A catch-up with various items this week.
New Horizons is the British Fantasy Society's magazine of new fiction. Issue 3 has been with me for a while, but that pile by my bedside has been stacking up….The following stories are included:
Pastoral Effect by Adam J Shardlow: in a future of increasingly bloodthirsty reality TV shows, the perfect set-up has an unexpected result.
Happiness = G + V + C by Philip Suggars: when the formula for happiness has been determined, happiness becomes mandatory - or else.
Hunt by Debbie Bennett: a young hoodlum accidentally summons the supernatural Hunt; he has to choose a victim, or fall to the Hounds himself.
Seems Only Right by Mathew F Riley: a bizarre setting in which society, including interpersonal communication, is gradually breaking down.
Veronika by Douglas Thompson: a psychiatrist is drawn into the tangled world of a young female Goth.
Spring by Sophie Essex: a brief glimpse of an intense relationship; not really SFF.
Mr Smith by Philip Palmer: a reluctant superman has to face up to his responsibilities. Wryly amusing, this one is my favourite.
Next, Attica by Gary Kilworth. This fantasy novel follows three children moving into an old house which proves to have an attic stretching off into infinite distance, populated by various odd and supernatural beings. This promised to be intriguing, especially since it comes with a glowing endorsement from Neil Gaiman, but I found it sadly uninvolving. There is a lack of drama and tension; first one thing happens, then another, without any apparent logic or purpose. The children (who are supposed to be bright) spend much time trying to rationalise what they are experiencing and then behave with remarkable stupidity. The plotting has holes, too: they find a glass bottle which is important because it allows them to carry some water with them, but first we are told that one of the children goes off exploring, taking the bottle with him, then shortly afterwards the remaining two are drinking from it. I find that kind of carelessness irritating as it breaks the credibility bond between author and reader. I stopped reading the book about a quarter of the way through.
Moving from the page to the screen: I started watching a new (to UK TV) US SF series Defying Gravity. This is set a few decades in the future and concerns a manned six-year tour around several planets of the Solar System. The emphasis in the first couple of episodes was on the human relationships, with the technology and exploration very much secondary. This was not very promising (for me, anyway) but there were hints of something mysterious going on, some guiding intelligence lurking on board. I would have followed it for a bit longer to see if it developed into anything worthwhile, but first I managed to lose my recording of episode 3 and then the channel it is shown on became badly disrupted by the digital changeover and won't be worth looking at for the next month anyway. Some things are not meant to be…
Looking on the bright side, a new series of Spooks has just begun on a channel which I can receive. OK, it's not strictly SF but it's way beyond anything MI5 actually does and is consistently the most gripping thriller on TV. I'm relieved that the weekly episodes don't run to more than an hour - that's as much as my nerves can stand!
Finally, to the movies with X-Men 2 (better late than never…). A good follow-up to the original classy thriller, which really needs to have been seen first to make any sense of the sequel. The battle between two groups of mutants over their relationship to humanity continues. High drama with twists and turns, good acting and some of the tastiest mutants you could wish for, with Kelly Hu joining Famke Janssen, Halle Berry and Rebecca Romijn (I am still intrigued by how a ferocious female with scaly blue skin and yellow eyes can be so outrageously sexy). Sit back and enjoy!