Interzone Number 174, December 2001

Da Capo. Christopher Evans.

An interesting story from an author with whom I am not familiar, and who appears to have been away from writing for a few years.

The story starts well, and fairly innovative in its description of a young man employed in the entertainment sector of the rapidly ageing population. Marcus is employed by a major corporation to produce ‘new’ songs and films/music vids by long-gone artists – using digital techniques and a thorough understanding of the prevalent culture of the time, he and others produce the material which those with a nostalgic bent lap up.

His girlfriend has just mysteriously split up with him, and in an attempt to cheer him up a friend takes him to a very select boutique, where it appears that the humanoid models used for domestic and ‘other’ household chores have been leapt over technology-wise by a capability of imprinting ones mind onto that of another person and vicariously living through them for a period of time. Marcus is not keen on the idea of time-sharing in someone’s head and politely declines. The story then moves on rapidly, with Marcus being summoned to the Mongtomgery C. Burns-like head of the Cole Corporation, who in leaving a copy of Ira Levin’s ‘Boys from Brazil’ rather lets the plot cat out of the bag.

Yup, the reason for Marcus’ girlfriend’s sudden departure is revealed – they are clone-sibs, and clones of the Big Cheese. The final section of the story has little place to go once these bombshells are dropped, and rather meanders to a fairly disappointing ending. To my mind there a several good ideas in the story, a couple of well-worn plot elements, and the story as a whole doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Nucleon. David D. Levine.

The winner of the latest James White Award, and, unlike last year’s story, not obviously a first published story.

The story is short, and simple, and quite elegant, although it feels just a tad derivative – almost Bradburyesque, not that that is necessarily a bad thing. A junk yard looked after by the ageing Mr Tatyrczinski manages to throw up some quite peculiar objects just when the need for them is urgent, and these needful things appear in places where those looking would swear they had looked before.

There is a handing over of the responsbility for the junkyard once Mr Tatyrczinski dies, and it is clear than some strange powers are at work.

The Puzzle. Zoran Zivkovic.

A slightly more engaging and obtuse story from the IZ regular. Mr. Adam has retired, and to fill up the days he has a very set routine of Things To Do. Verging on autistic behaviour, his daily routines include visiting the zoo, cooking, and reading. His short spell of reading SF does not impress him, particularly with reference to First Contact. But whilst in his frenzied period of painting the music of (perhaps) the spheres calls to him and he paints strange, strange canvases. Is there a message encoded with the paintings?

Watch Me When I Sleep. Jean-Claude Dunyach.

French author Dunyach appeared twice in IZ in 2000, one story a Professor Challenger pastiche, and ‘All Roads Lead To Heaven’ which had an interesting alien challenge facing humanity.

This is quite different – a dark fairy-tale, as it were. Not entirely sure if it is what is called ‘Dark Fantasy’ as I never read the stuff!

A young boy swallows a fairy whilst sleeping, and his family call out the local blacksmith to use the fairly crude technology at their disposal to cage his mouth and teeth to prevent the fairy escaping. In due course the metal cage is removed from his mouth to capture the fairy…

An intriguing glimpse into a different world.

Real Man. Tony Ballantyne.

Ballantyne is another regular IZ author, and his recent stories have all been of a high standard. Here he provides another unsettling near future vision of a post-First Contact in which young teenage boys are ‘cared for’ by powerful aliens, who protect them from attacks by other aliens.

Exactly why is revealed only at the end. A good read.

Other Stuff

  • David Langford’s Ansible Link
  • David Zindell is interviewed by Nick Gevers
  • Nick Lowe reviews AI: Artificial Intelligence
  • Gene Wolfe gives a very personal ‘review’ of the Lord of the Rings and its impact on him when first he read it
  • Gary Westfahl ponders September 11th
  • Tim Robins ponders September 11th
  • John Clute reviews Alastair Reynolds ‘Chasm City’ (memo to self: must read that one day soon) and Mareen F McHugh’s ‘Nekropolis’, and Kelly Links anthology ‘Stranger Things Happen’ (memo to self: must win lottery, retire and spend all my time reading)
  • Nigel Brown review ‘ambitious new magazine’ ‘Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature’

Conclusion.

A good issue. Nothing quite hitting the heights, but do bear in mind I do judge by the highest of standards!

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