I've been reading William Preston's 'Old Man' stories since the first, 'Helping Them Take the Old Man Down', and I've enjoyed each one. The stories are tributes or homages to my favorite pulp magazine hero, Doc Savage but they are far more than that. The latest, ' Each in His Prison, Thinking of the Key', appearing in this months issue of Asimov's SF magazine is a sterling example of what I'm talking about.
Yes, there are plenty of references to Doc, (Though it's made clear that the character is NOT Doc Savage) and there's even some pulp style adventure, though with a nifty modern science fiction twist. But what this story and the previous ones all have are wonderful character studies. In this one, a young man with a particular sort of mental talent is tasked with trying to learn the imprisoned Old Man's secrets. Things don't go the way he plans, but we, the readers, learn much about the young man himself. Preston writes about people, first and foremost, even in the midst of all the adventure.
The story shifts in time from right now to a few months back, and the narrative switches back and forth, but I never got lost. If you're a Doc Savage fan you will find much to smile about, though you don't really need to know about Doc to enjoy the story. Call it some DVD extras for old time fans. You also don't have to have read the previous Old Man tales to read this one, but I'll bet you'll want to go back once you've read Prison. The first three stories are available on Kindle.
And speaking of Kindle, I didn't realize that you could purchase individual issues of Asimov's on the Kindle until last night. Once I knew there was a new Old Man story available, I'd planned to order an issue of the print magazine, but when I got to Amazon I saw that I could get it on my Kindle and so I was reading the story within five minutes.
Something I was telling my buddy Cliff about last night (Cliff is also a big fan of the Old Man) is that The Old Man shares a quality that Doc has and that Superman had when I was growing up. He's the kind of hero that once he shows up, you just know things will be all right. He'll do what needs to be done because it's the right thing to do. Can't ask for more than that.