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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Anthology Review - The Book of Apex: Volume Four edited by Lynne M. Thomas

For me, the best kind of anthology is a genre-specific one. I like the novelty of ideas, the variety of subjects, and the unknown factor of what's coming next. While I do enjoy themed anthologies, I find that the subject tends to wear a bit thin by the end, and I'm always left second-guessing myself as to whether a story was weak, or I've just grown tired of the theme.

The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine is a genre-specific anthology . . . in the broadest sense. Like it's namesake, from whom the stories are reprinted, this is a collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories from a wide variety of authors. Editor Lynne M. Thomas has dived deep into the first 15 issues of her tenure, selecting 33 of the best stories to present to the reader here.

I don't want to say too much and spoil the stories here, but standouts for me included:

  • "The Bread We Eat in Dreams" by Catherynne M. Valente - quite likely the coziest, homiest demon story you'll ever encounter.
  • "The 24 Hour Brother" by Christopher Barzak - a unique twist on the aging theme, with a baby brother who lives an entire life in a day.
  • "So Glad We Had This Time Together" by Cat Rambo - reality television meets honest-to-gosh paranormal society . . . with consequences.
  • "A Member of the Wedding of Heaven and Hell" by Richard Bowes - exactly what the title promises, a story of fiends and fools, angels and devils, all resigned to consummation of the marriage.
  • "Copper, Iron, Blood and Love" by Mari Ness - a fairy tale that could have come from the Brothers Grimm themselves.
  • "Tomorrow's Dictator" by Rahul Kanakia - a weird story about sales, human resources, public relations, and voluntary mind control that seems eerily plausible.
  • "Ironheart" by Alec Austin - a militaristic sort of tale, with absolutely the best first line in the entire collection.
  • "Armless Maidens of the American West" by Genevieve Valentine - less a forgotten tale of the Brothers Grimm and more a contemporary example of their legacy.
  • "During the Pause" by Adam-Troy Castro - probably my favourite piece in the anthology, one of those fragments that still manages to tell one heck of an apologetic story of alien interference.
  • "Sprig" by Alex Bledsoe - a clever sort of Renaissance Fair fairy tale that dares to deliver on the anticipated twist.
  • "Blood from Stone" by Alethea Kontis - a pulp era type horror story updated with a contemporary feel, complete with a dark twist

Like all anthologies, The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine is hit-or-miss, depending upon your preferred genre, narrative style, and storytelling framework. There are longer tales here with complete story arcs, and shorter tales that are little more than isolated scenes. In between are some unusual tales that leave you wondering from what larger narrative piece the fragment fell. You may not love them all, but you're certain to find ones you love.


Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 24th 2013 by Apex Book Company

3 comments:

  1. During the Pause was my favorite story in it as well. Instant Sci-fi classic, at least to me. On the other hand, we disagree on 24 Hour Brother, which did nothing for me. But there was a lot more good than bad in this one.

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    Replies
    1. 24 Hour Brother is a concept that's been done before, but I think it was the intensity and the sort of melancholy sorrow of this telling that won me over.

      You're right, though, definitely more good than bad overall.

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  2. OOO, this sounds good! I love a good anthology. That cover is crazy! So cool! It's creepy and beautiful and everything you want in a cover.

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