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Interzone # 219 -December 2008

01/01/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy Interzone in the USA - or Buy Interzone in the UK

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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.

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The new issue arrived with its customary selection of articles and interviews, a huge book review section and a variety of striking pictures to accompany the fiction. I was pleased to note the return of Jason Sanford and Mercurio Rivera whose stories I enjoyed earlier in the year. In truth, I haven't been disappointed by any 'Interzone' stories this year, unlike previous years when I seemed to be on a different wavelength.

Jeff Spock's 'Everything That Matters' is Peter Benchley's 'The Deep' on another planet. It starts with a hideous shark attack and maintains that momentum throughout the story. It's an intense story of rehabilitation and intrigue set against an exotic background of amphibiously modified humans. There's nothing startling here but the plot develops to a satisfactory culmination.

'When Thorns Are The Tips Of Trees' is Jason Sanford's intriguing story of a phage that transforms its unfortunate victims into self-aware thorn trees that retain their memories and personality. The story develops through the clash between the living, the infected and those already turned to thorns. Sanford has given careful thought to the consequences of this concept so that it becomes more than just a zombie story but takes on a Bradburyesque air of nostalgic fancy.

Although 'Interzone' is a magazine of Science Fiction and fantasy, 'The Shenu' by Alexander Marsh Freed is one of only a couple of fantasy stories to have appeared this year. Again it's what you'd probably call urban fantasy as three seedy characters wander the city attempting to perfect their magical arts. After a while you begin to wonder whether these are real or whether they're all just deranged. This uncertainty is increased by the flashing back and forth during the tale so that even though told in the first person it cleverly leads you along in bemused confusion in an attempt to find out the truth.

A giant stalk has skewered the Earth from pole to pole in 'The Fifth Zhi' by Mercurio D. Rivera. The eponymous Zhi is a clone sent on a suicide mission to destroy it who makes some startling discoveries about himself and the stalk. The mixture of adventure and introspection make it a touching story that leads to an entirely satisfying climax.

'The Country Of The Young' by Gord Sellar takes us to a future re-united Korea where immortality is the prerogative of the rich and of those in favour. A relationship between a long-lived executive and her immigrant husband denied the treatment is central to the plot and the oriental setting gives it an added air of the mysterious. Like 'The Shenu' it flips between three different timelines, but in this case the result is a certain poignancy rather than uncertainty.

For me, the best is last in the shape of Aliette De Bodard's 'Butterfly, Falling At Dawn', an engrossing story set in an alternate future where a Chinese/Mexican alliance holds sway in North America. A Mexican refugee to the Chinese colony is investigating a murder that uncovers painful memories of her own past. It's a gently-paced story that immerses you in the alternate culture of the city and is surprisingly powerful in execution.

In the main, as you may have gathered from my comments, I found this issue of 'Interzone' to be satisfactory. I found Aliette De Bodard's story particularly enjoyable and I was happy with the rest. There's been much fantastic fiction to compare with this year and at this time of year I've been looking back over some of them so perhaps I built up my expectations unfairly this time. There was nothing wrong with any of them and 'Interzone' continues to deliver with a selection of fiction that is sure to please everyone at least some of the time.

Garth D Jones

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