|Interzone, November 1999|
|A review by Rich Horton
The November 1999 issue is one of the better samples of this magazine. Every story is enjoyable, and I liked one particularly well. This issue also displays the range of the magazine fairly well, with the odd feature that each story included has a tinge of horror. Otherwise they range from an alternate history to an alien invasion tale, from an atmospheric near future SF to an odd contemporary fantasy/horror story to a humorous werewolf piece.
The cover story is one of Kim Newman's alternate historical works, with the usual admixture of famous figures. "Angel Down, Sussex," a title which, as the story says, refers to both a location and an event, is actually, perhaps, more of a secret history. Or just a bit of a jape. Some cows turn up mutilated in a field in Sussex, and the minister and farmer who investigate discover a young girl who seems to be the farmer's aunt, lost for 50 years. Catriona Keyes and Edwin Winthrop, members of the Diogenes Club, charged with investigating and debunking psychic phenomena, are dispatched to investigate. On arrival, they find the minister dead, and they find the little girl to be stranger than they thought. Soon Arthur Conan Doyle and Aleister Crowley arrive as well, with rather different goals than each other or than Cat and Edwin. When Crowley's plans for the creature become clear, Cat and Edwin engage in a desperate chase to stop him. This is a fun and colourful story.
Paul Park's "Bukavu Dreams" is the atmospheric near future piece. It's set in an African country, probably the Congo, after some unspecified disaster has caused Europeans to begin to flee to Africa. The story mainly features a middle-aged policeman, and his dreams, which hint at the changes in his world relative to our own. Nothing much overt happens, but the implications of the dreams are disquieting and nicely odd.
Helen Patrice is a newish Australian writer, who has also published as Helen Sargeant. "Shaping Up" is a slight but enjoyable piece about a young woman who is rather dissatisfied with her fat and lazy husband. Then she discovers that her husband has a secret life. Fortunately, her new job as a veterinarian's assistant gives her some handy experience.
"Of Divers, Hawkers and Slugs" is the most traditional SF story on hand. It's by David Gill, a Welsh writer who is unfamiliar to me. It's set in a future dominated by inimical aliens, who were lured to the Earth by our radio transmissions. The aliens have "negotiated" an agreement whereby they are allowed to hunt humans for most of the year, sucking their personalities from them when they catch them. Gerald is a young man trying to avoid capture when an alien lands in his range. Is there any way to communicate with this being? A solid if not especially memorable take on an old theme.
The standout effort for this month is Paul J. McAuley's "Naming the Dead." This is an involving story about a man, Mr. Carlyle, in what seems to be contemporary London, with an unusual occupation. He can communicate with ghosts, and sometimes banish them. A woman seeks his help in learning whether a serial killer who has just been released from prison is the man who killed her daughter. Mr. Carlyle finds that this is far from a routine case. This is quite original, very well told and evocative, and the ending is slightly ambiguous and scary. A very fine story from one of our better writers.
Besides the generally fine fiction, Interzone features a movie review column by Nick Lowe, regular television reviews and fairly regular interviews (this month's is with Stephen Baxter), a monthly extract from David Langford's multiple award winning fanzine Ansible, a good selection of book reviews, and regular essays by Gary Westfahl. It's an outstanding science fiction magazine, fully the equal of the best American magazines, and I strongly recommend it to your attention.
Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.
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