A Threnody for Hazan by Ray Nayler, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2018

This is a longer piece, a novelette, that I’m unsure if I completely understood.

The premise goes like this. There is this thing called the shroud, which looks sorta like a heatwave but is actually someone’s consciousness floating around or tethering to an object, building or otherwise.

asf_marapr2018_400x570This was made possible by a scientist named Hazan. The narrator is Hazan’s lover and sidekick, who, while completely in love with her, possesses loyalty enough to send her to a potential death.

See the shroud can travel between time periods, so Hazan keeps going back to see parts of the second world war, in Budapest. The problem is, often, as part of the shroud, your consciousness becomes part of the woodwork, so to speak, like cobbles stones or something, and if the cobblestones are broken into pieces, you lose part of your consciousness as well. I think you probably know where this is going.

This story is about other states of being, beyond that of what we would deem human. It’s also about how poor memory is and how we can’t ever truly know what happened in the past, even if we were there at the time. While this is what I think it’s about, I also have some doubts. Some of the concepts in this story really strained my comprehension. (C)

Artisanal Trucking LLC. by Mary Robinette Kowal, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2018

This story starts with a heartbreaker of a moment. In a world where autonomous cars (and trucks) are the norm, a man named Dude has a sweet spot for “Artisanal Trucking” which means human-driven trucks. Unfortunately, this goes horribly wrong when he hits a dog. An autonomous car would never have hit the dog at all. Though he does his best to save the unfortunate animal.

Right when he’s mourning the dog, he finds 5 puppies trying to cross the highway. He saves these puppies and as he’s late now for his delivery, he takes them all with him. The rest of this story is less emotional but very cute.

This piece does a great job of connecting emotion to the concept. Does a human driver have any business trying to compete with machines that don’t make (maybe even, can’t make) mistakes? What is the cost of human error compared to the benefits of automation? This is a hot topic right now, of course, and I think this piece does a good job showing a concrete example of the dilemma.  (C+)

The Satyr of Brandenburg by Charlotte Ashley, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, Mar/Apr 2018

This story was great! I loved the world that Ashley sets up, and even though I hadn’t ever read anything by her before and even though this is a story that fits into a chronological serialization that includes these characters, I still felt right at home.

The main character is a grand warrior and has been invited to complete in a touney to compete against three other of the worlds greatest warriors. In some prior episode, La Heron, for that is her name, aquired another woman’s soul in battle. This woman, Alex, is of noble stock and one of La Heron’s reasons for attending this tourney, which is held in Sardinia, is to have her married off and be free, instead of attached to La Heron by some strange magic.

The other warriors that are to participate in the tourney are an Ogre, Donshead Doomsbellow, the oldest man alive, (can’t recall his name), and The Satyr of Brandenburg.

But La Heron has met the Satyr before. He is a liar and a theif, and he will trick and steal and bewitch people without ever taking a step into the area.

That’s the setup, and the story doesn’t dissapoint for the most part. I’d love to read a whole novel or even a whole trilogy that took place in this would, and I can think of no higher praise than that. In terms of this story, however, the ending was pretty expected and I feel as though I could have used a good twist at the end. (B)