The welcome arrival of the December issue of the British news, reviews and short-story SFF mag. To cut to the chase – the short stories:
Everything That Matters by Jeff Spock (illustrated by Kenn Brown, who also did the cover): a traditional SF thriller about hunting for alien treasure in the oceans of another planet, humans adapted by surgery to breathe underwater, murderous 25 metre long sharks, and revenge. Great stuff!
When Thorns are the Tips of Trees by Jason Sanford (illustrated by Vincent Chong): a much stranger tale about a highly contagious virus which causes people to turn into trees which are still capable of communication. This one, like his earlier surreal story The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain (Interzone 217) is likely to stick in the memory.
The Shenu by Alexander Marsh Freed: people surviving in a world full of superstition – or is it magic?
The Fifth Zhi by Mercurio D. Rivera (illustrated by Paul Drummond): disposable clones sent to rid the world of a vast alien growth which penetrates the planet.
The Country of the Young by Gord Sellar (illustrated by Daniel Bristow-Bailey): explores some of the problems of eternal life – and of not having it when you are surrounded by the forever young.
Butterfly, Falling at Dawn by Aliette De Bodard (illustrated by Paul Drummond): another story in the author's alternative world in which North America is shared with Chinese and Mexica (Aztec) nations, following The Lost Xuyan Bride in Interzone 213. Detective work amid clashes between strange cultures. I'm looking forward to future stories in this world, and eventually an anthology, please!
One of the films reviewed in the magazine is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The first of the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark (which has become fixed in my mind as Riders of the Last Auk – I really should stop playing with words!) is one of my all-time favourite films. The series has inevitably become repetitive, since the plots are all about the resourceful archaeologist's trips to strange places to make exotic discoveries (with equally exotic dangers involving deadly creatures, lots of chases and fighting thrown in), and the sequels are not as good as the original. I recently got around to watching Crystal Skull, in which the plot is stretched to include the Area 51/Roswell/alien fantasy world, which does it no favours as it adds a further level of disbelief. However, it is still an entertaining couple of hours with some laugh-out-loud moments.
It seems that I liked the new Indiana Jones movie more than Interzone's reviewer did, but we changed places in our opinions of Lost in Austen, the ITV serial about a modern girl – a Jane Austen fan – who finds herself transported to the world of Austen's 'Pride & Prejudice'. I gave up part way through the second episode, for two reasons: first, the humour – in fact, the plot in general – was based around a series of embarrassing situations, the kind which make me cringe rather than laugh. Secondly, I simply didn't like the heroine. I do need to be able to empathise to at least some degree with the principal character if I am to enjoy any story (on screen or in print) and I just couldn't do it. Maybe it's a generational thing.