Reviewed By Gareth D Jones
Scheherazade is a glossy looking magazine whose editors have sadly announced that they will be producing only two more issues. That’s obviously not because they have run out of steam however, as this special SF issue is packed with a fabulous selection of stories. Whether the magazine will continue under new management has yet to be announced.
At Cliché’s Bar is a story for SF connoisseurs by Larry Matthews. It boasts an amazing amount of cliché’s per paragraph and is set in that classic location: the interplanetary bar. Great fun to spot all the references.
A total contrast is Laura’s Knot by Neal Asher. It’s the disturbing story of a woman who’s memory has been tied in knots, and her traumatic attempt to recall her past. Evocative description ties in with jarring flashbacks to create a well executed piece.
Karen Traviss gives us Agent of God, not the story of an avenging crusader, but of a literary agent. A brief and light hearted epilogue to a much longer work!
A Token of our esteem 2298 AD is an enjoyable piece of space opera by Lyn McConchie. It effectively contrasts the attitudes and cultures of a scheming trader with the seemingly naïve inhabitants of a ‘barbaric’ planet. You know that something is up, but you’ll be hard pressed to figure it out before the excellent conclusion.
It’s a very politically correct future in David Murphy’s Cool Tiled Floors, where even the football team you support is regulated. An effectively ironic tale that throws in some uncomfortable background for the protagonist and makes you wonder if it could really happen. A slightly worrying thought.
An old conspiracy theory is given another airing in Vaughan Stanger’s Sons of the Earth, as two old friends reminisce about the old days. Short, but thoughtful.
Trevor Denyor has obviously had great fun creating his octopus-like character searching for others of his kind in Landfall. It manages to combine a bit of mysticism and romance into a gloomy tale of the far future.
There’s some nice psychological sketching in Daddy’s Home by Nigel Brown, a title that only now as I’m writing this I realise has more than one meaning. I had an idea what was causing the strange symptoms that gradually debilitate and isolate the eponymous dad, but the end still left me smiling, in a disturbed kind of way.
In The Lord’s Work by Andy Oldfield you’ll think you have the story I was expecting from Agent of God, as a mysterious figure journeys to the next village on his one man mission. I was still wrong.
The last two stories in the magazine seem to continue a similar theme. The Mission by Simon Morden is a medieval tale of two enemy soldiers, one human, one not, who form an uneasy alliance in their quest for truth. In the tradition of Enemy Mine their preconceptions are challenged as their well-written relationship develops. A fine addition to the issue.
Finally, Martin Taulbut’s The Pagans is set in a future where there is only one state religion and an android investigator is sent undercover to infiltrate a group of druids. The non-judgemental attitude of the android is perfect for telling the story while remaining detached from any ethical dilemmas, and the mixture of high tech gadgets and a familiar English backdrop makes a pleasing combination.
There’s also an in depth and enlightening interview with Brian Stableford to round out a magazine that looks good and reads well.