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Interzone # 220 -February 2009

01/02/2009. 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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Issue # 220 of 'Interzone' comes complete with a particularly stylish cover by Adam Tredowski that's probably the most memorable for some time. Maybe it's the odd angle of the landscape, but I had to keep flicking back to look at it again. There is as usual a decent selection of reviews, interviews and columns to read between the fiction, of which the lengths of both the stories and their titles are unusually varied.

'Monetized' is a near-future satire by Jason Stoddard in which the concept of advertising revenue on your blog is taken to extremes. In a world where one's every word and action is broadcast to the Net, 'the man who says no' finds it increasingly difficult to avoid the all-encompassing post-consumerism that most people seem to revel in. There were lots of fun concepts in here and thoughts on economic collapse refreshingly different to today's depressing news.

What a blast of sensory overload we're given with 'Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest, Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast', a story in which Eugie Foster as usual doesn't shy away from the darker and more unpleasant side of human nature. Actually, I'm not even sure they are human. In a society where people's actions and personalities are dictated by the mask they put on each morning, it seems that nothing is taboo except to discover who you really are. It's a wondrous, sickening, startling story that is sure to stick in the mind.

'After Everything Woke Up' by Rudy Rucker is unusual in that it forms a section of his forthcoming novel. A honeymoon couple are planning to build a cottage in the forest, but in this future they have more than planning applications to worry about. For reasons unexplained in this excerpt, everything has gained self-awareness. The initial impression that the story involves animism is soon dispelled by forays into quantum theory as an explanation. There are several other things going on in the background that remained a bit vague and will presumably be clearer in the forthcoming novel. I was left intrigued but dissatisfied, which may well be the intent.

Neil Williamson's 'Spy Vs Spy' is a short, tongue-in-cheek story that decries the Internet's insidious intrusion into our lives. Two neighbours battle it out in a war of social networking, software and gadgets in this fun little piece that is worryingly life-like.

It's only as I'm writing this that I realise the significance of Leah Bobet's title 'Miles To Isengard'. A disparate group of misfits are transporting a nuclear bomb across America in the back of an artic lorry, hunted by the authorities and their own fears. The monotony of the journey and the stress of the close confines are well described, adding a psychological edge to the linear plot. At the same time, vague hints are given about the state of the word in which they live, enough to make this gritty tale an interesting and thoughtful one.

We return to Gareth L. Powell's galaxy of random jumpers in 'Memory Dust', the story of an ageing pilot determined to risk one last trip into space to right a wrong he caused years earlier. The story is imbued with the kind of emotional charge that Powell always manages to build into his characters as they face situations mundane or extraordinary. A possibly sentient octopoid creature and the ruins of an ancient civilisation qualify this as being on the extraordinary side.

I felt that in this issue the fiction displayed a much wider variety of tastes than usual, though I enjoyed all of the stories for different reasons. Also in this issue is the Readers' Poll, a chance to vote for your favourite and, unusually, your least favourite, story of 2008. Whether that influences future selections I don't know. Looking back to my own favourites from last year's 'Interzone' and elsewhere I'd be hard-pressed to define them. This issue's selection is just as indefinable. That's SF I guess.

Gareth D. Jones

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