REVIEW: IASFM February 1990

REVIEW SUMMARY: Skip the stinkers but definitely read the two award nominees.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:

PROS: 2 excellent award finalists

CONS: 2 mediocre stories and 1 bad story by Bruce Sterling.

BOTTOM LINE: Another decent issue of IASFM.

Although this February 1990 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine was slightly marred by a couple of not-so-great stories (including one dud by Bruce Sterling), the issue was redeemed by the excellent stories by Pat Cadigan and Charles Sheffield.

Following are the individual reviewlettes for each story in this issue.

  1. “A Braver Thing” by Charles Sheffield [1990 novelette] (Rating: 4/5) [Read 08/26/04]
    • Synopsis: Narrator Giles Turnbull recounts his childhood meeting with genius Arthur Shaw, another brilliant young mind. The two share a love or science and maintain a relatively equal path until college. The divergence recounts Turnbull’s successful achievements and Shaw’s rapid decline into mystery. When Turnbull learns of Shaw’s mysterious suicide, he goes to investigate and, through Shaw’s meticulous note taking, learns exactly what happened. The contents of Shaw’s notebooks eventually lead Turnbull to the Nobel.
    • Review: Very little sense of wonder in this present-day story, but the tale does not suffer for it at all. Interesting piece and very well-written. Though not very science-fictiony, it was still a page-turner. Nice job!
    • Note: Finalist for 1990 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.
  2. “Joyride” by Deborah Wessell [1990 novelette] (Rating: 2.5/5) [Read 08/27/04]
    • Synopsis: First contact story between a blue-haired alien and a pair of female con artists on the colonized planet of Startover, where female society is the norm. They discover the alien on board a ship they won through gambling from a Terran man who has something to hide.
    • Review: Good premise and strong characters, but weak in places. The scene where a food fight leads to a alien three-way was just silly.
  3. “Travelers” by Damian Kilby 1990 novelette] (Rating: 2/5) [Read 08/28/04]
    • Synopsis: A time traveler with the ability to mentally manipulate people from the past, travels back and falls in love with a flighty twenty-something.
    • Review: This story came off like a amateurish version of Robert Silverberg’s “Passengers”. The premise was OK, but the characters were oftentimes doing or saying inexplicable things.
  4. “The Sword of Damocles” by Bruce Sterling [1990 short story] (Rating: 1.5/5) [Read 08/25/04]
    • Synopsis: A retelling of the Greek myth of Damocles.
    • Review: This is not really a story so much as a narrative about writing a story. The best thing about this story was Sterling’s casual writing style, but as an SF story, as which it is billed, it falls flat.
  5. “Fool to Believe” by Pat Cadigan [1990 novella] (Rating: 4.5/5) [Read 08/25/04]
    • Synopsis: A murder mystery of sorts where the victim has had been “brain-sucked” (memories, personality completely removed) and a Brain Cop goes undercover via memory implants of her own.
    • Review: Gritty cyberpunk setting, fast paced, immersive, keeps you on your toes – all good things. The ideas of memory swiping and implanting were really interesting. The struggle of identity between Brain Cop Mersine and streetwise punk Marya were also cool.
    • Note: Finalist for 1990 Hugo Award for Best Novella.
    • Note: Finalist for 1990 Nebula Award for Best Novella.
    • Note: This novella makes up one of three parts (the middle?) of the Cadigan novel Mindplayers.

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: IASFM February 1990”

  1. There are also regular columns, including one for book reviews. IASFM is usually a higher caliber of fiction than some of the other mags although all of them have high and low points. IASFM publishes many stories that go on to win awards.

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