01/06/2010. 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
The results of the 2009 readers' poll are announced in this issue of 'Interzone' and I was pleased to see several of my favourites mentioned high on the list. Regular contributor Jason Sanford is back this time, along with a crop of writers new to the magazine and several of them new to me. As is usual for 'Interzone', the scope of the stories is wide and varied, satisfying a broad taste in speculative fiction.
In 'Untied States Of America', Mario Milosevic doesn't give any rational reason as to how the individual states could end up floating randomly around the ocean. I wasn't convinced by the explanation given, although it's easy enough to ignore that for the sake of the beautifully written story about the lonely life of the old women left to watch from the cliffs. What seemed to me to be more of a major oversight is the fact that the state of Washington never encounters any other continents or islands in its wanderings. Maybe this is a reflection of the famed American cluelessness about geography. After all, the characters on the island have no idea what's happening in the outside world and long to meet people from other states. Well, what about visitors from any other country - ships, planes, helicopters? Surely someone would visit? Anyway, as I said, suspend your disbelief and it really is a pleasant and enjoyable read.
A group of Chinese exiles are sent to the asteroid belt to rendezvous with a visiting alien ship in 'Iron Monk' by Melissa Yuan-Innes. The characters are more interesting than the standard scientist/astronauts in this kind of story and the dynamic between them develops in more interesting ways because of the unusual circumstances that put them there. This more than compensates for the over-familiar concept of a dangerous, claustrophobic journey into the solar system and develops into a satisfactory tale.
An art thief with an unusual MO features in David D. Levine's 'A Passion For Art'. The security consultant trying to figure out the mystery put me in mind of the film 'The Thomas Crown Affair'. It was intriguing, enjoyable and pleasing.
Jason Sanford's 'Plague Birds' is set far in the future where two breeds of AI attempt to guide the genetically modified, animalistic remnants of humanity back to civilisation. Through the eyes off an almost lycanthropic young woman, we see first hand the struggle for the villagers to overcome their base instincts and live up to the sometimes harsh law imposed by the AIs. It's a nicely constructed scenario whose somewhat inevitable conclusion is nonetheless powerful in its execution.
In Jon Ingold's 'Over Water', a vast archipelago of diverging cultures is all that remains of a former civilisation - streets disappear into the sea and the relics of towers and domes dot the surface between islands. Hints of the decaying society are seen through the eyes of a fourteen year-old boy and given context by the older narrator who recalls the story. I particularly enjoyed the interaction between the various islanders and was caught up in the intriguing setting.
Another fabulous tour of the genre, though more of time than of space in this issue. From the present to the far future. Although 'Untied States Of America' and 'Over Water' have superficially similar concepts - mankind divided though unexplained catastrophes into small island states - the development is entirely different. The savages inhabiting the neighbouring island in 'Over Water' are at first glance similar to the hunters that surround the village in 'Plague Birds' but again the explanation for their state is entirely and intriguingly different in both stories. All three of those stories feature characters wandering far from their isolated homelands, be it island or village, while 'Iron Monk' deals with a whole group of exiles and all of their troubles, idiosyncrasies and longings are played out thoughtfully. The thief in 'A Passion For Art' is not an exile as far as we know, but is nonetheless socially isolated. None of these connections are obvious as you read through, but make an interesting exercise in comparison when you finish.
Gareth D. Jones
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