Interzone #214 February 2008

Jason Stoddard. Far Horizon.

Stoddard continues his run of strong stories in Interzone, in this lengthy and ambitious story. It follows Alex Farrel’s determination to see beyond the few decades left to him. He is not content with having untold wealth and fame through his hi-tech nano invention – he wants to know what lies beyond humanity in the centuries, in the millenia to come.

He is driven to get beyond where humanity is at in the near-future setting – one which starts in a nightclub in which a genmod creature is paraded. That creature is some small part human, the major part a genmod chimeria, glorious in its beauty, and with a pair of angel’s wings. Alex uses his wealth to rescue the creature, and one track of the story is his attempt to raise the creature to a high level of humanity. We see the bird-like perspective of the chimera as she tries to make sense of her enivronment.

Against a background of big corporation control of society, a feature of Stoddard’s fiction to date, Alex manouvers his business empire to a point where he can establish a clandestine route for himself to achieve his grand design – ever the loner, he is able to depart in suspended animation in a small spaceship, whose nanobots are able to repair any damage done in the many centuries on which the parabolic journey takes. His destination is Venus, one in which his nanobots have been undertaking their own clandestine terraforming mission under its clouds.

Having left behind his chimeric angel, and the woman who he came the closest to loving, some thousands of year back, he is initially very alone on both the terraformed Venus, and Earth, which has returned to a state of beauty which no trace of humanity. However, both have a role to play in his future, and that of humanity.

It’s a big step up for Stoddard, and an extremely strong piece for Interzone to start 2008 with.

Jennifer Linnae. Pseudo Tokyo.

A young man finds that his tourist trip to Tokyo takes him much further than he anticipated : rather than taking the Jump and ending up in the Tokyo ofour world, he ends up in another. The story follows him as he tries to make sense of the very strange citizens in the city, until he finds a way to control his own destiny.

The story is very redolent of Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ in its oriental setting populated by some very strange semi-ethereal creatures. and slightly fails to hit the mark because of this : throughout it feels like we are having relayed a very visual experience where the focus has been on what the story looks like, rather than the narrative.

Christopher Priest. The Trace of Him.

A very short, but impressive piece of writing, set in the author’s ‘Dream Archipelago’ sequence. I say a piece of writing, as, rather than being a story, we have an expertly handled mood piece, in which a woman revisits the room in which she spend a last romantic night, some decades past, with a now dead lover. There’s a minor sfnal element towards the end in which she finds a more palpable contact with the man.

Jennifer Harwood-Smith. The Faces of My Friends.

I was initially worried when starting this story – putting a novice writer’s first published story straight after a very accomplised piece by a long-standing author seemd a little unfair. Fortunately, Harwood-Smith, does not suffer too badly in comparison. She uses diary entries to relay the final days of a young woman who has been suffering, with her friends, brutal and indeed, terminal, discrimination at the hands of the community at large. Forced to wear masks and cloaks to cover themselves, and not to speak in public, as the diary entries progress, and the friends become victims of the community and the state, we gradually realise just why this small group of people are being victimised – they are artists.

Mercurio D. Rivera. The Scent of Their Arrival.

A second strong SF story. On an alien planet, a race of creatures which use scent rather than speech, to communicate, are attempting to unravel the mysterous transmissions from an orbiting alien spaceship. It has been in orbit for some time, but has made not attempt to land and contact them, and has merely been transmitting a message. The orbiting spaceship is of course of human origin, and we find in the transcriptions of the messages, that humanity has come to a horrific end.

As the messages progress, the nature of our demise becomes clear – an invading, vampiric race has ravaged Earth. This story is embedded, hiddeen, in the official message being transmitted, and having decoded the official message, one in which the vampires are requesting permission to land (something which they evidently need in order to justify their actions), it is going to be their cost that the onplanet aliens make their invitation before decoding the hidden message warning them against this.

It’s a page-turner, with Rivera creating a more interesting alien race than is often the case.

Other content

  • Iain M. Banks interviewed by Paul Raven
  • Nick Lowe reviews ‘Beowulf’, ‘Stardust’, ‘The Dark is Rising’, ‘The Nines’, and ‘Planet Terror’
  • Tony Lee reviews a number of DVD releases
  • John Clute reviews Sarah Hall’s ‘The Carhullan Army’, Jack McDevitt’s ‘Cauldron’, Michael Chabon’s ‘Gentlemen of the Road’
  • The following books are variously reviewed : Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dandelion Wine’, ‘Tesseracts Eleven’, Robert Charles Wilson’s ‘Darwinia’, ‘The Nail and the Oracle: the Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon Volume XI’, Jeff Somers’ ‘The Electric Church’, Michael Moorcock’s ‘The Metatemporal Detective’, Charles Stross’ ‘The Halting State’, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant’s ‘The Best of Lady Churcill’s Rosebud Wristlet’
  • Sarah Ash reviews some manga

Conclusion.

A very strong start to 2008 for Interzone.

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