Clarkesworld #105, June 2015

Monday, 08 June 2015 08:44 David Wesley Hill
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Clarkesworld #105, June 2015

 
Somewhere I have Never Traveled (Third Sound Remix)” by E. Catherine Tobler
Asymptotic” by Andy Dudak
This Wanderer, In the Dark of the Year” by Kris Millering
Forestspirit, Forestspirit” by Bogi Takács

Reviewed by David Wesley Hill

The first of four original stories offered by Clarkesworld this month, “Somewhere I have Never Traveled (Third Sound Remix)” by E. Catherine Tobler, is set in Galileo Station, a satellite orbiting Jupiter. Vasquez has worked aboard the station for twelve years as a technician servicing the huge balloon-like harvester pods that are sent down into the clouds of the vast planet to scoop up helium, the “precious gas,” for return to Earth. At first in dreams, and then while awake, Vasquez begins hearing a voice that “speaks like an ocean tossed by the thunder, moving like a thousand gallons of salted water over and through a naked body.” Irresistibly drawn by the siren song, Vasquez's grip on reality begins to slip, and the tech becomes determined to seek out the voice even if the search leads downward to the giant gas planet and beneath the freezing torrents of helium rain…. A moody and atmospheric piece with Lovecraftian overtones, this story should appeal to readers who appreciate fervid language.

In comparison, the writing in “Asymptotic,” the longest story in the issue, is relatively straightforward although author Andy Dudak takes liberties with structure, sending the narrative back and forth along the life of the protagonist. Nuhane is a member of the Collection Bureau, a quasi-military organization that scours the galaxy for “debtors”—those who violate Einsteinian limits by using FTL technology. Exceeding the speed of light unfortunately creates fissures in space/time that will eventually destroy the universe unless the fissures are healed by “locking down” the debtors who created them in relativistic prisons. The problem is Bureau officers must themselves travel faster than c in order to apprehend these transgressors and thus they incur their own “Noble Debt.” Nuhane fully realizes that at the end of his career he himself will inevitably be locked down for millions of years but he feels this is a small price to pay for defending the fabric of reality—until he catches up with the arch-Violator Phlogiston and discovers that Einstein's laws might not be quite as inflexible as he had always assumed.... A story of ideas and galaxy-spanning action, often clever, “Asymptotic” should interest readers of hard SF and those who enjoyed the Lensman series by E. E. “Doc” Smith.

This Wanderer, in the Dark of the Year,” by Kris Millering, also employs non-linear narrative, telling the tale of Audra Feher, an American journalist kidnapped in Hungary while investigating reports of a downed UFO. Unluckily for Audra, her captors have the UFO and its pilot in their possession. They use the alien as an instrument of torture by forcing her to touch the creature since any physical contact with it is indescribably painful. Eventually Audra realizes that she will die in captivity unless she learns to adapt to the situation and to reach an accommodation with the extraterrestrial pilot.... With extensive flashbacks to Audra's life at home in the States with Annelise, “This Wanderer” will probably disappoint readers interested in the intricacies of First Contact but engage those drawn to fiction about human personal relationships.

The redundancy of the title, as well as the forced mating of two distinct words, do not well advertise “Forestspirit, Forestspirit” by Bogi Takács but the story is an entertaining venture owing much to Cordwainer Smith. Gabi, a networked cybernetic organism, is a killing machine turned pacifist. It went AWOL after Earth's alien invaders were fought off and now lives a quiet existence as a hermit in an idyllic forest. One day, though, a young boy arrives with disturbing news. The Consentience—the planet's caretaker and governor—has decided that Gabi's forest is to be cut down. How a peaceful forest spirit defends its home non-violently against an army of robot millipedes armed with laser axes makes for a story sufficiently engaging to compensate for its title.... A pleasant ending to an interesting issue of Clarkesworld.