Interzone #215 April 2008

Jamie Barras. The Endling.

Far future setting, with three different perspectives : Asha, some form of human exploring some form of watery setting; Wright, perhaps the last human, regrown by the Melzemi; and Called 83 In Honour Of Another Of That Name, a forest-dweller, about to repel invaders. The three strands are linked by one Elena Andalian.

There’s a lot in the story, with Barras putting in perhaps a bit too much for a short story – there’s enough in here for a novel. It has echoes of Baxter and Reynolds, but doesn’t quite live up to their high standards, requiring an ending in which all that has happened is explained.

Patrick Samphire. Dragonfly Summer.

From a story that is about as sfnal as it is possible to get, to one that is at the other end of the extreme. Many years on, a group of people who very close in their youth are invited back to the scene of those halcyon days by one of their number, and they look back on what they had, what they lost, and why they lost it.

Greg Egan. Crystal Nights.

Back to the SF. Huzzah! It’s Greg Egan, which is good. And it’s Egan and good form, which is even better news. He follows one driven scientist whose discovery of a means of creating computational power previously only dreamt of, enables him to explore the limits of just what can be created inside silicon. He creates powerful simulations, in which the building blocks of life are created, and in which he encourages his creations to develop sentience through setting environmental challenges.

The processing power enables him to develop sophisticated creatures quite rapdily, but this does require him to play god with those he creates, discarding those headed into evolutionary dead-ends. Fortunately, he is able to recognise the point at which those which he has created are sentient enough to feel sadness, and then it becomes more of a challenge, encouraging them to grow thorugh direct intervention.

As his creations develop apace it becomes clear that he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, although a nightmare unfolds as they are able to make the leap from creatuers living in a computer simulation to ones which can manipulate the world outside.

Top quality.

Joy Marchand. Holding Pattern.

A shorter piece in which an air hostess is only too aware of the deja vue she is feeling as the plane on which she is working is headed for a crash, yet again. The passengers are a mixed bunch, including one who may or may not be an alien. Can she manage to break out of this repeating loop? Can she manage to break out of this repeating loop?

Will McIntosh. Street Hero.

Follow-up to McIntosh’s well-received Soft Apocalypse. Society is struggling under the impact of designer viruses, and we follow one young man through whose eyes we see just how grim things have become. When he sees his old school teacher summarily executed, he wonders just what the future has in hold for him. Fortunately, and fortuitously, he is given a chance to make something of himself – when a fellow traveller is struck down with appendicitis, he is called upon to operate, with surgical advice being given to him over the telephone.

The Imitation Game. Rudy Rucker.

Alan Turing hounded by the forces of law and order on account of his homosexuality, finds a way to avoid to get the better of the long arm of the law, who have poisoned his greek lover. He is able to swop faces and identities with his murdered paramour, somewhat bizarrely baking identical faces for the pair of them, which are then aged and applied to the face of the other and absorbed, so that the dead body passes for him, and he can pass for his lover. A short story, and a bit of a head-scratcher – leaving this reviewer feeling that I’ve missed something important.

Other Stuff

  • David Langford’s ‘Ansible Link’
  • Andrew Hedgecock interviews one Mike Carey over six pages
  • various reviewers look back on the books of 2007
  • Nick Lowe reviews Cloverfield, Alien vs Predator: Requiem, The Water-Horse: Legen of the Deep, Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, The Golden Compass, I Am Legend (nb if you can, get to see the alternate ending which was filmed, which is far superior and much more in keeping with the novel than the one shown), Southland Tales
  • Tony Lee reviews DVDs : Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5: the Lost Tales, Millennium Crisis, Howard the Duck, Sayonara Jupiter, Family Guy : Blue Harvest

Conclusion.

Barras and Egan provide substantial SF to get ones teeth into, Egan showing how a master chef of words can put in just the right amount into a recipe, whereas Barras perhaps strives just a bit too hard and puts in a bit too much.

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