine, Shadowcat, Beast, Emma Frost) has started up the school for mutant children again. The overarching plot involving alien conspiracy, someone back from the dead, prophecy and a lot of blowing things up.

It was a fun experience. The series contains a nice, bounded story arc. There are some bits where having a broader knowledge of what else has happened in the X-Men universe would probably enhance the reading experience, but generally speaking you could fill in the gaps with even my cursory knowledge.

Reading comics is a very different experience. It took me a few issues to get to the point where I could “seamlessly” read dialogue etc – at first I kept getting pulled out of the story to try and work out who was saying what. Once the act of reading became more intuitive, the combination of artwork and dialogue made for a very immersive environment.

With the relatively short length the story itself wasn’t very sophisticated and a lot of the emotional depth seemed to rely on the assumption that the reader had a long history of interacting with the characters. The story itself is quite epic in scope, aided by the artwork to give that extra oomph. I enjoyed it well enough, but I would say it was broad and shallow. The various story arcs come together well, with satisfying resolutions to most plot questions.

Whedon’s dialogue is great with some fantastic one liners and the some of the plot elements were quite reminiscent of his other work.

I also used it as an opportunity to try reading comics on the iPad. I then realised that because of the aforementioned lack of comic reading I didn’t actually have anything to compare it to. Still, the iPad does seem like an excellent way of consuming comics. Easy to access, just the right size and form factor.

Will I keep reading comics? I’m not sure – I don’t think it is my preferred form of story consumption. I might see if I can find a single title I can keep up with, I think that would more than satisfy any comic cravings. And I did really like Spiderman when I was a kid…

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Pyrotechnicon by Adam Browne – review

Pyrotechnicon cover
Pyrotechnicon cover

Pyrotechnicon by Adam Browne is about, as the subtitle indicates, the further adventures of Cyrano de Bergerac among the states and empires of the stars. I’ve got to admit that the sum total of my knowledge of the character of Cyrano de Bergerac comes from watching the 80’s romantic comedy Roxanne starring Steve Martin. Which is based on a play written in the late 1800s. Which bears almost no relationship to the life of the real de Bergerac in the mid 1600s. Who wrote proto-science fiction based on an interesting version of his life story, which apparently involved travelling to the moon and the sun. Of which this book is notionally an extension.

Confused? Bloody hell, I am.

So to go back to my source material: big nosed, highly capable man chasing his love Roxanne. And a vague memory of a whole lot of nose related jokes. Not a lot to go off I admit.

Fortunately this was enough to get me into the story, and I’m glad it did. This was a delightful novel to read and stands amongst my favourites for the year. The plot is absurd. The characters larger than life. The settings bizarre and fantastic in the extreme.

But all this is almost inconsequential to a readers enjoyment, because the writing is a joy to behold. It takes a chapter or so to get into the rhythm of the novel but once you’re there this book rewards a leisurely read, just soaking it all in. It reads as a series of set pieces loosely connected together. The language is full of pith and wit, with a faithfulness to 17th century science which is impressive. I enjoyed seeing a series of long out-dated ideas in science taken to their logical extreme by the narrative. It was also refreshing to read science fiction that makes no attempt to fit with modern ideas of science.

I’ve had a couple of goes at trying to describe some of the plot, but it always comes out sounding much weaker than it should. I’ll try again: de Bergerac’s love Roxanne is captured by the mysterious Master of Secrets and taken to his lair, which happens to be located on Venus. de Bergerac sets off in pursuit in an elephant shaped space craft powered by rocks from Venus. Hijinks ensue.

Told you I wouldn’t do it justice. I’m not going to describe any more, as half the enjoyment from the book comes from the anticipation of absurdities to come. And Browne does a great job of coming up with stuff you just wouldn’t have thought of, even when steeped in the surreal world he has created.

There are not many laugh out loud moments in the book, but it is nonetheless amusing all the way through. Some of the amusement is derived from weird and wacky situations, some from the bizarre science that just shouldn’t work, some from outrageous characters and some just from the sheer wit of the prose.

