Matthew Cook. The Shoe Factory. (Interzone #231, Nov/Dec 2010).

Having just read a fairly average Jan 2011 issue of Asimovs, this issue of Interzone starts out with a much stronger story than any in its august companion, from an author new to me.

Cook vividly, sensually portrays a relationship between a young Chinese man and his girlfriend, ekeing out a scavenging existence in a Chinese city. Things have got bad recently, with jobs moving on to cheaper places – Somalia, Haiti, Mississippi (a nice touch!). But something strange is amiss, as he is shifting between the abandoned shoe factory to other places – to finding himself in space, to a childhood accident in water – and he knows what is about to happen. The story kicks in half way through when we begin to realise what is happening, and it’s a strong sfnal premise : his spaceship is going to explode, taking him with it, and his only chance to survive, in any shape or form, is to beam his stored memories out into space. And what we have been following have been those non-linear memories as those that have received his beamed message are working on restoring him.

It’s a touching story, the relationship with his now-dead lover having emotional resonance, and with some stylistic touched, such as the scary force behind his lover’s avatar – ‘Darkness moves with her, flapping and churning like a windblown cloak’.

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