Stories by Tim Lees, Aliette de Bodard, Lavie Tidhar, Patrick Samphire, Nina Allan.
Tim Lees. Love and War.
All is fair in love and war. Earth has been invaded (or has it?) by creatures from Earth X. A military regime has taken control in Britain, with previously unremarkable scientists now holding power in the Party apparatus. The story is told from the perspective of a young woman, who is desperate enough to secure papers to keep her in the country to act as a very personal PA to one such scientist.
We follow her relationship with him, as more is revealed about the nature of the incursion, and the creatures that may be threatening us. The response to the threat is is that of the iron fist, and the threat is dealt with. But having rid the world of that threat, what role is there for the regime…
A good political and psychological take on the alien incursion meme. Complements quite nicely the SF film ‘Monsters’ which I saw and enjoyed this weekend (and which I can recommend) which similarly used the aftermath of an alien ‘invasion’ to explore a relationshipo.
Aliette de Bodard. Age of Miracles, Age of Wonders.
The Gods of the Aztecs have fallen, replaced by an altogether more earthbound regime of metal and cogs. And those gods who remain are being scourged. We follow Coztic as he is paraded across villages, ritually executed, only to be resurrected for the ritual to be repeated – a very public demonstration to the masses that the old ways are dead.
There are a variety of perspectives – the god, the Hierarch who carries out the scourge, the boy, the mother – all of whom have a story to tell. And finally, another perspective.
Lavie Tidhar. The Insurance Agent.
Tidhar espouses an ‘Alien Theory of Spiritual Beings’ which posits that figures of extraordinary spiritual power who have changed history, have been alien. (I’m hoping he has created this theory – I don’t want to google and find out that it really exists!)
Set on an island near Borneo, there’s a striking visual image to start the story, with a bar that had 3D-holo entertainment in the shape of fights between historial figures (Nixon v Reagan), but WWE is still going strong (as is the nth-generation of The Undertaker). Called in to protect on the of growing numbers of Spiritual Entities, the Insurance Agent in question finds himself deep in the woods, alone with her, and in deep doo-doo, as forces beyond his ken use him as a puppet in a display of love and war.
An imaginative piece.
Patrick Samphire. Camelot.
A young man is on a quest to find his fallen brother – a pilot shot down over France in the Second World War.
Except it’s not that simple, as the war has been over several decades, and the brother has shown no signs of ageing. As he makes his way through the tourist ruins of France in a clapped out Volvo estate he is embraced by a drop dead gorgeous girl, who offers him a perspective on his situation. His brother is not the only one to have fallen from the sky…
Little is explained, but to compensate, the short relationship between the two is a vivid physical one.
Nina Allan. The Upstairs Window.
A near-future dystopian London with a repressive government, and population happy to watch executions of those who have transgressed the new conservatism. A series of relationships put in perspective the impact of the changes, as an artist has to flee to the East.
It took me more than a few seconds to realise that there weren’t two pages stuck together and the story had ended. It captures the feeling of constraint and repression and danger, and the streets of central London, but ‘Children of Men’ it ain’t.
No real standout stories in this issue.