I read this novel on my Kindle, where Browne’s illustrations also come up beautifully. The only technical issue I had with the book was that the text was tiny on the Kindle, I had to ramp the font size up to almost maximum in order to read it. A minor quibble though for an otherwise excellent publication.

Highly recommended.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren – review


This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading Challenge. All my 2012 AWWC reviews can be found here.

Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren is one of the Twelve Planets series published by Twelfth Planet Press (12 boutique collections of stories by Australian women writers). It is made up of four shorter stories, including:

  • Mountain
  • Creek
  • Road
  • Sky

Through Splintered Walls is a disturbing collection, which uses an Australian backdrop and seemingly mundane settings and twists them quite savagely in parts. The supernatural elements of all four stories tend towards understatement, with the real horror coming from the behaviour of the characters.

The first three stories (Mountain, Creek and Road) are very short, with the fourth story (Sky) more like novella length and taking up by far the bulk of the book.

Mountain tells the tale of a middle aged woman trapped in a bad domestic situation, encouraged by a ghost to attempt to break the cycle. I enjoyed the non linear nature of the narrative, and the focus on building the protagonist’s character in such a short piece to the point where you entirely believe the choices she makes towards the end.

Creek is a haunting tale of a woman searching for the supernatural cause of a childhood trauma. The protagonist’s inability to form meaningful connections in her life was more tragic than the supernatural elements, again a lovely character piece. There is a line towards the end that mentions nephews and nieces (I won’t quote it in case it spoils anything for anyone) – that line was one of the saddest lines in the book for me, a quite poignant moment of self awareness for the character.

Road is a short piece about an old couple maintaining a refuge for the spirits of road accident victims. Well constructed and written, but it didn’t have the same emotional impact for me as the other stories in the book.

Sky is the longest piece. The story centres mainly around Zed, a nasty piece of work who in a rare moment of guilt decides to try and find out what happened to a childhood school teacher who disappeared years before. His searching leads him to the town of Sky, where being unemployed is not a healthy way of life.

The first few parts of the story move between different point of view characters, which could be disorienting but in this case works really well to build some background to the main story. When we settle on Zed (who provides the point of view for most of the novella) we already have a good sense of him from an external perspective. The switch to first person narrative was an effective way of showing that we were with the “main” point of view character.

There aren’t really any sympathetic characters in the story, but the writing was compelling enough to keep me engaged throughout. The view from inside Zed’s head was particularly well done, with the self justification and self centred nature of a bully and possibly a psychopath drawn out effectively.

The switching between Sky and Canberra as contrasting locations was effective, although my enjoyment of the characterisation of Canberra was probably assisted by my living there for a few years in the early 2000’s. The contrast of the city vs country cultures was also drawn out well.

In many ways Sky reminds me of the novella Wives by Paul Haines in terms of sensibility, unlikeable characters and powerful story telling (although the writing styles are quite different). I found it to be a powerful and memorable piece of writing.

I’ve enjoyed the whole Twelve Planets collection so far, and Through Splintered Walls is another fantastic addition to the series.


I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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Make Mine a Macchiato on the Beam Me Up radio show

My flash fiction piece Make Mine a Macchiato was featured on the Beam Me Up radio show/poscast in episode 342 on the weekend. Paul Cole, the host of the podcast, starts talking about the story around the 12 minute mark, and the story itself starts around 13 minutes and 30 seconds.

Paul was also kind enough to mention my recent publication of my flash pieces from 2012 on Smashwords. Paul has been a great supporter of my work, for which I am very grateful.

Details of all my flash fiction publications can be found on my bibliography page.

Cold Days by Jim Butcher – review

Cold Days cover

Look, I like the Dresden Files series. I understand that there are some problematic aspects to the writing, that they don’t subtly explore the human condition and that they don’t extend the genre in innovative new ways.

Don’t care. Hell, I even liked the short lived TV series. (1)

The books are very old fashioned action stories, in a “how much damage can the lead character take and keep on ticking” kind of way. Think Die Hard but with spells.

Cold Days is the 14th book in the Dresden Files series. If you haven’t read any (and this is not the jumping on point if you’re new), Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only wizard for hire. Down and out, unloved by the wizarding establishment, treated with suspicion by the police – the series started with Dresden as a noir style private investigator, with a paranormal twist.

