|Albedo One --
Editor(s) not named, published by Albedo One Productions
A4 size magazine, 2-colour cover, £2.95
Extensive reviews, an opinionated column entitled "Echoes From the Phantom Zone" with the by-line Severian, and a correspondence page under the heading "Ugly Chickens", together with meaty features and a wide range of fiction, make the A4 sized Albedo One a substantial read.
Though based in Ireland, and often featuring speculative fiction by Irish writers, Albedo One publishes science fiction, fantasy and horror by writers from around the world. Issue 17 is no exception.
In Colin Greenland's "Miss Becky Laban and the Galactic League," the league of the title is meeting to interview a representative of Earth, to see if humans should be admitted. Randomly chosen twelve-year-old Becky threatens the league with an imaginary bomb unless they agree to admit Human Beings. A tongue-in-cheek-story, well written but lightweight, with a quirky but reasonably satisfying ending.
Trevor Mendham's "Upon Reflection" has a man's mirror- image as his alternative self -- his alter ego -- showing him his life as it might have been. It's a neat idea, but the flat writing style means that the plot is all this story has going for it.
In "Henry Dreams of Angkor Wat," an obscure story by Jeff VanderMeer (reprinted from The Silver Web), we are treated to Henry Kissinger's dreams or obsessions about an emaciated Cambodian woman. It's confidently written with a number of VanderMeer's deft touches, but ultimately unfathomable.
Donna Taylor Bradford's "The Naughty Room" is a hauntingly atmospheric tale of a girl who is visited by the ghosts of her father's wartime victims. It's a well written, realistic evocation of a possibly emotionally damaged only-childhood.
Robert Neilson's "The Princess's Apartments" tells of a medieval Grand Duke who employs an architect to design and build rooms for his new wife. The architect continues to increase the size of the project, the budget and the duration (although I believe encountering rock in the foundations would speed up rather than delay such a project), eventually driving the Duke to devise a scheme to rid himself of the troublesome artisan. The story is generally well written, but it starts off being about the Princess and ends up being about the Duke and his architect.
"Overload" by David Murphy is a futuristic story of a drug-addled transvestite regretting the prevailing state of dystopia. It's engaging but doesn't really go anywhere. It's more a philosophical treatise on responsibility versus free choice.
All the fiction in issue 17 is to a good standard, and none of the stories relies for its effect on a weak so-called surprise ending. Some are mildly obscure, but that's often the case with fiction published in the independent press. Writers like to experiment, and it's only in publications like Albedo One that such efforts are likely to find an outlet.
Albedo One is printed on non-glossy paper, but with a glossy two-colour cover. Its production isn't up to the standard of, say, The Third Alternative, but the quality of the contents is ample compensation for a less than absolutely wonderful look. According to the unnamed editor the magazine is presently undergoing constant revision and upgrade, so we can expect improvements in the looks department.
Copyright © 1998 Paul S. Jenkins
Note: This review originally appeared in the Usenet Newsgroup rec.arts.sf.reviews.
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