01/11/2008. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
bi-monthly magazine: UK publisher/editor address: Andy Cox, TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB6 2LB. Price: £ 3.75 (UK) $ 7.00(US). ISSN: 0264-3596.
check out website: www.ttapress.com
Having recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Chris Beckett's collection 'The Turing Test', I was very pleased to discover that 'Interzone #218' contains not one but three new Beckett stories. There's also an in-depth interview with him as well as an interview with Gareth L. Powell and the usual selection of reviews and columns to provide a diverse read.
With 'Poppyfields', Chris Beckett demonstrates again the knack he has of tying many of his stories together without them actually being sequels or even necessarily following in any logical order. The concept of 'shifters' who move between alternate universes appears in several of his stories and the character in this one also appears in the earlier story 'We Could Be Sisters', whose other main character also turns up in yet a different story. There are similar congruencies in his other two stories that I won't go into here. Beckett provides introductions to each story and it's much more interesting to discover them for yourself. The everyday setting and run of the mill characters in this tale highlight the extraordinary act of shifting without making it seem out of the ordinary. I don't how he does that, but it makes his stories extremely satisfying.
In his introduction to 'Greenland', Beckett notes that he felt he should write about global warming as it's such a big topic today. Ironically, being an environmental scientist and having heard far too much about it, I'm of the opposite opinion and shy away from the subject in my writing. Beckett doesn't ram the message down our throats, though, but creates a fascinating vision of a flooded, swampy Britain over-run by immigrants from the rest of the uninhabitable world. A wad of money and tickets to Greenland tempt one desperate man to volunteer for a medical experiment that could ultimately save humanity. The tale that unfolds is a personal and intimate account that makes use of these grand themes while focusing on how they affect that one individual.
Global ruination is again the background to Beckett's 'Rat Island' in which, through a series of photographs, an old man recounts his youth in the time before the Earth was ruined. Each picture brings a wealth of emotion and detail that transports you through time while avoiding any dramatic apocalyptic detail. Again, it's a very effective tale.
On a much lighter tone and yet still tragic in its own way, Daniel Akselrod and Lenny Royter give us 'IF' a story about Imaginary Friends. Implanted in children, the cuddly creature refuse to leave when the implants are removed. This leads to some entertaining badinage between the host and his giant furry camel as he tried to lead an ordinary adult life. I laughed out loud in places at the results of otherwise sensible people coping with their IFs.
In 'His Master's Voice', Hannu Rajaniemi weaves a fabulous and complex tale of a dog and cat joining forces to bring their master back from the death of a futuristic prison. The accompanying artwork by Paul Drummond is a brilliant rendering of the subject matter that I flicked back to look at numerous times. The tale of the rescue by the bio-augmented creatures with flashbacks to explain how they got to that point is a little confusing for a while. Certain elements are left unexplained and we are only given glimpses of the complex society that forms a backdrop, but this fits in with the viewpoint of the faithful canine. In places I was reminded of Cordwainer Smith's stories but with a unique feeling that makes it stand out from everything else I've read for a long time.
The final story is Tim Lees' 'Corner Of The Circle', a story that in many ways reminded me of Chris Beckett's style. A young lad is sent to the city to visit his old aunt. Here he encounters another obscure relative who seems to be much older than she looks and is possibly married to an alien. Giant spaceships appear through a wormhole above the city from time to time the aliens aboard them live randomly among the city's inhabitants and barely raise an eyebrow. It's an interesting exploration of the relationships between the main characters and has a nostalgic air that makes the extraordinary seem perfectly normal.
So a fine selection of stories this time, illustrating a variety of styles and accompanies by various styles of illustrations. With contributors from Finland, Ukraine and Belarus this issue exemplifies the global appeal and widely varying tastes of the SF field today.
Gareth D. Jones
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