Over the course of 14 books Butcher has steadily raised the stakes and extended the scope of Dresden’s adventures to almost unrecognisable levels. The world building has been extensive, cohesive and in a lot of ways very impressive. The various warring factions are well thought through. I assume Butcher hadn’t mapped out all 14 novels when he started out, but he’s been able to “retro-fit” a lot of world building so the previous stories make more sense as he builds more backstory into the later novels. It would be interesting to go back and read the first couple of novels to see if there are any glaring inconsistencies that time has dulled in my mind. I won’t, because my to-be-read list is scary enough without adding in a Dresden Files re-read. But it would be interesting.

While a few of the more recent Dresden books have felt a bit “papa needs a new swimming pool”, I’ve enjoyed the last couple of books. Butcher shook things up in the last novel (Ghost Story) and the consequences of those changes are still playing out in Cold Days.

There is probably not much point in going through the plot – if you read the Dresden Files you’re going to read the book no matter what I say. If you don’t read the Dresden Files, you should be starting way back towards the beginning.

I did want to comment on the evolution of female characters in the series. The Dresden Files series is told very tightly from Dresden’s point of view, so you don’t get any direct female perspectives. At the start of the series, I felt that the way women were described/characterised was the big flaw of the novels. To be fair Butcher has evolved some very strong and interesting female characters over the years, and the perspective of his protagonist has become a lot less patronising/patriarchal as he has grown. Having said that, Butcher has to have some of the most blatant “male gaze” physical descriptions of female characters I think I’ve ever seen, and that was particularly evident in this novel. I understand that given the point of view character is male and under the influence of some primeval forces in this story in particular, there is some justification. But considering Dresden spends most of the novel taking major beating after major beating, I’m surprised how often he stops to check out someone’s “physical assets”. I wouldn’t have the energy in his position, I’d be too busy saying ‘please stop hurting me’.

Look, high literature it ain’t but I’m always going to grab the latest Dresden Files novel almost as soon as it comes out. If you like your fantasy urban, your action fast paced, your violence uber and your wizards… well, wizardy then this series could be for you. If not, well, there are plenty of other fish in the sea!


(1) Yes Sean I know, even less genre cred points. I must be down below level 10 by now.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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Australian Women Writers’ challenge 2013

The 2012 Australian Women Writers’ Challenge was an outstanding experience for me. The cause was worthy – challenging the lack of critical attention for Australian women authors. The personal benefits were fantastic – providing the impetus to expand my exposure to interesting authors I hadn’t had the chance to experience

As you can see from my “Mission Accomplished?” post from earlier in the year, I was able to meet the challenge goal of reading and reviewing at least 10 books by Australian women writers. I stuck to the speculative fiction genre. That’s how I roll.

I enjoyed the challenge so much, I’ve decided to give it a go again in 2013. The AWWC website has been revamped and the subscription process much fancier as a result. Inspired by this sophisticated example of web-based renewal I have decided to stretch myself and undertake exactly the same challenge as 2012.

You heard me. Exactly. The. Same.

So I’ll be undertaking the Franklin challenge (read 10 books, review at least 6) and all those books will be in the speculative fiction field. Some may call me stale and unable to embrace change. I view myself as a man on a quest for perfection, willing to put in the hard yards to refine my reviewing art to its most pure and potent form.

If you are inspired by my willingness to scale new heights of reviewing goodness, you should head over to the AWWC 2013 sign up page and join me in another year of spreading the word about some of the great writing by Australian women authors.

Edit 5/1/2014:

My current intended reading list (and status):

  1. Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott – complete: review here
  2. A Trifle Dead by Livia Day – complete: review here
  3. Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa L. Hannett
  4. The Ambassador’s Mission by Trudi Canavan
  5. Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
  6. Suited by Jo Anderton – complete: review here
  7. Dark Space by Marianne de Pierres – complete: review here
  8. Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier
  9. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina – complete: review here
  10. Black Glass by Meg Mundell – complete: review here
  11. The Accidental Sorcerer by K. E. Mills – complete: review here
  12. Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer – complete: review here
  13. New Ceres Nights edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Tehani Wessely – complete: review here
  14. Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott – complete: review here
  15. Witches Incorporated by K. E. Mills – complete: review here
  16. Wizard Squared by K. E. Mills – complete: review here
  17. Wizard Undercover by K. E. Mills – complete: review here

