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I approached the April/May issue with some trepidation, particular because of the story

co-authored by Gardner Dozois. Gardner presents at once such an authority on our mostbeloved art while simultaneously being such an affable presence in the forum that the
discussions seems to hover around him like the good host at a party. What if I didn't like
his fiction? I'm normally cavalier enough to insist that I'm the audience the author,
regardless of stature, needs try to entertain with no qualifications needed for the position
of critic other than having ponyed up the subscription cost for the magazine. But with
Gardner somehow it was going to be different - - more like wondering if you measure up
to the work, rather than the reverse.
The issue didn't get off on a good start for me. I normally read the non-fiction columns
first, and then read the fiction front to back, so "Solidarity" by Walter Jon Williams was
first. I see Mr. Williams is well published, so my criticism, no matter how severe, should
be just a voice in the crowd. That having been said, I thought "Solidarity" was some of
the worst fiction I have read between the pages of Asimov's during my rather short
subscription. The narrative harbored so many info dumps that it was laborious to wade
my way through. The story otherwise read like the screenplay for a Japanese anime film,
with cardboard characters as flat as the cover art and just as stereotyped. Some of the
turns of phrase were almost bad enough to be good satire. Almost. Here's some samples
(quoted as fair use):
"A shimmering layer of afternoon heat stretched across the pavement like a layer of
molasses" Gag.
"The streets exhaled summer heat into the sky like an overtaxed athlete panting at the end
of this run." Oh my god.
"She examined it carefully, probing it with her mind like a tongue examining the gap left
by a missing tooth." Oh dear, dental probing.
"she was dressed in a long coat, black covered with shiny six-pointed parti-colored
stars, like a rainbow snowfall." Give me another hit from the bong, man.
"Ideas flung themselves at her mind, and burst from her lips in not-quite-complete
sentences." I know what he means.
Someone must appreciate this type of fiction - - after all the author is published with
novels in the same style, according to the bio blurb. Maybe I just don't get it. I found the
story actually painful to read.
"Mason's Rats" by Neal Asher was one of those off-the-cuff sort of stories that casts an
ironic look at the troublesome directions that an everyday problem could evolve towards.
A shortie with a twist. Enjoyable, but a bit predictable, which isn't a commendation for a
"twist" story.
"La Gran Muerte" by Liz Williams read a bit like a Carlos Casteneda novel, where the
division between reality and the dream-world floats through shades of gray. The story
was atmospheric, and the characters felt real, but I thought it was a bit heavy-handed in
the mysticism, sacrificing some of the enjoyment in the reading.

"Dark of the Sun" by William Barton was a joy to read, easily for me one of the three best
stories of the issue. I understand from the bio blurb that this is a prequel to a story that
appeared earlier in Asimov's any chance that this earlier story could appear on the
website?? Please?
**spoiler warning**
I'm not so sure about the science behind the global catastrophe scenario or some of the
events expected in the progression of the environmental conditions, but the human story
took over and I just didn't care about the scientific plausibility. These were 3 dimensional
characters that were full of flaws; realistic people and I cared what happened to them. I
couldn't help thinking what I would do in the same circumstances.
**spoiler warning**
"Down Memory Lane" by Mike Resnick for me was everything that "A Princess of
Earth" (December issue) could have been but wasn't. Both stories were about loss, but
with "Down Memory Lane" you feel each stage of the progression of the disease, and the
frustration, and the wish for a silver-bullet solution to transcend the natural course of
events to recover what was lost. I did feel a bit cheated with the twisty ending, as if the
author tried to fit in too much in too little space.
"California King" by Mike Jasper and Greg van Eekhout was strange. And not
particularly enjoyable to read. I kept thinking the authors were trying to say something
existential, but existentialism apart from grounded characterization for me comes off flat.
Or maybe I just didn't understand what the authors were trying to say at all.
"Bean There" by Jack Skillingstead was quirky and enjoyable, but didn't leave much of a
lasting impression.
"Dallas: An Essay" by Robert Reed is another one of the three stories that I thought were
the best of the issue. Grounded and interesting with real people as characters, flowing
narrative, and a honest examination of the life of a struggling author, this story was a joy
to read. The sense of the author as relating a revealing, personal story was powerful,
making you feel like a voyeur, standing outside the window looking in at a life and being
so enthralled you're unable to look away. Excellent.
Of the "quirky" stories in the issue, I thought "Lover of Statues" by Ian Watson was the
best. This was for me a rare case where a man writes a convincing first-person female
narrative, including insight into the character's relationships and feelings. I liked the
parallels between the alien's actions and the main character's internal conflict.
"They will Raise you in a Box" by Wil McCarthy I found thoroughly unenjoyable. If it
hadn't been so short, I wouldn't have finished reading it. Mercifully, I suppose, it was
that short. I don't know what sort of profundities were being related, but they all passed
me right by, and there were no hooks to make me want to take a second look.

And finally, the grand finale, "Shadow Twin" by Gardner Dozois (who's he?), George R.
R. Martin, and Danie Abraham was just excellent. I wasn't able to read it in one sitting,
simply because of the broken chunks of time I have available to read, and I looked
forward with anticipation when I would have time to resume it. Great characters,
interesting plot, flowing and readable narrative a truly magnificent story. The
descriptions particularly at the beginning of the story were very sensory I smelled the
smells and felt the Latin atmosphere. The only dissonance I felt was the discontinuity of
being transported to a Latin America that was on a different planet, but this mirrored the
discontinuity that the main character experience, and in that way actually contributed to
the story.
So, I guess I'm relieved I liked the story co-authored by Gardner (a lot), and I feel like
a frat boy that's just passed his first hazing. Would I have had the cojones to belly up to
the bar with a unfavorable word or two if I'd felt differently? Well, thinking about it,
maybe I do share just a bit in common with one Ramon Espejo.