Interzone #227 Mar-Apr 2010

e-Edition on the iPad rEviewed..

Jon Ingold. The History of Poly-V.
Ingold is an author new to me – you can find out more about him here.

It’s an impressive story for a first appearance at this level. A small team of scientists are working on a drug which has an impact on memory – vividly bringing back details of long-ago events. The narrative is through the perspective of the lead scientist, and as he details the work on the drug, it getting to market, and moving on to more advanced versions of the drugs. Interspersed with this are the details of the memories which the drugs he takes as part of the testing bring back to him. And suddenly what start as evident inconsistencies in memories become something much bigger. Much bigger. Ingold handles the characterisation well, and doesn’t overdo it, letting the story slowly and subtly ratchet up the tension.

Mercurio D. Rivera. Dance of the Kawkawroons.
Two humans manage to land on a planet under quarantine, to steal from the supposedly protected avian race. We get the alien perspective on their meeting, as well as the human, as it at first offers, then has taken away brutally, it’s eggs. The eggs contain a chemical that is used to create the drug Inspiration, that humanity is increasingly using to make new breaththroughs. However, it’s not quite that simple… A short, clever piece.

Jim Hawkins. Chimbwi.
Ecological, political and societal upheavel has left Europe and the USA devastated. However, Africa is a continent reborn, cheap energy at their fingertips.

A physicist has fled England, leaving desperate memories behind, a refugee with little hope. However, his skills are recognised, and he has the opportunity to become part of the land which is now his home, but only if he can confront that land, and its dangers, in a trial – naked save for a couple of hand-crafted weapons, he must face his fears and the creatures of the plains.

The background, and backstory are the highpoints of the story, the climax in which he takes on the tribal challenge to become one with the people with whom he now lives (and in which he is aided by a laser-toting colleague) doesn’t quite do justice to that which has gone before.

Nina Allen. Flying in the Face of God.

A third strong story from Allen to appear in Interzone.

It features four female characters (one absent) and the relationships between them. Anita is the focal point, brought up by her grandmother after her mother was killed on the launchpad of a spaceship; Rachel, her lover, who has also decided to become a spacepilot, which requires genetic modification, and leaving a lot behind; Anita’s grandmother; and Anita’s long-dead mother.

The relationships between the four are what the story pivots around – nothing happens beyond Rachel taking her leave – and the characterisation, and the description of the rural SE England settings, the references to newly mown grass and meadows, anchor the story. It’s an excellent story, and I’d pick it out as a potential for a year’s best inclusion(Hartwell/Cramer or Dozois) next year.

The only minor quibble is that the story goes on past the obvious ending. The final parting of Anita and Rachel sees Anita hand over to Rachel the dodo necklace that was her mothers, and which has featured in the story, getting that treasured possession of her mothers into space. Rachel answers that not only will she be taking part of Anita’s mother, but “I’ll be taking you both”. That was a perfect ending, but for some reason a few more paragraphs or provided in which, unnecessarily, Anita finds a DVD of a film that had inspired Rachel (admittedly referred to earlier in the story), but we get a run through of the cast and the roles they play, and a critique of their performances. It introduces the cabin boy who was clearly an inspiration to Rachel, but is a diversion from the tight-knit female foursome of the story.

Chris Beckett. Johnny’s New Job.

Social work academic Beckett’s 23rd story for Interzone, and as before he draws on his professional knowledge, this time positing a near-future dystopic nightmare of what it is to be a social worker.

A child death at the heart of this story – a young girl thrown to her death down a well by her evil father – Beckett making it as clear as possible as to where the guilt lies. But in his Daily Mail future, a media-driven anti-social worker sentiment has got us to the point where those deemed guilty of failing to protect the child face summary justice. Loom-operator Johnny is one driven to join the lynch party once the guilty social worker has been named, although he has a few qualms in the process.

However, with a neat twist in the tale, on his way home Johnny is press-ganged into government employment, as there has been a big problem in recruiting social workers, and that is to be his new career.

Steve Rasnic Tem. The Glare and the Glow.

A clever little story to end the issue, with a thoughtful, introverted, quotation-quoting narrator, who is amazed at the brightness of the new lightbulbs that he has bought. His long-suffering wife, less so.

Conclusion.

A strong issue.

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