Aurealis #56 (November 2012) – review

Aurealis #56 cover

Issue #56 from November 2012 of the Aurealis magazine is a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news. This edition was edited by Dirk Strasser. This month is a second “Award Winners” editions, with two short stories that won Aurealis Awards this year. This is really the last edition of Aurealis for 2012 (I know, I mistakenly said that last month!), with the publication kicking off again in 2013.

Fittingly, Strasser’s editorial focuses on summing up the 2012 publishing year for Aurealis, including their focus on turning around submissions quickly and highlighting their campaign to become recognised as a professional market by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. If they get to 1,000 subscribers they will increase their payments to 5c a word. Go on, you know you want to.

This month’s first award winning story is The Fruit of the Pipal Tree by Thoraiya Dyer, which won the Best Fantasy Short Story award at this year’s Aurealis Awards. The Fruit of the Pipal Tree originally was published in the After the Rain anthology which I have unfortunately not had the pleasure of reading. It is a beautifully written story, with some lovely imagery and well developed characters. My hopefully non spoiler description of the plot is “A scientist travels to a research camp on the Geruwa River in Nepal to attempt to save the suss dolphin from extinction”.

The supernatural elements are kept to the last part in this story, with a very effective build up and skilfully inserted back story combining to make the ending quite powerful.

The second award winner in this month’s edition was The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt by Paul Haines, which was part of his collection The Last Days of Kali Yuga (which I have reviewed here) and won the Best Horror Short Story category. Paul Haines sadly passed away from cancer earlier this year before winning the Aurealis. If you are interested in horror then I can’t recommend The Last Days of Kali Yuga strongly enough – it is an extremely powerful collection with writing skill I could only dream of possessing.

Both stories were very worthy of award, and together they make a great edition of Aurealis (as I mentioned last month, purchasing this and issue #55 is a very cost effective way to get exposed to some excellent Australian short fiction).

Crisetta Macleod tantalises us with the thought that we may indeed not be real, using the vehicle of Philip K Dick’s tales to illustrate her points. I have decided, on mature reflection, to proceed as if I am real in my day to day life but I must admit it was touch and go for a while.

There are the normal array of reviews of books. Robert N Stephenson is concerned that North Americans tend to replace decent genre TV shows with mindless crap in his Rants and Raves segment. Rob Parnell calls for more strong roles for women on the big screen in Surfing the Dark Side. And Robert Jenkins both swash and buckles his way through a review of the US TV series Revolution in his The Couch Potato Speaks article (I’ve been giving Revolution a go, but I agree with Rob’s assessment – I just can’t warm to the Gen Y protagonist. Which probably officially makes me old).

As always Carissa’s Weblog provides a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, mostly in the form of audio interviews and video.

And I said it last time and I’ll say it again – I’ve really enjoyed the Aurealis series of publications through 2012, and I’m looking forward to 2013.

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The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson – review

  The Emperor's Soul cover

I read this novella on the basis that it was a) by Brandon Sanderson, a writer whose work I have enjoyed b) the subject of a recent episode of the Writing Excuses podcast (which features Sanderson) where they deconstructed the structure and writing choices and c) short.

Sanderson is famous for the rigour and inventiveness of his magic systems and this book is no different. Practitioners in this world are able to adjust the history of an item by the creation of a complicated stamp, and this gives rise to less than scrupulous people being able to create forgeries of famous and/or valuable items.

The story itself is quite engaging although (as is often the case in shorter works) based around a single theme. A master forger is forced to work to forge the soul of the Emperor who has been left as an alive but mindless shell after a botched assassination attempt. The motivations of the Forger as well as the political machinations of the people trying to restore the Emperor made for good context.

The pace was good and combined with the short length made for a quick read.

If you are an aspiring writer, I’d recommend listening to the podcast referenced above after reading. There is an excellent discussion on the technicalities of how the story was constructed, well worth the 15 minutes or so investment (Writing Excuses is a very short weekly podcast, see my Podcasts page for more detail).

