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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Interzone #272, September/October 2017

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Interzone #272, September/October 2017

Blessings Erupt” by Aliya Whiteley

The Music of Ghosts” by Paul Jessup
Ghosts of a Neon God” by T. R. Napper
The Goddess of the Highway” by Erica L. Satifka

Reviewed by Kat Day

This issue of Interzone brings us four original pieces, one short story and three novelettes. It also includes an editorial about the British science fiction author Brian W. Aldiss, who sadly died on the 19th August.

The first story in this issue is “Blessings Erupt” by Aliya Whiteley. In it we meet Hope, a woman who has grown up in a post-apocalyptic world with the ability to somehow suck people’s tumors from their bodies and eat them. This process saves them from illness, but it exacts a heavy toll on Hope herself. Above and beyond the science fiction, there is a larger message here about a woman who has given everything of herself to help others, and who wants something better for those who come after her. This is a beautifully-written piece based upon an original premise. Hope’s character is carefully drawn. The story is told from her point of view and the other characters are less substantial—but perhaps this merely reflects the way Hope sees the world. The ending is rather abrupt, but nonetheless poignant. Recommended.

The Music of Ghosts” by Paul Jessup is very different. It begins with a section addressed to “mother” which seems to be a sort of letter, or perhaps merely a train of thought. We then jump to a section of narrative about bicycles riding over craters which, we are told, are making a pilgrimage to the Library of the Dead. Eventually we meet a character called Patrick, who strikes up a conversation with an android called Penny. I’m afraid I found this story difficult to engage with. There is some beautiful description, but it’s all rather dreamy and confusing. It wasn’t my favorite in this issue.

The next novelette is “Ghosts of a Neon God” by T. R. Napper. The story is set in the near future and begins with two petty criminals, Jack and Col, stealing something called a glimmer bike. They have neural implants, which allow them to communicate with each other as well as automatically translating for them when they come across a Chinese woman speaking Mandarin. It’s not long before they end up on the run, and find themselves wandering through a more salubrious area of town. This is essentially a buddy story, very much focused on the relationship between Jack and Col, with a generous helping of social commentary. It was an enjoyable enough ride, but it didn’t move me to any great extent.

The final piece in this issue is the novelette “The Goddess of the Highway” by Erica L. Satifka. It begins with a character called Harper “Harp” Jones driving a truck, swallowing amphetamines as he does so. Slowly we learn that there’s a good reason for his drug use—a strange mist covered the Earth a decade before which somehow prevented humans from using their higher brain functions. Some of them have plates screwed onto their skulls which ameliorate the mist’s effects, but there are different kinds of plate—and the most wealthy in society naturally got the best ones. Once again the social commentary is obvious—a not-very-bright but rich girl got the best type of plates, and so enjoys a high level of intelligence and privilege compared to most other people. Harp, who is (or was) quite smart, only got the most basic kind, and so he’s ended up driving a truck which runs on autopilot most of the time. Whilst it’s not terribly subtle, I did enjoy this story. Harp is a great character. The aforementioned rich girl, Spike (otherwise known as Pamela), is also an enjoyable, if not entirely likable, character, and the idea of the mist and the plates is certainly an original one. My only small grumble is that the titular Goddess of the Highway seemed an unnecessary fantastical distraction to an otherwise solid piece of science fiction.


Kat Day writes the award-winning, non-fiction science blog The Chronicle Flask, which you can find at chronicleflask.com. She has short stories upcoming in Daily Science Fiction and 24 Stories, an anthology to raise money for the survivors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.