Interzone #243, Nov/Dec 2012.

The second in the new-format Interzone, with only a few minor tweaks to the design. The front page gives a namecheck to the cover artist, by dint of finding space through the cunning reduction of the text ‘Still Only £3.95′ to the more concise ‘£4.99′. (Still good value for money!)

Jon Wallace. Moon Drome.

High stakes chariot-type racing in spaceships around the moons of a planet which humanity’s attackers (The Fear) are based. The charioteers are bondsmen, and the comparison to Roman times is made very (unnecessarily) clear by dint of the Roman names of the characters – Scorpus the charioteer and Governor Flavio Maxim the (evil) slave owner.

The story follows Scorpus as he approaches the race through which he may achieve his freedom, interspersed with backstory about the the evil Flavio in previous years. Other significant characters are the AI of the racing spaceship with whom Scorpus has a well established relationship, and Lucas, the slave wrangler.

The story builds up to a climax with the two primary characters playing a lesser role in the final denouement than the two secondary characters. It’s a story that has echoes of films and TV shows, and doesn’t really do anything original. The missed opportunity is having Scorpus having had erased the memory of his wife, jettisoned into space by Flavio. That should have been a burning, but suppressed driving force behind Scorpus, that leads him throughout the story to make the final decision about his and Flavio’s fate and wreak his revenge.

All in all, the story feels more like a storified version of an episode of an SF tv series

Chen Qiufan. The Flower of Shazui

Translated by Ken Liu and good to have that enabling us to read a story that would otherwise have been kept from us.

The story works well – presented it without details of the author, you’d almost think it was a William Gibson 1980s cyberpunk thriller.

Set in a part of China that has rapidly moved from rural to industrial, the dense urban setting, with inhabitants of skyscrapers so closely packed together than residents in one tower block can almost shake hands through their windows with their neighbours in the building next door, old sits side by side with new, so that protagonist runs a medicine shop, but also offers hi-tech services on account of his skills from his previous job.

There’s a Shaman living nearby, a high-class prostitute with a hi-tech tramp stamp that denotes her husband/pimp, and the vicious husband/pimp himself, and the hi-tech comes to play…

Caroline M. Yoachim. The Philosophy of Ships.

The philosophy of ships being the question : if a ship has its planking replaced plank by plank over a period of years, when does it become a new ship? Yoachim applies this to humanity – once we have ultimate control of the biological self, and can engage and share/merge with others in virtual space, what is it that is the essence of humanity.

The story follows a fatal ski-ing trip on Earth by two advanced humans – or, at least, fatal to the corporeal existence of the native Earthwoman who has the misfortune to get in the way of the skiers. We follow the process of saving the victim through several perspectives and shared perspectives. And in the denouement, a fairly major application of the central conundrum is asked.

Jason Sanford. Mirrorblink.

A singular setting from Sanford, an Earth post-something, with humanity in small enclaves under a sun that burns. Young Ein travels between villages and as we follow her she, and we, find out more about what is happening, and why, as a much, much bigger picture is revealed.

Jason Sanford. Mirrorblink.

A singular setting from Sanford, an Earth post-something, with humanity in small enclaves under a sun that burns. Young Ein travels between villages and as we follow her she, and we, find out more about what is happening, and why, as a much, much bigger picture is revealed.

Conclusion.

Good, but not great.

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