REVIEW: “The Music of Ghosts” by Paul Jessup

Review of Paul Jessup, “The Music of Ghosts”, Interzone #272: Purchase here. Reviewed by Mark Hepworth

For a short story to take on the story of a generation ship is ambitious, to say the least. This is a tale of several of those generations that interact cleverly with the key being the relationship between the ephemeral biological humans and the permanent uploaded personalities in the ship.

The scope of the story makes for a necessarily spare narrative for each generation presented, creating a rather elegiac effect at times. No character really made a play for my interest though, the closest being the personality Penny, but she is something of a lost soul wandering through the generations.

The ending is bittersweet, as the colonists abandon the tools – the ship, the personalities – that brought them to their new home. You could say that they were callous, but of course they simply didn’t view the personalities as real people. A harsh ending, but I can’t argue with Jessup’s conclusion that humans often act this way.


REVIEW: “Blessings Erupt” by Aliya Whiteley


Review of Aliya Whiteley’s, “Blessings Erupt”, Interzone #272: Purchase here. Reviewed by Mark Hepworth

A little way into the future, an ecological catastrophe has left us with a society plagued with the after effects of radioactive plastics. Hope seems to be one of a small number of people able to treat the many people who are dying of tumours caused by the ubiquity of these plastics left over from our former world. The style of setting puts me in mind of her “Brushwork” (Giganotosaurus, May 2016), as it focuses on a small, personal element in the middle of a much larger story. Intriguing elements pop up – some sort of eco-religion, a new economic basis – but the focus tightens on Hope.

Hope is not a well person – quite literally, as she takes the sickness into herself while curing others – and this life with a rare gift has left her bitter yet determined. The real meat of the story is in how others treat her – with thanks, and awe, and gratitude, but maybe not as a real person. The people around her want her to feel her sacrifice makes her a good person, but only because they will feel better if a saint is sacrificing herself for them, rather than them taking advantage of a scapegoat to save themselves.

With prose both beautiful and effective, this story leaves you pondering.