*Top Picks from January 2014*
"Utriusque Cosmi" by Robert Charles Wilson
Clarkesworld Magazine's January Issue
-- Here is an epic story that reminds me a lot of Rapture of the Nerds (for which there is STILL no audiobook). It's the end of the world, and our female protagonist is swept up into a technological construct. She explores artificial intelligence, post-singularity time dilation, and some of the unfathomable types of existence that live beyond our conception of the universe. A beautiful story with a reasonably approachable character (not always so in this genre), and a grandeur that will leave you in awe.
"The Thing About Shapes to Come" by Adam-Troy Castro
Lightspeed Magazine's January Issue
-- Here is a bit of weird fiction if ever there was. A girl finds herself in the increasingly common position of carrying a child to term and discovering it is little more than a solid polygon. The feelings of the girl, and her parents, about the new child are interesting and we get a nice view of world events. I do feel that the story lacks a little in the action department, and it might drag if it wasn't such a bizarre tale. Fortunately the very end is quite a head-turner, completing the circle of the plot. I'd love to hear thoughts about this one in the comments...
"Ill Met In Ulthar" by T.A. Pratt (aka, Tim Pratt)
PodCastle Ep. 296
-- This short story, a side tale from Pratt's "Marla Mason" series of novels, follows a snarky, spell-slinging sorceress as she endeavors to free the mind of a delusional author. She must battle his monsters and try to reach him before his madness escapes a magical asylum. I enjoyed the dialogue and almost pulpy sensibilities in this one, but like some pulps, it never felt like Marla had much chance of losing the battle. In fact, I'm not entirely sure there was really any conflict throughout the story. Even so, if it's fluff, it's an enjoyable piece of fluff, so pick it up when you need an hour away from the world.
"Flash Bang Remember" by Caroline M. Yoachim and Tina Connolly
StarShipSofa Ep. 320
~42 mins (timecode 00:41:00)
-- The term "vat-grown clone" gets thrown around a lot in science fiction, but rarely does a story spend as much time on the psychology of those clones as this one does. Drilling down into the center of this trope, we find a young girl surrounded by the vat-grown. All of them are adults, but few are very much older than she is. They do have one major advantage over her: a flash-baked childhood. In fact they all have the same childhood. Now the pressure is on her to model a new childhood for the next generation and she's feeling the strain.
I really enjoyed a lot of elements in this story. The plot is surprising in most of its twists and turns, the characters are well-defined (unless they are intentionally two-dimensional), and the details of the place and culture are quite good. It's a well-rounded piece for lovers of deep-space adolescent drama.
"The Serial Killer's Astronaut Daughter" by Damien Angelica Walters
Strange Horizons' January Issue
-- Many perverse situations have been dreamed up by authors over the years, so that characters may be set into them and watched as they squirm. As already hinted by the spoiler-y title, our astronaut protagonist finds herself in a bit of an awkward situation when a death row inmate turns out to be her father. This story reminds me of "The Master Conjurer," which was a Top Pick back in October. In both, the hero finds his or herself in the center of a media typhoon that pounds relentlessly on their privacy and their sanity. Now in "The Master Conjurer," the unhappy magician is hounded continuously by the press. You would think our astronaut would have an easier time of it,