Reviewed by Tim Lieder

At the risk of sounding like one of those "George Lucas raped my childhood" assholes, I'm going to have to admit to unfair standards when approaching Science Fiction. I approach all works of science fiction (or fantasy for that matter) expecting the Star Wars I saw in the movie theaters when I was six years old. I'm not talking about the Star Wars that I can rent, enjoy and take back to the video store. I'm talking about the movie that gave me the feeling that anything is possible. This is why I get violently ill whenever any fool blathers on about there only being 7 stories (2 of which he has been writing since 3rd grade, and aren't we all impressed?).

Yes, this means that I face disappointment on a regular basis, but I've had enough of those "wow" moments since then (Snow Crash, Deathbird Stories, the first viewing of The Matrix, Swordsman II and 28 Days Later to name a few) to maintain these expectations. Since I have unrealistic expectations, I know that Interzone #197 (March/April 2005) will be an enjoyable diversion to most readers. However, I expect more out of science fiction, and I can't say I got it with this magazine.

First, let's get the non-fiction material out of the way. I don't play video games and I don't care what other people say about video games, and nothing in the reviews made me care. The movie reviews were bordering on the pompous and the book reviews were a mixed bag. I loved the interview with Susanna Clarke & Colin Greenland.

Now the fiction. Fortunately it's set out so the quality increases the further you get into the magazine. Dee-Dee & the Dumpy Dancers by Ian Watson and Mike Allen is a jumbled mix full of people who say things like "I'm talking about ballet up in the air that gets a highfalutin' arts grant. Okay, so I wasn't too hot at ballet when I was a kid, but when I saw what those sky-dancers were doing on TV, y'know, that was easy--and the crowd just loved it." Granted, the dialogue isn't so uniformly clunky, but these faux teenage lines (coming from adults) grate every time they appear. All the characters are half-wits trying to feel superior to artists and the plot never gets beyond its conceit.

Threshold of Perception by Scott Mackay and A World of His Own by Christopher East are hard science fiction apparently. The former is about Halley's Comet striking the Earth and the second one is about mutating creatures and an evil corporation. Neither one is particularly memorable. Dave Hoing's Kivam has some energy but a lot of it feels forced. The fact that it takes place after a slave revolt with the lead alien former slave trying to spark an invasion feels like a strained protest against the Gulf War. The main character is a little too whiny for the reader to care. There's just enough originality in this story to spark my interest in the novel attached but I don't think I'd pay for it.

However, the last story, The Kansas Jayhawk vs. The Midwestern Monster Squad, is almost worth the magazine alone. Recalling early Harlan Ellison and Neal Stephenson, Jeremiah Tolbert writes a story about mutated giant monsters and the college students that love them and bet on their success. This story succeeds where the other ones fail because it's fun. Even though there are no outright jokes in the story, the energy and enthusiasm conveyed is enough to make any reader happy. That might not sound like much, but an enjoyable story is a rare commodity, and one should pay attention before drowning in a sea of dour tales about why the world is doomed.

So, in other words, buy Interzone #197 only if you know someone on the staff or have enough money to spend to read Jeremiah Tolbert's story. Watch for Jeremiah Tolbert's future stories because he's got the talent that many writers would kill to possess.

Interzone, edited by Andy Cox and published bi-monthly by TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambs CB6 2LB, UK. A4, 68pp, £3.50/$6US or £21/$36US for 6 issues (for other countries see ordering details on website).

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