Clarkesworld #61, October 2011

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Clarkesworld #61, October 2011

“Staying Behind” by Ken Liu
“Pony” by Eric Amundsen
“Silently and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente (Part 1)

Reviewed by Bob Blough

Clarkesworld for October has two full stories that represent the varied reading you can get from this two-time Hugo winning e-zine.

Ken Liu has fast become one of my favorite writers. This is his third piece of fiction this year that will land on my favorite stories for 2011 list. He obviously has three strengths as a writer.  One, he is a true science geek – as this story revolves around the transcendence and the post-apocalypse that comes from those who are “Staying Behind.” Two, he has the mind of a lawyer (he is one) which allows him to explain things clearly and succinctly–but third and foremost for me, he cares about people. Each of his stories revolves around living, breathing human beings who exhibit the SF theory he chooses as scaffolding for a story. This story, for example, looks at post-apocalypse differently. Liu posits no war or disease as the defining apocalyptic event but a world of people who have not accepted machine transcendence. The story is intriguing and illustrative of those who try to stick to values that, while possibly noble, are too out of date to function properly. What is especially good about his writing is that no one is all bad or all good.  Each personality has its good aspects but come into conflict with each other. Thus the reality of the pain of living is balanced without any preferential treatment.  That is very hard to do – especially within the scope of a short story.

“Pony” by Eric Amundsen is not to my taste. It is as if a cowboy had an acid trip about wild ponies being space combat vehicles. It is an interesting idea but too clichéd while at the same time being to far out there. Somewhere there needs to be a balance of innovation with well known material.  I do not feel it is achieved here.

The Catherynne M. Valente story is the first of three parts and will be reviewed in December when completed. I am looking forward to reading it.