Thoughts: This being the first story in an anthology that I’ve owned for a few years, I might have read “The Singing Bell” before. I know I’ve read several of the subsequent Davenport/Dr. Urth stories and Asimov’s style doesn’t vary that much. If anything, the tone of this story was certainly familiar.
“The Singing Bell” starts with the crime from the perpetrator’s point of view. We see all the preparations taken by Louis Peyton. Peyton is sure that he’ll get away with the theft of singing bells from the Moon and the murder of his partner because he has the perfect alibi. Or rather non-alibi. Peyton spends every August sealed away in his bungalow in Colorado. Unless Det. Davenport can prove he was on the Moon, he’s good as gold. (Apparently, travel to the Moon is regulated on par with popping to the QT on a Friday night for snacks.) Furthermore, while law enforcement has an uber lie-detector, the psychoprobe, it legally can only be used to confirm near certain suspicions.
All of this leads Davenport to seek the advice of preeminent extraterrestrialist Wendell Urth to find a way to confirm that Peyton was off Earth. Which Urth, of course, does. Any guesses how one might deduce that a man has been off-world for at least a week?
At about noon yesterday, a was slammed by a combination of cramps and an RA flare-up. I struggled through story #11 and called it day reading-wise. So, once again, I’m not going to make it to 24 hours of reading. But I still have a few good hours left in me as long as I stay clear-headed. I’ll probably forego further updates until Tuesday.
7 – “Cassandra” by Ken Liu Genre: speculative fiction, superhero Quote: “Wouldn’t it be better,” I plead, “to kill the man long before he got on the plane rather than having to rescue the plane as it plunges toward the ground?” Comment: What if the difference between a superhero and a supervillain is *when* they decide to take action.
8 – “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky Genre: … Quote: I would astonish everyone assembled, the biologists and the paleontologists and the geneticists, the reporters and the rubberneckers and the music aficionados, all those people who—–deceived by the helix-and-fossil trappings of cloned dinosaurs––believed that they lived in a science fictional world when really they lived in a world of magic where anything was possible. Comment: This story has been a firebrand in the Sad Puppies/SJW debate. And…I sort of agree with the Puppies. WAIT! That doesn’t mean that this isn’t an excellent story. It’s one that’s going to stick with me. I won’t say a lot about it because it’s short and the link is right up there. It literally took me 6 minutes to read it, so check it out. But it’s also not really science fiction or fantasy. It’s sort of an extended literary prose poem. If you’re going to give awards for genre, give awards to genre… (And I won’t get into the ghetto-ization that genre causes and why giving a genre award probably doesn’t lead to wider readership…)
9 – “The Shell of Sense” by Olivia Howard Dunbar Genre: horror, sort of Quote: Then, for this was my first experience of the shadow-folded transition, the odd alteration of my emotions bewildered me. Comment: Once I thought about writing a story about a ghost left watching as everyone else’s live continues. I would have been 100 year too late to the concept. Lovely prose.
10 – “The Priory Church” by James Collins Genre: horror Quote: (brain fog set in…) Comment: Really enjoyed how different the voice of pompous Peverell was in comparison to the frame story.
11 – “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” by Aliette de Bodard Genre: science fiction Quote: Mem-implants always went from parent to child. They were a family’s riches and fortune; the continued advice of the ancestors, dispensed from beyond the grave. Comment: But what is your parent is an important scientist? And you’re…not. Would those memories be wasted?
12 – “Listen” by Karin Tidbeck Genre: science fiction Quote: In the moment they spoke, they were completely understandable. But as soon as they fell silent, any memory of what they had said disappeared. Comment: Both of the stories on my list from Tor.com have music as a part of them. Also an interesting synergy between this story and “Candy Girl.” Both have characters who wish desperately (and foolishly?) to integrate into another culture.
1 – “Multo” by Samuel Marzioli Genre: horror Quote: The past is never gone, only forgotten. Comment: “Multo” begins with the above quote, a salawikain, a Tagalog proverb. The narrator of this story is contacted by his old neighbor who asks, do you remember the multo—the ghost? The narrator certainly does. This was my first story of the readathon, which I read at 10pm. Ever think there might be something in the shadows, the “idling dark” as Marzioli puts it, that causes you to maybe leave a dark room a little faster than is reasonable for an adult? Ever have sleep paralysis? All of that with a supernatural tinge.
2 – “Osiana” by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold Genre: fantasy Quote: Her choices were to be taller than the post, or be turned out to some guard company to be shagged to death. Comment: Osiana has a novel solution to being short. This warrior woman doesn’t let it get in her way.
