A third strong story from Allen to appear in Interzone.
It features four female characters (one absent) and the relationships between them. Anita is the focal point, brought up by her grandmother after her mother was killed on the launchpad of a spaceship; Rachel, her lover, who has also decided to become a spacepilot, which requires genetic modification, and leaving a lot behind; Anita’s grandmother; and Anita’s long-dead mother.
The relationships between the four are what the story pivots around – nothing happens beyond Rachel taking her leave – and the characterisation, and the description of the rural SE England settings, the references to newly mown grass and meadows, anchor the story. It’s an excellent story, and I’d pick it out as a potential for a year’s best inclusion(Hartwell/Cramer or Dozois) next year.
The only minor quibble is that the story goes on past the obvious ending. The final parting of Anita and Rachel sees Anita hand over to Rachel the dodo necklace that was her mothers, and which has featured in the story, getting that treasured possession of her mothers into space. Rachel answers that not only will she be taking part of Anita’s mother, but “I’ll be taking you both”. That was a perfect ending, but for some reason a few more paragraphs or provided in which, unnecessarily, Anita finds a DVD of a film that had inspired Rachel (admittedly referred to earlier in the story), but we get a run through of the cast and the roles they play, and a critique of their performances. It introduces the cabin boy who was clearly an inspiration to Rachel, but is a diversion from the tight-knit female foursome of the story.