There's an interview with Gene Wolfe along with a review of The Sorcerer's House among other books, plus the usual round-up of films, DVDs and TV programmes - or to be precise, a TV programme, the focus being on the remake of The Prisoner. I'm still not sure what to make of it myself, but it was an interesting experience. I'm inclined to sympathise with the reviewer, who found it a bit of a mess, but it was an intriguing mess so I'd probably watch a second series.
Just five stories this time:
Untied States of America by Mario Milosevic, illustrated by David Senecal. The United States have become physically separated from each other and now drift individually around the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, occasionally spotting each other in passing. A watcher on the coast of Washington keeps a daily look-out, and is surprised to see a small boat approaching the shore, rowed by a man escaping from another state.
Iron Monk by Melissa Yuan-Innes, illustrated by Jim Burns. The near future: an assorted group of strangers is despatched on a mission to meet aliens who have arrived in the outer Solar System. Damage to their ship's radiation shield threatens their survival.
A Passion for Art by David D. Levine, illustrated by Mark Pexton. Artworks in a museum are being damaged, with figures in them disappearing. A security consultant sets out to trap the vandal, but finds a lot more than he bargained for.
Plague Birds by Jason Sandford, illustrated by Darren Winter. A remote-future population is scattered thinly over a rural landscape, living in self-contained villages. Their main threat is the arrival of a Plague Bird; a woman with strange and lethal powers to punish any wrong-doers who have not been properly dealt with by their communities.
Over Water by John Ingold, illustrated by Richard Wagner. The inhabitants of an island in a scattered archipelago are pestered by occasional raids from their savage neighbours, until they decide to resist.
An interesting and varied batch of stories with some original ideas. Two of them (Plague Birds and Over Water) have deceptive fantasy elements but turn out to be more like science fiction. Plague Birds is perhaps the story with the most potential for development, and indeed the author plans more tales about the principal character. However, my prize for the most bizarre and memorable concept goes to Untied States of America.
To return to the subject of TV programmes, I was a bit disappointed that there was no coverage of the final series of Ashes to Ashes, which ended a few weeks ago. It turned out that everyone was dead, and had been existing in a kind of waiting area while their characters developed sufficiently to pass on to the afterlife, joyously represented by a really good, convivial pub (well, can you think of anything better?). I found the final episode rather touching, even elegaic, and it (more or less) wrapped up the disparate threads more effectively than anything else I could imagine.