A fun, short read. Recommended.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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Scrivener to Smashwords

I recently collected up the flash fiction pieces I have had published in Antipodean SF through 2012 and published them in a single eBook at Smashwords. It was an interesting experience and I thought I’d note down some of the things I encountered while it was still fresh.

Firstly, some background. I write on a Macbook Air using the writing software Scrivener. I have found Scrivener to be an excellent way of keeping my stories together and structured, and the product itself is very workman like. I use Dropbox to backup my working stories (and so I can work across other computers if I need to). I have been using Scrivener to create an ePub version of the Antipodean SF online magazine each month for the last few months, and it always seems to work out OK.

Smashwords doesn’t take ePub submissions directly. You have to create a Microsoft Word document according to their specifications, submit that Word document and they use their own product (the charmingly named Meatgrinder) to churn out versions of your book in lots of different formats.

If that sounds a bit complicated, the first resource I’ll point you to is the Smashwords style guide. Pay particular attention to the suggestions around the licensing statements. When you get to the point of submitting your file, incorrect licensing statements can be one of the things that stops the submission going ahead. It also has excellent discussions on formatting etc, but it is a fairly long document, and if you’re anything like me you’ll probably be too impatient to read the instructions.

Turns out that Scrivener creates a pretty good first cut at a well formatted Word document. This isn’t a tutorial on using Scrivener (frankly, there are so many features in it that I haven’t even come close to mastering that I’d be the wrong person to give a tutorial anyway). But, a few pointers when generating the document:

  • Don’t create section breaks between parts of your document, create page breaks. Section breaks do weird things in the Meatgrinder process, including inserting superfluous blank pages. Page breaks seem to work fine.
  • Switch your line spacing to single space (mine was set at 1.2 by default). While the line spacing won’t get caught in your initial submission, anything other than single spacing seems to get flagged as a problem that won’t allow your book to achieve “Premium” status (i.e. distributed to places like Apple etc).
  • I overrode my font to be Times New Roman (Smashwords prefers the basic fonts)

When creating the Antipodean SF ePub files, I let Scrivener create a table of contents and it was all good. Because of the Smashwords Word document process, this doesn’t work. I achieved a pretty good manual TOC by inserting a TOC page into my Scrivener manuscript and using Scrivener links to connect each line item in the TOC to the appropriate title in the document. When the Word document is generated, this seems to create all the appropriate links and TOC information that Meatgrinder needs.

I had a few of the normal issues you might expect getting the paragraph formatting correct, setting to single space, indenting, no gaps between paragraphs etc. The main issue I faced here was that the layout in the Word document (which all seemed fine) didn’t seem to translate into the right format for the ePub version. In particular, the first line indenting (which was absolutely fine in the Word document) seemed to randomly not work in the ePub version generated by Smashwords.

I noticed in particular that paragraphs that started off with speech seemed to always be effected. The first thing I needed to do was make sure that the autocorrect settings in Word weren’t attempting to switch normal quotes into “smart quotes”. That seemed to have an impact. The other thing I did was go into Word and open the “Normal” paragraph style and modify it so that the underlying style had all the right formatting elements (single space, no gaps between paragraphs etc), then reapply that style to the text. This was a little manual and time consuming but it did the trick. I think sometimes paragraph formatting from Scrivener might be applied to text without changing the underlying Word paragraph style, and Smashwords seems to take some of its cues from the underlying style.

Now, when it comes to covers you upload the cover to Smashwords separately from the Word document, so you don’t have to worry about inserting it into Scrivener. I need to be clear here – I have no artist ability whatsoever. My sense of aesthetics seems to be entirely out of kilter with mainstream society. I have no advice to give you re: an artistic creation that will draw the punters in.

I will say that relatively recently the pixel dimension requirements changed to take into account higher resolution screens. Smashwords wants rectangles with the width at least 1400 pixels and the height greater than the width. I went to the online cover designer site (My eCover Maker) and created my cover for about $5. Yes, I know it shows. I don’t really warrant or recommend that site in particular – I just registered for free for the “pay as you go” option and made sure I paid using PayPal to keep it all at arms length. Also, if you do go that way make sure you are 100% happy with the cover before you “generate” it – if you find you need to make a couple of small adjustments once you’ve seen the final product, that’s another $5.

