Tim Lees. Unknown Cities of America.
Neat introductory illustration by Richard Wagner, setting the scene and the tone for a shortish story, a road trip, but with the destination unknown/not achievable. A young man picks up a young woman running away from a commune, free love etc., and she is trying to get away but fatalistic about her ability to do that, or indeed her real desire to do so.
Set against the America of motorways, motels, anonymous small towns, and that stuff that you catch out of the corner of your eye but it’s not there when you turn around. Lees captures the feel mighty fine, the dust, the miles on the tarmac, and the inexorable pursuer, and the always searching for something just out of reach.
Jason Sanford. Paprika.
An elegant story by Sanford, inspired, it says by one Satoshi Kon, noted Japanese anime animator. My own anime knowledge goes no further than Hayao Miyazaki, but that’s enough to appreciate the visual feel that Sanford succeeds in creating.
Sanford has created a far-future Earth, with only a small number of people alive – all old, all long-lived, but not immortal. Satoshi is one such, a toy-maker, who specialises in making toys based on memories drawn from his fellow humans through Paprika, his powerful ‘time-angel’. When humans die, it these time-angels whom they upload themselves for that true immortality.
The story follows the final centuries of Satoshi’s life, and Paprika’s attempts to protect him, as the number of humans left alive dwindles. Ages pass, humanity does indeed pass into history, but Paprika is able herself to last long enough to see the future of Earth. It’s well down, and I’m sure in years to come I’ll probably mis-remember this as a film I’ve seen, rather than a story I’ve read!
Lavie Tidhar. Filaments.
Another short installment in Tidhar’s ‘Central Station’ series, this time featuring robo-priest R. Brother Patch-It, who is delivering a sermon to his small congregation, pondering the nature of reality, and the consensus needed to create it.
There are cameos from Mama Jones, Kranki and Boris Chong, and a little much information about the mechanics of the Jewish circumcision ritual.
The neatest touches ire the opening sentence of the robotic Lord’s Prayer “Our Maker who art in the zero-point field, hallowed by thy nine billion names..” and reference to Niven’s Louis Wu, nods to SF that Tidhar recently excelled in a recent Analog story.
Claire Humphrey. Haunts.
Fantasy with a female lead, Alekra, a retired duellist who we see at the opening of the story having a finger removed – not through injury, but through choice. There’s the usual medieval fantasy setting, but she’s a well-drawn character, and the nature of the duelling, and the reason behind the finger removal, and the haunts of the title, give the story strength.
John Shirley. The Kindest Man in Stormland.
Stormland being the coast of the US a couple of decades hence, where climate change has created a near-permanent storm front, which has devastated the coast and Charleston in particular.
Webb is heading into the ruined city, storms crashing all around, searching for a serial killer. Shirley creates a series of believable characters, all described visually, and the setting itself comes across strongly, as Shirley pokes into the corners of society that ruination has created. There’s a twist in the tale at the end, in a story that resonated as I’m 7/8ths the way through True Detective at the moment.
Sarah Brooks. Trans-Siberia : an account of a journey.
The seven day journey from Beijing to Moscow can only be travelled by train, and it goes through some very strange country, and it is said that none who make the journey come through without being changed…
A touch of the eldritch horrors.
Six stories, all of them good ones.
More reviews of Interzone here.