Interzone #246 – A Review


interzone #246Interzone time again! Emerging form a sea of top quality science-fiction, I slump over to the blog to tap out my review, fingers humming with words ingested and brain rolling with ideas masticated.

Yes, I realise that I missed out #245 in my mission to promote what is (in this blogger’s humble opinion) the finest print SF magazine currently active, but I’m going to chalk that one up to the stresses and distractions of the big move.

But I’m back now, so let’s get to work reviewing!

  • The lead story is Steven J. Dines’ “The Machinehouse Worker’s Song”, a tale of a dystopian workhouse for the poor or possibly criminal. Out of a cast of hundreds, only two workers now remain, and there are no contact with the outside world. Dines sketches the story out in pieces, filtered through the skewed viewpoints of its two characters, and the pay off in the end is more about isolation and institutionalisation than the mystery of the backdrop.
  • “Triolet” by Jess Hyslop was a beautiful story. So much so that it has taken more attempts than it should have done to write this little summary. Hyslop’s world features poems as plants, which recite their lyrics at personal touch, given out by a kindly old woman to those for whom they are meant. It is a touching story of how love changes over time, and how age changes our perspective on things.
  • Next is “Sentry Duty” by Nigel Brown. There’s something intoxicating, I think, about stories written from an alien perspective. Here we see a world where nomadism is the mark of intelligence, and duty paramount. It evolves through the relationship between one alien and a human, as it slinks towards a conclusion satisfying, although not exactly surprising.
  • I do have a soft spot for short short stories like Aliette de Bodard’s “The Angel at the Heart of the Rain”. It feels like an exhalation on a cold day, a gentle blossoming of mixed emotions of the immigrant, the refugee, struggling to set down roots in a new place. It is strangely moving, and its beautiful imagery stuck with me long after the final word had died away.
  • When I reviewed #243, I highlighted Priya Sharma’s story as one of the best, and called her “one to look out for“. “Thesea and Astaurius” is, I think, the third of her stories that I’ve read, and again it steals the show. I was going to compare Sharma’s writing to sculpture, but actually I think it’s more akin to weaving. She joins threads of Greek mythology and bold ideas to retell the myth of the minotaur in an engaging and meaningful way. Beautifully told, with solid and penetrative messages.
  • I almost feel that it wouldn’t be Interzone without Lavie Tidhar. “The Core” is a sequel to his Central Station story “The Book Seller”, picking up with the pulp fiction enthusiast Achimwene and his data-vampire lover Carmel. I feel, reading these stories, that Tidhar is systematically chipping away at his Central Station world, giving us more and more by pieces. He’s a very gifted writer, but I can’t help but feel I might prefer to read them collected together, in an anthology collection perhaps.
  • “Cat World” by Georgina Bruce is another deeply strange one. A pair of homeless and orphaned children disappear into a fantasy world by way of chewing gum, to escape the bleakness and poverty of their lives. Whilst I enjoyed “Cat World” I found it hard to peg down. Dark and unpleasant truths and realities are hinted at with a childlike naivety, and even the revelation is clothed in the innocence of youth.
  • Whilst that’s it for the stories in the body, #246 “You First Meet the Devil at a Church Fete” by Shannon Fey also features. As the 2012 winner of the James White Award, it has a certain novel sheen about it, and the present-tense second-person style has a razor edge to it. It follows the tragic life of Stuart Sutcliffe — one time member of the Beatles — and his relationship with possibility, happiness and the devil. Highly recommended, and a very worthy winner of the award.

So that’s it for another two months. Interzone always seems to deliver the freshest new fiction, and there are always new ideas within it for me to feast my mind upon. I must also mention that in addition to the stories, there are the usual reviews of TV, film and books (including a review of James Smythe’s novel “The Explorer”, written by myself), and an interview with Lauren Buekes.

And all of it is well worth the £4.99 cover price.

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