I didn’t realize it had been so long since seeing a new Interzone, but looking back this is only my third issue since starting the blog. Compared to last time, this one is a bit more even. All the stories are really sharp, professionally written pieces. There’s no clumsy work, but there’s no dramatic standout like Eugie Foster’s “Sinner, Baker, …” in #220. Or maybe the fact that the issue is so strong just makes it harder for one story to rise above the others.
The magazine starts off with Will McIntosh‘s “A Clown Escapes from Circust Town”. It’s about clown who’s been somehow genetically engineered just to fill the role of clown in a themed city, in a world where the response to economic collapse was for every town to pick a theme and try to capture the tourist trade. Naturally, things got nasty in a “soylent green is people” kind of way. When I step back and think about it, the premise is really not especially original — From Logan’s Run to “Sinner, Baker, …” I mentioned before, there’ve been lots of stories about people living in captive societies without realizing it. But this is well written, and the p.o.v. character of Beaners the Clown is compelling and believable, so I’ll take it.
The next story is “Fishermen” by Al Robertson, about a painter captured by pirates in what seems to be the early Renaissance. The main talking point of this story will be the explicit Christianity of the painter’s themes, but I read them as mostly stage-setting. You simply couldn’t honestly place a painter in Europe in that time period without making his paintings religious in nature. Like the first story, the plot here is something that’s been done many times before, but once again the presentation is professional and the characters are believable, making for an enjoyable read.
“Saving Diego” by Matthew Kressel is the second top-tier stories in the magazine. The protagonist travels across the inhabited galaxy to help an old friend quit a powerful drug addiction. The drug turns out to be more than just a brain-altering chemical, and the traveller ends up being caught by it himself. Flashbacks to the earlier lives of the two friends are handled deftly as is the slow revelation of the nature of the drug. A highly recommended story.
“Far & Deep” by Alaya Dawn Johnson is yet another really outstanding story for this Interzone. On an unnamed Pacific Island, where fisherwomen coax jewels from particular sea creatures and elders hold a power called “geas”, a young woman must deal with the death of her mother, who was something of a wild element in the (literally and figuratively) insular society and therefore a social outsider. The island and its culture are well drawn, and the somewhat uncommon perspective of seeing the outsider through the eyes of a sympathetic third party gives the story additional depth.
Next, Paul M. Berger gives us “Home Again”, a very short story positting a very unusual form of interplanetary travel. The clever travel concept meshes well with a character story about the traveller’s family.
Finally, the fiction selection is wrapped up with Bruce Sterling‘s “Black Swan”. In which the p.o.v. character who might be a kind of author stand-in (he’s a blogger and technology writer) goes from globetrotting investigative tech reporter to interdimensional traveller. Most of the appeal is atmospheric, as Sterling draws two views of the same Italian piazza and cafe in two alternate realities, making both seem real. Another enjoyable story.
The magazine finishes with a Bruce Sterling interview by Ian Sales, and the usual reviews. The reviews are even-handed, but didn’t reveal anything I’d like to go out and read except The Best of Gene Wolfe, but I would have wanted that, reviewed or not.