Interzone #235 Jul/Aug 2011

Matthew Cook. Insha’Allah.

In the skies above the arid land of Afghanistan/Pakistan, humanity is at war with the E’k. Whilst that aeronautic combat takes place in the cloudless skies, on the ground below, the black turbanned mullahs hold sway, giving women little choice in their lives, making for a different kind of oppression and resistance.

Shaomi prepares the bodies of her dead countrywomen for burial – it is god’s will. When a female human, born not of this Earth, is brought to her house, badly injured, she is willing to risk all to treat her.

A different perspective for an alien invasion story, making for an interesting read.

Mercurio D. Rivera. For Love’s Delirium haunts the Fractured Mind.

A further story in the ‘Wergen’ series, which started with ‘Longing for Langana’ back in 2006.

The story is another with a Wergen viewpoint, with Joriander a live-in servant cum nanny in a human household. He is in thrall to his mistress and his young master, and clearly there is something amiss – and we find out when he has revealed to him that there is subtle infamy at work – the Wergen, although technologically far superior, are evidently under biochemical influences, binding them to humans and blinding them to the human’s real intent.

The story fills in background to the Langana setting, the Wergen psyche and society, and effectively takes the story sequence a step forward.

Jon Wallace. The Walrus and the Icebreaker.

Tense, near-future thriller set in the Arctic. With the economy pretty much gone to pot, old political rivalries reassert themselves, and two nations are hunting amongst the icefloes for oil – armed to the teeth.

A scientist on one vessel has a secret weapon – a walrus trained to deliver a deadly suicide attack on the enemy. However, finding the opportunity is a problem and the flotilla of icebreakers, military support and other vessels are taking a lot of losses from the enemy. Morale is low, there is mutiny in the air. The desperation is palpable as the tension builds…

Gareth L. Powell. Eleven Minutes.

Eleven minutes refers to the length of time it takes the protagonists to send a command from NASA JPL to a Mars Rover to take a photograph, and to receive back the photograph. It’s quite a short story, with the interplay between the two scientists being a high point, as the story telegraphs its intention by having the pair discuss alternate realities. And, sure enough, photograph evidence comes back that is inconsistent with our universe.

I found it quite reminiscent of a series of stories by Stephen Baxter a while, and a number of other stories that came out around the same time, as the SF community looked back in anger/sadness at where humanity’s exploration of space was going/no longer going. If you haven’t read any of those, you’ll get much more enjoyment out of this contribution to fairly well-trodden regolith.

Al Robertson. Of Dawn.

A lengthy story for Interzone, and one that is well-wrought albeit more towards the weird than I prefer to read.

Robertson very effectively gets into the head of a grieving sister, whose brother has been recently killed in action, and who struggles to comprehend his loss. The story uses music and poetry to great effect, drawing on the Greek myth of Marsyas, flayed by Apollo (link), and the raw red skin of the figure haunting her dreams is quite vivid.

You could get fuller value from the story by heading over to Robertson’s website which gives some musical clips relevant to the story.

The story has an emotional intensity and feel to it that made me ponder as I made my way through it, as to whether Al was of the female or the male persuasion, as the story ‘felt’ like it had been written by a women (inasmuch as it’s possible to make any kind of attempt at guessing an author’s gender). But sure enough, Al is a he, and he’s a vocalist in a ‘drone metal’ band, which I believe means he’s a big lad, wears black, and sports a goatee. Or is that ‘nu metal’? I don’t know, kids today and their music. Well, Robertson is a poet as well, so he’ll be familiar with the words of the poet : ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’.

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