Interzone 233 Reviewed

The March-April 2011 issue of Interzone starts with one of the magazine’s all too rare novellas. Nina Allan’s ‘The Silver Wind’ is set in a near-future dystopia where the BNP have seized power a generation earlier and ‘repatriated’ the non-Caucasian population to Africa, Asia and other points beyond Dover.

A derelict hospital ostensibly being used as an asylum is actually a portal to a number of other periods “Think of it as the lobby of a large hotel, with doors and lifts and corridors opening off it.” Martin the narrator featured in ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ in Black Static 12, and ‘The Silver Wind’ shows another aspect of Martin’s complex relationship with time.

Allan is emerging as a natural successor to early Harrison and Roberts in detailed depictions of near or alternate futures in which technological changes are limited to allow her to better focus on the characters. What sets her recent fiction apart from most writers is the sheer transparency of her prose:

Shooter’s Hill had a rough reputation. The reforestation policy had returned the place to its original state, and the tract of woodland between Blackheath and Woolwich was now as dense and extensive as it had once been in the years and centuries before the first industrial revolution. The woods were rife with carjackers and highwaymen, and scarcely a week went by without reports of some new atrocity. The situation had become so serious that there were moves in parliament to reinstate the death penalty for highway robbery as it had already been reinstated for high treason.

2011 already looks to be an outstanding year for novellas – two excellent but very different stories in F&SF already, followed by Allan’s best story to date, making for an astonishing first quarter at this length.

Chris Butler’s ‘Tell Me Everything’ is a curious hybrid of immersive fantasy –a world in which everyone can read everyone else’s emotions through the generation of spores—crossed with a mystery that isn’t really much of a mystery, since it’s obvious whodunnit on page one. Nonetheless the spores and people’s reactions to man who can’t generate them provide an effective metaphor for privacy and the right of the authorities to invade that privacy on a whim, and the ending leaves a powerful aftertaste. Recommended.

Ray Cluley

Black Static regular Ray Cluley makes his Interzone debut with a story that’s almost dark enough for his regular haunt. In a post-apocalyptic world of perpetual winter, a handful of traumatized survivors cling onto what’s left of civilization at isolated stations, until Jackson befriends a passing traveller and decides to walk to the orbital elevator, from where he can ride to the sky.

 Two-Nine is hilly terrain to cross on foot. It’s tiring work, and treacherous in the dark, but I have to keep going to charge the kin-gen. Without it, if the batteries die I die with them. Even in full outgear. As it is, I’ve got regulated temperature, zero grade rads, and a nav-com that crackles too often but is otherwise fine. I can’t afford to be without any of it.

 If I have any reservations about the story, they revolve around the opening, which is marred by a little too much ostentatious tech-talk, as if Cluley is desperately signalling look reader, I’m writing SF! But once the story really gets going the mix of nuclear winter and space elevator is a good one and Jackson and Mother (who isn’t his mother) are well drawn.

But where ‘Tethered to the Cold and Dying’ really delivers is in Cluley’s characterization, which is very, very good, and the stark tone that suffuses the story.  Two of his stories bejewelled Black Static last year (‘At Night, When the Demons Come’ was selected for Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror 3, but I think that ‘Beachcombing’ is the better story) and ‘Tethered to the Cold and Dying’ certainly deserves consideration as one of this year’s better SF stories. Highly Recommended.

Tim Lees

Tim Lees rounds out the fiction with ‘Crosstown Traffic,’ his return to a slightly other-ly Manhattan last visited in Interzone 218. Reuben the courier has to dodge aliens, talking dogs and dinosaurs to deliver a strange package. There’s something appealing about the doomed loser, and Reuben has all the get-rich-quick schemes filed away in his head, but somehow we know he’s never going to make those bucks. Highly Recommended.

Wrapped in another glorious Richard Wagner cover, Interzone 233 is an above average issue of a magazine whose average  is better than most magazines’ best. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

• April 28th, 2011 • Posted in Reviews • Comments: 0