Well, I just finished Interzone #219. If it seems a bit late, just remember I have to get the thing by slow freight from Belgium. As usuual, the fiction is highly entertaining, if a bit uneven, with good ideas in every story.
But what’s up with the reviews? Reviews are a highlight of the sf magazines for me, ’cause they give me some feeling that I’m not the only one in the world who enjoys sf. And Interzone’s reviews give me a look at a lot of material I’d never hear about if I only read the US magazines. But this issue’s reviews hardly have a good word for anyone. In tv, they gave maybe 3 out of 9 positive reviews. In film, I’d call only 3 out of 11 reviews positive, with one “neutral” review that was so intriguing I’ve queued up the the film on Netflix. By the way, the positive reviews were for Charlie Jade, Lost in Austen, and Spooks: Code 9, none of which I’d heard of before, in TV/DVD; and Iron Man, Death Race, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in film.
What really cheesed me off though is that after reeling off how atrocious most filmed sf is, they took time out to dismiss a DVD re-issue of The Princess Bride. That film might have started to age since issued in 1987, but so have its viewers. If you’re not 18-25 years old when you see it, you’re probably not going to have the same appreciation for this film as its target audience. If you were in that age group when it came out (I was just under, and didn’t really appreciate it until a couple of years later) its not going to live up to your memories of it today. Also, the reviewer rejects the movie for doing exactly what it was meant to do: convey a fairy-tale atmosphere, not a literary fantasy one. Finally, after pointing out in several other reviews how little filmed sf offers to women and girls, it seems like nonsense to dismiss one of the greatest films ever in terms of getting women interested in speculative fiction.
As for the fiction, two stories are highlights in this issue. The first is “The country of the young”, by Gord Sellar. This story projects a future Korea, reunited in the sense that North and South are no longer distinct entities, but perhaps disunited in that citizenship seems to be held not in nations but some kind of megacorporations. The corporations control rejuvenation technology that allows the rich long lifetimes maintaining a young appearance. The central character is led to an act of terrorism after the arbitrary rule of the corporations affects her personally. The story is interesting because its set in a culture (Korea) that most readers won’t have seen too much of before, and the story stays interesting the whole way through, with new revelations about the characters and setting right up to the end. One minor flaw is a somewhat unbelievable plot point in that the corporations withhold rejuvenation technology from immigrants, apparently out of cultural chauvinism, even from employees who we’re told are doing highly valuable work for those companies.
The second highlight story was Aliette de Bodard’s “Butterfly falling at dawn”. Again we have a novel setting, North America dominated by a former Chinese rather than European colony, and an independent native Mexican state in place. This is the setting for a somewhat run-of-the-mill murder mystery. However the characters present a reflection on the difficulty for immigrants to succeed in a host community while maintaining their identity in their home culture.
The other stories are well worth reading also, though none was written with the complete mastery of storytelling that could have lets me feel completely immersed in their worlds.
See also: The Fix also reviewed this issue.