The Untied States of America, Mario Milosevic Just a couple generations ago, the states of the U.S.A. broke apart and began wandering aimlessly around the world’s oceans. I can see what’s supposed to be going on here: The premise is just supposed to set the scene for an examination of the psychological effects of isolation in an uncontrollable world. And those aspects of the story are strong. But the long explanation of the rivers running dry, and the climate changing, and all the other purely physical effects of breaking up the states just distracted from the strong parts, without making the idea of a 70,000 square-mile landmass floating on the ocean fast enough to risk collision with other similar islands any more plausible.
Iron monk, Melissa Yuan-Innes A group of misfit astronauts are chosen for a high-risk mission as punishment for various crimes against the Chinese regime. The portrayal of Tibetan(?) monks on a fairly realistic near-future space mission was a novel touch, but the rest of the story didn’t really fill out that main idea.
A passion for art, David D. Levine A mysterious series of vandalisms at an art museum turns out to have a magical explanation. Although there’s nothing groundbreaking here, the writing fully lives up to the needs of the story.
Plague birds, Jason Sanford Cristina de Ane is a young woman growing up on a farm in what at first appears to be a low-tech environment, but soon turns out to be much more complicated. The world is run by two types of AI’s (at least, two types that we see), a beneficent AI that cares for and guides Crista’s village, and a more dangerous type, carried by wandering human hosts called plague birds to deliver a kind of tough-love justice to wayward villages. These AI guides are needed to lead a fractured, genetically modified human species back toward its earlier state. Altogether a fascinating set of premises, and a complementarily strong story to bring them before us.
Normally I don’t worry too much about the art in Interzone, but here I think it was a real distraction, with a painting of a plague bird in a skin-tight body suit shown on the first page of the story setting up assumptions about the setting that didn’t end up matching my eventual mind-picture of what’s actually depicted in the story.
Over water, Jon Ingold A wanderer tells the tale of the start of his long journey through the archipelago that makes up his entire known world. Ingold pulls together the narrator’s coming of age and setting off from home, an invasion between islands, and a fantastic piece of world building. But not much is given up about the world, and how its islands came to be formed, leaving the reader to work out what the narrator and his in-story audience take for granted. This one really left me hoping for a follow-up to explore more of the history of the archipelago.