Just finished Interzone 220; blew through it, except for the first story, which I read last night, in one sitting. Overall, I’d say this issue is one of the better ones I’ve seen from IZ, with almost all the stories showing true professional craftsmanship.
First up is Jason Stoddard‘s “Monetized”. The premise is a world where every human interaction is a potential micro-marketing opportunity, brokered by omnipresent software agents carried in wearable (or implanted?) computers, a nice extrapolation from current “guerrilla marketing” techniques. The story itself is really pulling together pieces of a lot of other stories we’ve seen before, but its well-executed, and concluded with a satisfying twist.
Next is “Sinner, baker, fabulist, priest; red mask, black mask, gentleman, beast” by Eugie Foster, which I’d pick as the best of the issue. The story is about a society where, each day, citizens must don a different mask and play out a role associated with that mask. The first few roles of the first-person narrator, which include some rather extreme types, set the scene well, and also demonstrate his(?) complete lack of personality beneath the mask. This leads in to a reasonably simple plotline which reveals the mechanisms behind the mask society. A fantastic piece of worldbuilding.
Following Foster’s excellent piece is Rudy Rucker‘s “After everything woke up”, the greatest disappointment of this issue. Rucker is surely the biggest name in the issue, and hopefully that name sold a lot of copies for IZ, but this story doesn’t hold up. The idea is that after we “unfurl” the eighth dimension, we’ll be able to read the innermost thoughts of every object around us. This produces a fantasy of the order of a happy, smiling sun shining down on happy, woody trees and happy, rocky stones; but, oh dear!, Mr. Stream is grumpy. The idea of emotional inanimate objects is explained in terms of quantum mechanical computational potential, which neglects the fact that a stream needs all the quantum mechanical computational potential it’s got just to fall down hill. The fact that Rucker presents this kind of story not as fantasy, but as a likely near-future scenario, pushes it over the willing-suspension-of-disbelief line for me.
Following is the short “Spy vs. spy” by Neil Williamson. A clever story of Wile E. Coyote’s paranoid human alter ego in the era of Web 2.0.
Next is “Miles to Isengard” by Leah Bobet. It’s a kind of road-trip adventure with a message. A group of friends has stolen a nuclear weapon and are driving it across country in a rented big-rig truck, with intentions that aren’t revealed until the end. There’s musings on a immoral and over-protective government (that will hopefully seem dated in a couple of years), interesting character interactions, all well written into a smoothly plotted story.
The final story of the magazine is “Memory dust” by Gareth L. Powell. This is a golden-age throwback, complete with spaceships whose paint is “scoured to ash by the pitiless fires of hyperspace, a ruined alien city “like a smashed chadelier”, and an alien “last surviving member of its race”. In the end the merciless unhuman enemy resolves into something quite at home in modern sf. It’s a fine story, but if the hyperbolic tone of the quotes I’ve mentioned above could have carried through the entire story, it could have been a much bigger winner with me.
Finally, there’s an interview with Jeffrey Ford, whose work I don’t know, but which I’m now encouraged to look out for; and reviews that seem a bit more even-handed than last time—the most intriguing being for Fernando Meirelles’ film Blindness.