3 – “Pigeons from Hell” by Robert E. Howard Genre: horror Quote: They say the pigeons are the souls of the Blassenvilles, let out of hell at sunset. Comment: I don’t think I’ve really read any Robert E. Howard. I was a little worried, when I realized that this story takes place in the South and involves characters from the West Indies that it might be wincingly racist, as some of Howards contemporaries can be *cough*Lovecraft*cough*. It wasn’t. I was fairly surprised by this haunted house story.
4 – “All Souls Proceed” by KJ Kabza Genre: magical realism? sure Quote: Hello, I say to the bike, but of course bikes don’t talk. It rolls on past me, stiffly, in non-acknowledgment. Comment: This is just a beautiful gem of flash fiction. I won’t say much. Just go read it.
5 – “Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar Genre: science fiction Quote: For the past is a world one cannot return to, and the future is a world none has seen. (Kind of an interesting contrast to the quote from “Multo.”) Comment: In the near future, people are paying for the privilege of taking a one-way trip to Mars, everyone in their own “jalopy”—what a great use of a word for tiny, questionable space crafts. Some of these travelers, like Mei with bone cancer, won’t make it to Mars, but maybe its a better future than can be hoped for.
6 – “Candy Girl” by Chikodili Emelumadu Genre: I’m going to go with magical realism again. Contemporary fantasy? I don’t know… Quote: “That foolish man,” Ozulu says. “Does he not know the gods are tricky?” Comment: Gini has been cursed by Paul, her ex and an ingratiating douche. She’s becoming the thing he likes most: chocolate.
Card picked: Five of Clubs From:Asimov’s Mysteries
I couldn’t tell you my real name if I wanted to, and, under the circumstances, I don’t want to. … I was not the first person to have the honor of meeting The Goose.
Instead of going for a whodunit in “Pate de Foie Gras,” Asimov presents a scientific mystery in the guise of a shadowy, cloak and dagger fantasy. But if this story were an episode of The X-Files, it wouldn’t be one of those super serious arch stories. It would be “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” humorous and meta in its telling.
Our unnamed scientist, in the employ of the Department of Agriculture, visits a farmer who has been very interested in rearing geese. Or rather, a goose. A goose with the rather interesting knack for laying golden eggs.
Asimov is probably at his best when he’s not being too serious and when the story involves chemistry and biochemistry. These were the sciences that were his forte. They have also aged better than his extrapolations about computers and space exploration. Overall, “Pate de Foie Gras” is a fun, science fiction story.
This book was provided to me by Tachyon Publications via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.
When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.
Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.(via Goodreads)
My first brush with Central Station was Lavie Tidhar’s story “Strigoi.” It was originally published in 2012, but I didn’t read it until two years later. I didn’t read its sort-of sequel “The Bookseller” until early this year. Those two stories are part of an interconnected narrative of 13-14 tales, all with Central Station and the Jones and Chong families at their heart. This book, Central Station, is compilation of all those stories with, I assume, some changes to better weave them together.
And it’s great.
Set in an unstated year in the future, Central Station rises to the stars in Israel, near Tel Aviv. It is part launching point and part space dock for humanity’s movement off-world. But against that backdrop, the stories are grounded on Earth, in Central Station, in the sprawl of cities that surround it, and in the virtual world that exists for a noded population, part of the world-wide Conversation.
Despite being science fiction, there is a sort of organic-ness to Tidhar’s Central Station. The technology feels more like a part of the world rather than an overlay. The world is grimy and filled with all sorts of people. Not everything is explained, not everything needs to be. It has a very Blade Runner feel about it.
All the stories, though, come back to the characters, a intertwined group of family, friends, and lovers. Achimwene, the unnoded bookseller, is by far my favorite, but I wouldn’t mind spending more time with any of them.
Publishing info, my copy: Kindle/ePub ARC, Tachyon Publications, May 10, 2016 Acquired: NetGalley Genre: science fiction
Card picked: King of Clubs From: Asimov’s Mysteries
Pool-playing scientist frenimies.
One is James Priss, a pale, slow-talking theoretical physicist, a two-time Nobel prize winner (both in science). The other is Edward Bloom, a charismatic, college drop-out innovator, a multi-billionaire who has made his fortunes on the back of Priss’s theories. Their rivalry comes to a head as Bloom attempts to create an anti-gravity device based on Priss’s two-field theory. After a skirmish or words in the press, Bloom tricks Priss into demonstrating his new invention with a billiard table, ball, and cue. Unfortunately, a terrible accident occurs and Bloom ends up dead with a billiard ball-shaped hole through his chest. Freak tragedy? Or did Edward Bloom set himself up to be murdered?
There’s always a question in hard science fiction about how accurate the science is. Most general readers will assume the writer is knowledgeable enough to get it right. I don’t know enough about Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to be too discerning, but Asimov knew his stuff (in his day) and it all *sounds* pretty good to me. It’s definitely my favorite of this anthology thus far.