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Interzone magazine 230

01/10/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy Interzone # 230 – Sep-Oct 2010 in the USA - or Buy Interzone # 230 – Sep-Oct 2010 in the UK

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Interzone # 230 Sep-Oct 2010. bi-monthly magazine: UK publisher/editor address: Andy Cox, TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB6 2LB. Price: GBP 3.75 (UK) $ 7.00(US). ISSN: 0264-3596.

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The latest issue of ‘Interzone’ celebrates 25 years of Nick Lowe’s film review column ‘Mutant Popcorn’ with a reprint of the very first column and an interview with the man himself. It’s an impressive feat for any genre magazine to have reached the stage of being able to celebrate a quarter century in its existence. Of course, to go with this feature there is the usual fair-sized selection of book, film and DVD reviews, plus five stories.

First up is Tim Lees’ ‘Love And War’, the gritty story of a war against the incursions from Earth X, an alternate world that is impinging on our own. This is not a war story as such, but a behind-the-scenes story told by the PA to one of the scientists who is attempting to combat the encroachments. The story had a gritty WWII feel to it, although set in our own time, concentrating on the social consequences brought about by the government’s clampdown on freedom, which seems to cause more hardship than the invaders. It’s a thoughtfully effective story.

In ‘Age Of Miracles, Age Of Wonders’, Aliette De Bodard takes us to another exotic time and place, this time in the form of Aztec steampunk. The old bloodthirsty gods have been deposed and now mechanical men roam the land, carrying out the bidding of an all-powerful computer. The same question from ‘Love And War’ of whether the new is any better than the old is echoed here, but with the style and mystique that is becoming Aliette De Bodard’s trademark.

‘The Insurance Agent’ in Lavie Tidhar’s contribution is hired to protect a Spiritual Entity, somebody who is possibly an alien or a manifestation of some kind of otherworldly power. The insurance agent soon finds himself out of his depth as we’re taken us on a strange trip through tropical jungles inhabited by rejected semi-intelligent war machines. Whether we’re dealing with aliens, spirits or artificial intelligence is a question that becomes rather jumbled in this discordant future that put me in mind of Cordwainer Smith’s creations.

More old gods put in an appearance in Patrick Samphire’s ‘Camelot’, in which an immortal Englishman searches for the brother he lost during the second world war. An alluring femme fatal follows his quest through France and gradually brings back to mind hints of a much longer history. It’s a well-described piece of work, atmospheric and filled with the cynical view of the searcher. I felt it lost some of its impact in being grouped together with two other stories with similar concepts of ancient powers brought back to life.

The final story of the issue had the feel of slipstream more than anything else. In ‘The Upstairs Window’, Nina Allen only drops in minimal hints to show that things are different – censoring of art and literature, with the death penalty as the ultimate sanction. None of this is explained, though, and the time period could have been the eighties as easily as the present. Lots of detailed description of clothing and London’s geography seemed as though it might have some significance, but then didn’t. The portrait of a small group of people struggling with life was eruditely written, but too mundane for my tastes.

An unusually downbeat, earthbound selection of stories this time around. There was more of a fantasy/spiritual feel to the stories, too, which aren’t my favourite kind. Although the stories individually were meritorious, I felt the collection as a whole to be lacking in a bit of dynamism. ‘Interzone’ does however continue to provide a remarkably wide selection of stories over the course of each year, illustrating the borderless condition of the speculative genres. I guess I can’t expect to be thrilled by every issue.

Gareth D. Jones

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