Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The 3rd Alternative #32

The 3rd Alternative
The 3rd Alternative
The 3rd Alternative is published quarterly. This high-quality production contains cutting-edge speculative fiction, features and interviews. The 3rd Alternative has won several awards, including the prestigious British Fantasy Awards for "Best Magazine" and "Best Short Story" (Martin Simpson's "Dancing About Architecture," from TTA #11).

The 3rd Alternative Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Martin Lewis

The first thing you notice is how beautiful the magazine is. Between silky, rigid covers, The 3rd Alternative is copiously illustrated to a standard unheard of in most genre publications. This commitment to design is reflected in the fact that the illustrators receive as prominent acknowledgement as the writers. The writers, in turn, maintain the high standards of their colleagues.

"Wooden Horse" by John Grant is that rarest of things: an alternative history with a Second World War point of divergence that is actually interesting. Perhaps, this is because the reader only becomes aware that there is any divergence at all about halfway through the story. Up until that point, it is the mundane but absorbing account of a veterinary student who falls in love with black and white war movies. The reader then discovers that they are reading a highly sympathetic portrait of an American Nazi.

"De Fortuna" by Brian Hodge details a dilemma we have all faced -- what to do when your hit-and-run victim is embedded in your windscreen and refuses to die. Actually, this story of moral ambivalence and the modern age is nowhere near as glib as that implies. There is the odd line that is a little knowing but it benefits from a detached narrator who is more concerned with getting back with his ex than mutilated vagrants.

Deliberately fragmentary, "The Hard Copy" by Joel Lane is more concerned with imagery than cohesion. It is the story of an obsession, or rather it would be, if Lane faced it head on. As it is, the quality of the prose is excellent but the story is too quick and too spare.

"Non-Existant Cats" by Tony Richards opens with the sentence: "This, as the title already tells you, is all about cats that aren't there." It is this chatty, sardonic voice that saves the story from its disposable premise and its patina of big science respectability. Briefly, a bookseller's girlfriend is under siege by a phantom cat but all that's really on offer is a few sharp lines. Maybe I've just had my fill of cats.

Graham Joyce's "The Coventry Boy" is an extract from his forthcoming novel, The Facts Of Life. Sixteen-year-old Cassie is convinced she knows when the Axis bombing will hit her home town. When it does, she goes out into the night to witness the destruction. It is both an astonishing character study and an exhilarating account of the razing of Coventry. A perfect blend of supernatural and realistic elements, it is the best story of the issue and one of the best I've read for a while.

Non-fiction is comprised of interviews with Neil Gaiman and Mark Chadbourn plus several pages of reviews. Unusually, The 3rd Alternative also pays particular attention to the cinema. Derek Hill contributes a long piece on Guy Maddin, a filmmaker with whom I was not previously familiar and Christopher Fowler ponders what makes a cult film. Elsewhere, in his column on Japanese culture, John Paul Catton examines Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

This is a very strong issue of the magazine. The 3rd Alternative has explicitly positioned itself at the literary end of the market and it has done so with considerable success. The quality throughout is outstanding and if prose occasionally trumps plot that is preferable to the converse, a situation familiar from much other short fiction. A highly rewarding read.

Copyright © 2002 Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis reviews for The Telegraph And Argus, The Alien Online and Matrix, the newsletter of the British Science Fiction Association. He lives in North London.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide