It’s that time again. Another issue of Interzone, having landed on my doormat, has been consumed alonside a variety of beverages, digested, and thoroughly enjoyed. And now it falls to me to relate my opinions on its contents to you, dear readers.
As on previous occasions, I will be keeping my reviewer’s gaze levelled at the fiction content, with an additional reason this time around — as (both) my regulars will know, I have recently joined the esteemed ranks of the Interzone review team. So, as well as it being confusingly self-referential to review reviews, it would be potentially disrespectful to review my colleague’s reviews, and downright weird to review my own.
- “The Book Seller” by Lavie Tidhar. It hardly seems to be a real Interzone these days without a Tidhar story, so it’s fitting to open the issue with it. Tidhar is one of the best writers working in the genre today, and ”The Book Seller” is excellently exemplary of that. With a flare for odd characters and quirky prose, he tells the story of a bibliophile in a VR world, bound up in the worlds of his stories as he helps a woman dangerous to everyone but him try to solve her own mystery. It’s fun, thoughtful and really rather sweet.
- “Build Guide” by Helen Jackson takes us to a near-future orbital construction site, and deals with themes of corruption vs. honesty, safety vs the quick buck, and a host of issues with rather uncomfortable present-day parallels. In terms of SF as social commentary, it’s bang on the money. The sort of thing which, really, more people should be reading.
- “The Genoa Passage” by George Zebrowski was something of an odd one. I could have seen it being written by Lavie Tidhar, actually. A strange little story, about an escape passage used by Nazis fleeing after the end of the Second World War — except alternate versions are repeating their flight over and over. It’s a story centred around revenge, and what it really means and gains. It’s every bit as dark and haunting as it should be, and written with an abstract precision which is hard to find, and harder to do.
- “iRobot” by Guy Haley is one of the best stories I’ve read in a very, very long time. And if that seems like hyperbole, it deserves every word. A very short piece, it is a simple but rich description of a ruined city in a dead world, where a slowly dying robot futily acts out its protocols. It reminded me of Percy Shelley’s poem “Ozymandius”. It was creepingly beautiful, at the same time as being desperately sad, and said so much with so few words. I wish I could write as well as Guy Haley does here.
- “Sky Leap — Earth Flame” by Jim Hawkins is the longest piece in the magazine, though it took a little while to get going. Two “siblings” are mentally paired with an artificial brain in a high-stakes scientific mission. It blends themes of coming-of-age with ideas of purpose in a meaningless universe — with excellently realised characters, both human and otherwise.
- “A Flag Still Flies Over Sabor City” by Tracie Welser closes the short stories of issue #244, and is probably the most abstract of the lot. A manual worker in an oppressively authoritarian world drifts in and out of reality with the aid of drugs and what seems like PTSD. What the reader gets is a slightly surreal comment on humanity, and what it bravery really means.
I feel a little self-conscious when I give a good verdict to all of the stories in an issue, but these really all deserve it. There was not one here which I did not enjoy, and not one which I would not heartily recommend. Guy Haley’s story in particular blew me away. It is definitely one of the truest examples of the short story as art form that I can remember reading.