Interzone #244 Jan-Feb 2013

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Lavie Tidhar. The Book Seller.

Another installment in Tidhar’s excellent ‘Central Station’ story sequence. Truth be told I read it a couple of months ago and enjoyed it, but somehow didn’t review it, and was faced with the option of rereading it in order to provide more than just a sentence, or providing just a sentence. So, the story features Carmel, the strigoi, and Achimwene, a bookseller, as links between characters from previous stories are drawn together.

Guy Haley. iRobot.

The artwork for this story is a two-page spread in which Jim Burns paints a picture of wind-blown desert with a dessicated human corpse and a humanoid robot buried in the sand, leaving the viewer to imagine the events that led to this scene. Taking less space than the artwork, Haley paints a picture, with words, of a wind-blown desert with a dessicated human corpse and a humanoid robot buried in the sand, leaving the reader to imagine the events that led to this scene.

Helen Jackson. Build Guide.

The first line of the story fazed me : “The new apprentice was a slight, childish figure, maybe 150cm tall and massing about 50kilos.” Whilst the latter measurement was easy for me to work out (half my size!) the former had me struggling converting cm to feet and inches. Surely the sentence could have done without the stats, as it works quite happily without it and avoids a percentage of the reading audience doing the math rather than engaging with the story!

But that’s the only quibble, as it is a neat story that starts with a skinny teenager joining a tight-knit, orbit-hardened and cynical work crew. She’s feisty, and this orbit-hardened and cynical reader thought he knew the trajectory of the story, but nyer nyer nyer on me, Jackson takes the story on a slightly different path.

George Zebrowski. The Genoa Passage.

Almost 30 years since Zebrowski’s ‘The Eichmann Variations’ was a Nebula Finalist, Zebrowski provides another variation on the theme, against postulating multiple Eichmanns – this time with each being gunned down by victims or relatives of victims of the Holocaust. The physics of this are not addressed, as it is again the moral aspect – does the protagonist, somewhat removed from a direct connection to the Holocaust, feel it morally acceptable to pull a trigger?

It’s a cold, clinical, dispassionate consideration of the issue.

Jim Hawkins. Sky Leap – Earth Flame.

Hawkins’ ‘Digital Rites’ from Interzone #237 was chosen by no less than Gardner Dozois for his Year’s Best for 2011, which was a surprise to me as it didn’t engage me – “The filmic writing style didn’t really work for me – I’d much rather read a narrative than a form of screenplay” I said in my review.

And my response to this story was very much the same. Hawkins’ leaps straight into the plot, with no attempt to get the ready to engage or empathise the protagonists, there’s some wooden dialogue and very two-dimensional characters. And, as with the earlier story, it just reads like a quickly written novelisation of an average TV drama. Plenty of description of what things look like, how they move – and at one point the reader is invited to imaging a spaceship : “Take a beer can and add a cone to one end a half a transparent ball to the other…” etc.

Suffice to say, after a few pages I decided that enough was enough.

A couple of years ago, a previous story by Hawkins I praised as “One of the strongest stories in IZ over recent issues, and one I can see being atop the Readers’ Poll for 2010”, with some ‘vibrant characters’ – review here – which is a bit of a conundrum!

Tracie Welser. A Flag Still Flies Over Sabor City.

Short vignette from a new author to me. In a repressive, totalitarian regime, a group of young people whose opportunity for revolt during the day is limited to a turned up collar, or slightly longer hair, gather during the night to party, and to plot.

As with her previous story in Interzone (review here) Welser doesn’t provide any depth to her characters, and we find out something major about protagonist Mikhail towards the end of the story, but whilst the setting is described well, there isn’t any real depth in the story. Hopefully this will come as Welser gains more experience.

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