Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review: Interzone 202

A magazine that needs almost no introduction,
Interzone has been at the forefront of literary science-fiction and fantasy since 1982. From issue 194 the magazine has a new design, making it one of the most exciting fiction magazines in the world to look at as well as read.

Sundown Sheila by Gwyplaine Macintyre is this issue's opener , and boy, what an opener; if the title doesn't grab you, the opening lines will:

The red sand was as dry as a Nun's nasty -

So begins this strange and bizarre tale narrated in glib, Australian slang. Sundown Sheila is an amalgam of future science with backward characters set in a far-flung locale. The main players here are two 'compozzies'; DNA scripted cyborgs working in the perpetual
noon of an Australian-like planet. Their world soon changes, however, when an unexpected female visitor drops by -
Although the prose is hard to decipher at times with Macintyre's lyrical waxing, Sundown Sheila should be applauded for sheer originality. The planet of Terry Novar, and the 'boofs' who inhabit its everlasting sun, will be sure to stay with you long after reading the final sentence.

The Macrobe Conservation Project by Carlos Hernandez:

This is a traditional science fiction tale involving Robot companionship with a soupçon of the Frankenstein theme thrown in for good measure. Young boy Randy resides on an orbiting Space Station around the planet called New Hope. His father is lead scientist there and in charge of The Macrobe Conservation Project. Keeping him company are two 'asi' robots that personify a younger brother and a mother , these are temporary replacements, nothing more as his biological brother and mother were chosen not to make the trip into space. What makes this one worth the read is the sarcastic voice of Randy's first person narration and the often funny use of invented language. One of the illustrations is a stand out in the collection and harkens back to the nostalgia of pulp fiction.

A bleak, pessimistic view of the future follows next with The Unsolvable Deathtrap by Jack Morgan. The story opens at a frenetic pace and stays in overdrive until the end. The narrator is a cabbie with an understandably paranoid view of the world he inhabits: The streets of his city have been transformed over the centuries to resemble 'Hives'; intestine like tubes with motorists infiltrating them like tiny microbe organisms. He has a hunch that today will be like no other and is hardly surprised when carjacked by a would-be assailant who has a grandiose plan for destruction.
As stated, the prose moves swiftly like the Cab our protagonist inhabits , it stays at just the right length but is slightly let down by an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Author Gareth Lyn Powell gives us The Last Reef, and manages, via a powerful torrent of invention, to imbue a myriad of ideas more in tune with a novel than a short story. In such a short space, we are treated to a potential future where simple communication nodes in an interplanetary radio network develop into sentience with awesome results. Humans, in their desire to transform, enter this matrix and are utterly altered from the creatures they once were. Some experience physical or mental deformities; others are elevated to a higher level of consciousness. People transformed by the Reef are highly sought after prizes as the Reefs themselves slowly morph into different realms or are terminated by the powers that be. Against this backdrop are three characters trying to reverse the reef's destructive forces. Powell uses love as a motivation, with clever flashbacks throughout that dovetail inexorably toward the ending. Accompanied by a brilliant illustration, The Last Reef is a fabulous read indeed.

As always, Interzone has its finger firmly on the pleasure button for S/F fans and I anticipate a wider readership under the auspices of the new publishers. Also in this issue is an illuminating interview with legendary author Terry Pratchett.

Subscriptions and back-issues can be ordered directly from their

Coming soon: A review of After the Party by Richard Calder which was begun in Issue 201.

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