Friday 25 January 2008

Interzone 214 and Contact (1997 film)

An interesting preview of Iain M Banks' new Culture novel Matter (due out in hardback in February), within an entertaining interview with the author, is the first feature in the latest issue of the SFF mag. One to look out for when it arrives in paperback (not that I'm a skinflint, I'm just short of bookshelf space…).

There are fewer stories this time, because they include a novella; Far Horizon by Jason Stoddard, illustrated by Paul Drummond (an engagingly retro wheel-shaped space station features, repeated on the cover). One of the richest men on a rather dystopian, corporation-ruled near-future Earth, has plans for terraforming Venus which won't bear fruit for millennia. He decides that the immediate future is too uninteresting to hang around for, so he cheats time by going into cold sleep until his new planet is ready, only to discover a vast surprise.

In Pseudo Tokyo by Jennifer Linnaea, a future tourist, eagerly anticipating teleporting into Japan, finds himself not quite where he expected.

The Trace of Him by Christopher Priest is a brief glimpse of a few hours in the life of a woman returning for the funeral of a lover she had left twenty years before.

The Faces of my Friends by Jennifer Harwood-Smith is the winner of the James White Award. The last remnant of a outcast group is persecuted towards extinction in an intolerant future world; but what they are being persecuted for is an uncomfortable surprise.

Finally, The Scent of their Arrival by Mercurio D. Riviera explores the world of planet-bound but intelligent beings who communicate by scent, struggling to understand the message sent by the vast spaceship which had arrived in orbit around their world. All is not what it seems…

A good crop, as usual; original, inventive and absorbing. I've noticed that it's some time since I read a story in Interzone which I didn't enjoy. Either the standard is rising or I'm becoming acclimatised. Or perhaps I've become more tolerant of a fiction form which, even if it doesn't always work, at least doesn't involve a large investment in time to find that out. Or maybe it's all of those things.

The final section in the mag is, as usual, the pages of detailed and sometimes hard-hitting reviews of films, TV programmes and books. Top of my "might buy" list from this batch is Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson, which sounds like a story I might enjoy getting my teeth into.


I've recently seen Contact, the 1997 film of Carl Sagan's 1985 novel about the first contact from an intelligent alien species. Somehow I've managed to miss both the book and the film until now, so I came to it entirely fresh, knowing nothing except the basic premise. I must admit that I was highly impressed. The film takes an intelligent, adult approach to the issues which would be raised by such an event and gripped my attention throughout. I would have awarded it an Oscar, and given another to Jodie Foster for a brilliant central performance as the obsessed astronomer. If only all SF films were this good!


Tony Lee said...

Don't agree that Foster's character was 'obsessed'... driven, with a passion for astronomy, yes... but that's not quite the same thing as obsession.

Contact is, indeed, a great SF drama though!

Anthony G Williams said...

It depends on how you define such terms, I guess. Her whole life was focused on SETI, to the extent of putting her career as an astronomer at risk.

A terrific performance, anyway!