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Interzone – Issue 219 – December 2008
Edited by Andy Cox
Cover Artist: Kenn Brown
Review by Sam Tomaino
TTA Press  ISBN/ITEM#: 0264-3596
Date: 24 December 2008

Links: Interzone Website / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The December 2008 issue of Interzone is here, with stories by Jeff Spock, Jason Sanford, Alexander Marsh Freed, Mercurio D. Rivera, Gord Sellar, and Aliette de Bodard -- together with the usual fascinating articles and reviews

The December 2008 issue of Interzone rounds out the year in fine fashion, with one of the stories being Hugo-worthy and the rest being Very Good.

The fiction gets off to a good start with "Everything That Matters" by Jeff Spock. Pete Russo is a deep sea diver on the planet Orrin, searching for an alien object called the Webber ship. He is literally bitten in half by an immense predator called a Kotanchik's Shark. He survives and this is where the story really begins as he adapts to a new life. This was a solid exciting tale that was fun to read.

The next story was something special and will be on my Hugo short-list in the future. Jason Sanford's "When Thorns Are the Tips of Trees" takes place in a future where a phage has killed much of humanity, but the victims have not died entirely. Their memories and personalities are preserved in thorn trees and it is possible to communicate with them. The phage is still active and can be activated by skin touching skin. People can't touch people because one day nothing might happen and the next, the phage might be activated. Miles Stanton is a young man who communicates with the thorn personalities of his mother and friends. One friend, Elleen is something different, more aware than other thorns. But all are endangered by marauding "thorn die" (infected people) who are destroying the thorns. I'll leave the rest of the story alone and only say that this is one that you will not forget soon.

"The Shenu" by Alexander Marsh Freed seems to be taking place in a world where people manipulate magic powers, in different ways, all the time. Marko has decided to put his "ren", his magic power, into a jade stone. He is warned of danger by a friend, an older man named Pedro. His girlfriend, Isabel, uses tattoos for her magic. One night he confronts great forces. Does he lose or gain by this? This one was pretty good and quite interesting.

In "The Fifth Zhi" by Mercurio D. Rivera, Zhi 5 is a clone who has been sent to destroy the Stalk, a strange immensely thick plant-like form that has bisected the Earth from North Pole to South. He has made it through a barrier that has stopped everything and everyone else. He carries a retrovirus that should kill the Stalk, freeing Earth from the nightmares it causes. He must climb the Stalk and release the retrovirus from the top of it. Naturally, things do not go as planned in this well-told tale of survival and triumph.

"The Country of the Young" by Gord Sellar takes place in a unified Korea in a future where life-extension treatments have become common but are only given to the natural citizens of a country and not to immigrants. Ji Ah looks like she is in her 20's but is actually much older. Her husband, Prabhir, is from India and looks his age. The growing gulf between them had been causing problems and he had left her a few years previously and she hasn't seen him since. She is a doctor and a strange young-looking man comes into her office one day having amnesia and thinking he's a clone. She finds out differently in this grim tale of a possible future.

I always enjoy the stories of Aliette de Bodard and "Butterfly, Falling at Dawn" is another story to add to that list. This one is set in the same alternate-history of her previous story, "The Lost Xuyan Bride" in Interzone 213. In this universe, China conquered part of Mexico and had repulsed Cortés in 1521. In the present day, after a civil war, Xuyan (ruled by China) shares part of the lower North American continent with Greater Mexica. Magistrate Hue Ma is of Mexica descent, living in Xuyan and has been assigned to solve the murder of a young girl, also of Mexica descent. This brings up issues of her own past in this nicely written story.

Interzone quotes a previous review of mine naming it "The best SF magazine on the market". With stories like these, especially an Exceptional one like "When Thorns Are the Tips of Trees", it continues to deserve that judgment. Do what ever you need to subscribe to or read this magazine.

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