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The Ant-Men of Tibet and Other Stories
edited by David Pringle
Big Engine, 255 pages

The Ant-Men of Tibet and Other Stories
David Pringle
David Pringle was born in Selkirk, Scotland in 1950. He is the editor of Britain's most successful and long-lasting magazine of science fiction, Interzone, begun in 1982. He lives in Brighton, UK.

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Big Engine

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Until a short time ago, I would have bet a considerable sum of money that I would never read another science fiction story that centered on a cow-pat, (the first, of course, was Damon Knight's 1963 short story "The Big Pat Boom"), but I was wrong. "Alfred's Imaginary Pestilence" by Eugene Byrne not only features a cow-pat, it is one of the highlights of The Ant-Men of Tibet and Other Stories, an anthology of fiction from the pages of Interzone magazine.

Ant-Men is not really a best-of collection, more of a sampling of recent work by writers who have come to be associated with Interzone. As such, it showcases a variety of material, both SF and fantasy, and the quality varies as much as the content.

The good stuff is easy to pick out. Peter T. Garrat's "The Collectivization of Transylvania" puts the Dracula legend to good use during the fall of communism in Romania. Keith Brooke's "The People of the Sea" also uses an historical period to good effect, this time 18th century England, to tell a tale of mermaids, fathers, and shifting time-lines.

"Byrd Land Six" by Alastair Reynolds is the best straight science fiction story in the collection, with a more sympathetic cast of characters than is found in his novels and an affective scientific puzzle. It provides a good contrast to Eric Brown's "Vulpheous", which strives for a similar emotional impact as "Byrd Land" but, which, instead of making its point through the characters, uses a surprise ending to hammer the emotions home. It nearly ruins an otherwise good story.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke's "The Dust", on the other hand, is either a parody so subtle that its wit completely escaped me, or an attempt at light-hearted space adventure that fails on every level, from story to characterization to language. Given the horrible dialogue and clichéd attempts at exposition, I have to believe it's the latter.

Those are the highs and the lows, the good news is the remaining stories are closer to the top than the bottom. In most respects, The Ant-Men of Tibet is a decent collection, and a good example of the strengths, and occasional weaknesses, of one of the world's premiere science fiction magazines.

Copyright © 2002 Greg L. Johnson

After judging stories from one of the field's best-known magazines, Interzone, reviewer Greg L.Johnson can turn to his duties as associate editor of Tales of the Unanticipated, one of the field's lesser-known magazines. His reviews also appear in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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