One of these days I will be through obsessively posting about "Inclination," but not yet, not yet. I took a little time out from noveling today (200 pages due to the workshop tonight, and I just might make it!) to visit the Borders at Park & 57th. Lo and behold! The March Locus.
Both Locus's short-fiction reviewers wrote up the April/May Asimov's, and to make a long story short, both reviewers placed "Inclination" on their recommended reading lists for the month. Paul Melko, whose fine novella "The Walls of the Universe" anchors the other end of the issue, pulled off the same feat.
To quote from the reviews themselves:
Among all the plot options available to SF writers, there's something to be said for the one that launches the protagonist, with few bothersome preliminaries, into a dizzying succession of new territories, disorientation and wonderment combining in a dance of conceptual vertigo.... There are many fine examples of this narrative tactic in the literature, and Paul Melko's novella in the April/May double issue of Asimov's, "The Walls of the Universe," is an honorable addition to their ranks.... If SF is unable often to break new ground, it can always re-interpret and enrich its staples, and "The Walls of the Universe" add ingenious maturity to its long-established subgenre.
This issue's other novella, "Inclination" by William Shunn, is also a well-considered examination of a basic SF concern: the clash of differing technological levels, and how this (especially now) can cause the lower-tech culture to retreat into fundamentalism.... [T]he plot moves conventionally ... but Shunn gets a lot of good satirical digs in, and a contemporary dilemma is penetratingly illuminated.
Sheila Williams's first year as editor of Asimov's was very solid, and I have just finished the March-April 2006 double issue. It's a wonderful one.
There are two novellas, both outstanding. It can't be denied that Paul Melko's "The Walls of the Universe" is working familiar ground -- it's another "you can't go home again" variant on the parallel universe travel story.... But Melko's treatment is fresh and effective.... In the end, this story is about how experience forms character as much as genetics, and quite convincingly so.
Even better is William Shunn's "Inclination" (a very nice title, I should add). This is told from the point of view of Jude Plane, a young man working on a space station. Jude lives with his father in an enclave of people who follow a traditional religion, a sort of amalgamation of Christianity with respect for the Six Simple Machines.... [Jude's life] becomes even more complicated still when his scheming father gets him a job outside their enclave, among the Sculpted.... It's a fascinating future, and Jude's personal story is involving.
I shouldn't be paying this much attention to reviews, I know, but it's helping me feel better about the expanded novel version, which I will now get back to.