The March-April 2011 issue of the British SFF magazine hit my doormat recently. The review section is as informative as ever, this time featuring an interview by Jim Steel of Paolo Bacigalupi, whose first novel The Windup Girl has been steadily collecting awards. The review of the novel which accompanied this left me somewhat unconvinced as to whether I would read it, though - I have no enthusiasm for future dystopias, they seem all too likely to happen. Among the other book reviews, The Hammer by K.J. Parker caught my eye. I've not read any of her books, but the description of her writing in general and this work in particular is enough to put it on my (long) shopping list.
The film and DVD releases section also had me reaching for my notepad. Too soon for the failed but intriguing BBC TV serial Outcasts to feature here (the reviewers wait until the DVDs are on sale), but the film Skyline sounds promising, as does a DVD release of a 2002 British film, The Gathering. The film Never Let Me Go has generated a lot of publicity but the plot summary doesn't appeal to me.
There are only four instead of the usual six short stories this time, since the first one is a novella by Nina Allen, accompanied by a column describing her impressively varied work.
The Silver Wind, by Nina Allen (illustrated by Ben Baldwin). A future in which Britain has elected a right-wing government, resulting in the formation of a police state and the ejection of all non-whites from the country. This is the kind of depressing scenario which doesn't appeal to me and usually sets up a "brave defiance by principled hero" plot, but this author handles it in a more subtle and intriguing fashion. She focuses on a conformist property agent who doesn't question the status quo (it all happened long ago) but who becomes fascinated by the history of a clock made by a talented dwarf, Owen Andrews. He manages to locate and visit Andrews in a remote part of London, separated by a new and dangerously inhabited forest from the main city, and learns of experiments concerning time which are taking place in an old hospital nearby, and their sometimes horrific results. He is captured after becoming lost in the forest and is taken to the hospital, where he finds that there is an alternative to the existing paradigm. An engaging story.
Tell Me Everything by Chris Butler. An alternative Earth in which everyone constantly emits clouds of spores which can be detected by other people nearby and allows them to assess each other's status and mood; effectively not unlike telepathy. A police detective trying to solve a difficult case finds a use for a man suffering from a rare affliction: he emits no spores at all.
Tethered to the Cold and Dying by Ray Cluley (illustrated by Paul Drummond). Two survivors on an almost deserted station on a frozen world are surprised by the arrival of a stranger with a story to tell. This prompts one of them to go on a cross-country hike to find the space elevator which is said to be still functioning, in an attempt to escape their isolation.
Crosstown Traffic by Tim Lees (illustrated by Russell Morgan). Various different alien races live alongside humans on Earth. The story features a young human employed by an alien to to take a valuable package across town; one which attracts a great deal of attention on the way, with a surprising outcome.
Nina Allen's story is certainly the stand-out one from this group, I enjoyed her fantastical take on an unpromising scenario.