Once you’ve uploaded the book and it passes the automatic checks, it is available through Smashwords. However, Smashwords has a second level of publishing, the “Premium Catalogue”, which requires a more precise adherence to the Smashwords style guidelines. This was the spot where some of my line spacing and paragraph formatting issues were tagged. It takes several days for them to review a book, so don’t expect instant turn around. Once your book is approved for the Premium Catalogue, it is also shipped to other online distributors such as Apple, Barnes and Noble etc. This isn’t quite as important to me, the point of publishing A Flash in the Pan? was to collect my flash fiction in one place for 2012 and to try out the Smashwords process. If you were self publishing a full novel, getting this status would be much more important.

At the time of writing my book is available on Smashwords and I’ve made the adjustments that Smashwords requires for the Premium Catalogue (although it hasn’t been reassessed as yet).

I used the Smashwords ISBN manager to assign my work an ISBN. Not really much more to say on this, of course if you’re managing your own publishing house you probably will bring your own ISBN number to the party, but for a simple self publishing job the Smashwords process seems fine.

When checking the ePub output from Meatgrinder, I found the Adobe Digital Editions provided the most convenient option (as recommended on the Smashwords site). Short of loading it onto the iPad of course (which is just a bit fiddly – download the ePub, move it over to iTunes, plug in the iPad, sync it and repeat every time you make a change). For the mobi version, it was pretty much check it on the Kindle.

Finally, I thought it might be useful if I attached three documents:

  1. The Scrivener file for A Flash in the Pan? (A Flash in the Pan.scriv)
  2. The Word document that Scrivener compiles (A Flash in the Pan – Scrivener)
  3. The Word document that I finally uploaded to Smashwords after adjustments (A Flash in the Pan – uploaded)

All three documents remain copyright me etc, but hopefully they will help show the process I’ve been through.

So, there are some of my thoughts on the Scrivener to Smashwords process. What about you? I’d love to hear some stories, hints and tricks in the comments section.

Asimov’s Science Fiction – April/May 2012 – review

I have been very lax with my short fiction reading of late, and Asimov’s has suffered accordingly. I finally got back to reading this month, and the April/May 2012 edition was next on my catchup list. The editorial (by Sheila Williams) discussed reader reaction to the digital reading experience and Robert Silverberg’s Reflections talks about the interesting case of a music concert that is not expected to end until 2640. Intrigued? You’ll have to have a read to find out more.

The Last Judgement by James Patrick Kelly is a very interesting novella based on the premise that aliens have removed all men from the planet, leaving only the women. This allows the author to undertake a very interesting exploration of gender, amid a detective noir style setting. I enjoyed the story, it was very readable.

The other novella in this edition was Living in the Eighties by David Ira Cleary which had a different take on time travel. There were the usual paradox hijinks that you’d expect from a time travel story, but the method of travel was somewhat different and it referenced a lot of 80s music etc which I found amusing.

Being a double issue, this edition also contained a novelette Something Real by Rick Wilber. I liked the premise and the characters in this story, set in a series of parallel worlds. The author does a good job creating a character that is very sympathetic and I liked the sense of disorientation around the descriptions of worlds that weren’t quite like ours.

Bonding with Morry by Tom Purdom was a good short piece. I especially liked the protagonist’s reaction to the world around him. The story is a little sentimental in parts (and the author clearly likes engineers, but then who doesn’t?) but hey, I can handle a little sentiment now and then.

Riding Red Ted and Breathing Fire by Carol Emshwiller is a very entertaining story about a man learning about his newly assigned dragon. The voice in this story is excellent, I’d love to try something like it myself. Very amusing but evocative at the same time. Easily my favourite story of the issue.

Also in this issue:

As usual, Asimov’s also contains some poetry including:

  • Book Wyrm by Robert Borski
  • The Music of Particle Physics by Bruce Boston
  • Tachyons by Geoffrey A. Landis
  • Apocalyptic Love Song by Megan Arkenberg

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