Interzone #209 April 2007

Interzone celebrates its 25th Anniversary Issue, courtesy of the sterling work of Andy Cox and team at TTA Press. Only minor quibble is that this issue is yet another different size and shape : my Interzone shelf shows the first 20-odd years as having three different sizes, and for most of this time, just two sizes. tsk tsk. Worse still, and a heinous crime, is that this issue is simply dated ‘April’ and not ‘March/April’ as it should be. The slumbering International League of Bibliographers, Librarians, and AnalRetentionists will soon be roused if any more of this goes on, and they will kick Mr Cox’s sorry ass.

So what of the content in the glossy, full colour, eminently sniffable issue?

Hal Duncan. The Whenever at the City’s Heart.

Provides an intriguing glimpse into a strange locale and its denizens, for whom Doom is spelled out, as the strange orrery at the heart of the city, a represenation of the city itself, is collapsing, a presentiment of what will happen to its alter ago. Not entirely successful as a standalone story, with little of the whys and wherefores explained, it is an intense literary piece which you just know the author had relished writing, although I’d guess the readership could be split on whether the narrative takes their fancy. The preceding interview provides some background information, the novelette is one of four in Duncan’s Vellum series, and some background is gleaned. Also informative is Duncan’s description of his approach to his writing : he sets himself a pace and style and challenges the reader to keep up. Well, I kept up for this story, and should I come across any of the three novelettes I shall probably keep pace. But as to picking up one of his novels, this piece hasn’t had me rushing to Amazon. Maybe ebay at some point in the future. Maybe not.

Jamie Barras. Winter.

A not altogether successful story, which doesn’t quite get maximum value from its potential. Back story and narrative are intertwined, concluding with a denouement which rather falls falt as the revelation as to the real identity of the protagonist is revealed with a virtual ‘ta-ra!’ which is both a bit of a cheat on the reader, and also loses some of its impact through coming out of the blue at the end of an overlong info-dump conversation. I was additionally a bit confused at the start, as a 1950s setting in Yorkshire featuring one Brian Close led me to think I was reading an alternate history featuring Yorkshire and England cricketer Brian Close. The revelation of Nazi experiments, and the concluding identity revelations of a character only given a very sketchy outline, isn’t quite up to scratch.

M. John Harrison. The Good Detective.

A very subtle story of suburban alienation and disassociation, set in contemporary London and with little in the way of genre elements, although strong in characterisation and setting.

Gwyneth Jones. Big Cat.

As with the opening story, featuring characters from a novel sequence, which always gives me the feeling that, being unfamiliar with the novels, I’m not getting full impact from the story. A near-future England sees society in some turmoil, with angst fuelled by rock music. When one of a dozen wolves released onto Dartmoor turns up dead, possibly killed by a big cat, a motley crew of characters do something. (Not very helpful, I’m afraid, but I read the story a month ago, wrote the review in long-hand and have lost the piece of paper on which the final bit of this story review was written).

Alastair Reynolds. The Sledgemaker’s Story.

A more traditional narrative, in which Reynolds takes a more down to Earth approach than is his usual wont, and to good effect.

The setting is the River Tyne in the North East of England, a few centuries hence, when many years of cold weather is gradually being replaced by a warmer weather. This is bad for the sledge-maker, as we follow his young daughter as she makes a long journey on foot along the river to deliver two hogs heads to an old woman reputed to be a witch. Reynolds tips several winks to the read in the mention of the folklore of times past, which hark back to our times – a lot of readers will doubtless miss many of them, and be bemused at references to ‘sickly sausage rolls’ : but I’m of the same age as Reynolds, and am from that part of England, so I spotted them all :-)

As the story progresses, rather than being a Catherine Cookson story, the SF background is gradually, and enticingly revealed, providing an intriguing backdrop which could be explored at greater depth.

Daniel Kaysen. Tears for Godzilla.

A short piece in which a writer considers several fictional variations whilst queueing in a coffee shop.

Non fiction:

  • David Langford’s ‘Ansible Link’
  • 25IZ : personal reflections on Interzone’s quarter-century from the Great and the Good
  • 25TV : Stephen Volk’s Top 10 TV SF programmes, only two of which I watch/ed, one being Dr Who: Dalek (the darker, more serious Christopher Eccleston Dr Who breathed new life into a series which faded badly post-Pertwee/Baker, but I have some reservations about the current Dr); and Twin Peaks
  • Neil Williamson interviews Hal Duncan
  • Nick Lowe’s ‘Mutant Popcorn’ reviews ‘The Fountain’, ‘Arthur and the Invisibles’, ‘Zoom’, ‘Eragon’, ‘Night at the Museum’, ‘Deja Vu’
  • Rick Kleffel reviews Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Sixty Days and Counting’, and interviews him briefly
  • Iain Emsley reviews Sergie Lukyanenko’s ‘The Day Watch’
  • Paul Raven reviews Ken MacLeod’s ‘The Execution Channel’
  • Stephanie Burgis reviews Naomi Novik’s ‘Temeraire: Black Powder War’
  • Graham Sleight reviews Robert J Sawyer’s ‘Rollback’
  • Juliet McKenna reviews Charlie Huston’s ‘No Dominion’
  • Paul Kincaid reviews George Mann’s ‘Solaris Book of New Science Fiction’
  • Sarah Ash reviews Manga for ‘grown-ups’
  • David Mathew reviews ‘The Collected Ed Gorman’ from PS Publishing
  • Kevin Stone reviews Charles Stross’ ‘Glasshouse’

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