I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine by Lynne Thomas
Published: 2014 by Apex
Genres: Fantasy, Horror/Gothic, Science Fiction
Source: the publisher
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The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne Thomas, is an anthology of short speculative fiction covering a spectrum of genres including sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Today is my review stop on its blog tour, coordinated by Andrea from The The Little Red Reviewer. Rather than review the entire book, I am going to talk about five or six of the different stories from The Book of Apex and my reactions to them. They are chosen somewhat randomly and appear below in no particular order. Normally when I read an anthology of stories, I read them in order, but in this case, I spread out my reading and picked things that caught my eye on any given day. Instead of gobbling up the entire book, I’m savoring it bit by bit. I haven’t finished reading all of the stories in the book yet, and I will more than likely come back and explore more of the stories in a later post.
“Sprig” by Alex Bledsoe
This was one of my favorite stories in the collection because it reminded me of an experience that I had while growing up. One of my cousins who used to babysit my siblings and I had us convinced that she was a witch and kept her broomstick in the woods behind her house.
In Alex Bledsoe’s “Sprig,” a little boy goes to a Renaissance Faire, gets lost, and meets a fairy. That fairy’s compassion and willingness to talk to the boy makes an impression on him that could conceivable last a lifetime. I enjoyed the story’s candor and the way that it was able to balance the innocence and cluelessness of childhood with graceful humor.
“My daddy says there’s no such thing as fairies. He said you’re all just a bunch of college kids too lazy to get real jobs.”
Her face pursed in disapproval, a look he’d seen his mother give his father more than once. She said, “Does your daddy have a real job?”
“Not anymore. He got laid.”
“She choked off her burst of laughter. “I think you mean, ‘laid off.'”
“Yeah. Now he just drinks beer and looks at girls on the internet.”
She smiled sadly. “Well, I think he’s probably just upset and doesn’t know how to let people know. Human daddies are like that. Their job is to take care of their family, and when they can’t do that, they get sad. But nobody ever taught them how to let the sadness out, so it just comes out all wrong.”
This passage was probably my favorite selection in the entire Book of Apex. It’s sad, humorous, and gets to the core of universal feelings and experiences. Every family has difficulties on occasion, and the fairy is able to convey to the boy that the fact that things are strange now doesn’t mean he isn’t loved. Bledsoe treats the entire situation with compassion and understanding.
The fairy herself reminds me of the fairy godmothers that permeate children’s stories, showing up at just the right moment when a character is about to despair and reminding him or her that all isn’t lost and that no matter how difficult life might seem at the moment, there’s still hope.
“Waiting for Beauty” by Marie Brennan
The story of “Beauty and the Beast” gets turned upside down in Marie Brennan’s dark retelling called “Waiting for Beauty.” In this interpretation, the Beast is full of unrealistic hope and is blind to the reality that Beauty doesn’t fit into his fairy tale mold. Short, sweet, and deliciously creepy.
“The 24 Hour Brother” by Christopher Barzak
This one reminded me strangely of Benjamin Button. There’s a little boy, and he’s about to become a big brother for the first time. However, the brother is struck by a terrible genetic disease where he progresses through every stage of his life in the space of a day. This forces the protagonist to realize that life is short and to confront the idea of mortality for the first time in his young life. “The 24 Hour Brother” was bizarre, difficult to categorize, and unlike anything that I’ve ever read. It wasn’t a story that I particularly enjoyed, but it is one that stuck with me and that I found myself pondering for days after I had read it.
“Coyote Gets His Own Back” by Sarah Monette
When Luther kills a coyote bitch, things start getting wonky on the farm as the undead Trickster causes trouble. I have a thing for the Trickster archetype, and loved the zombie interpretation. “Coyote Gets His Own Back” is a satisfying story, and it leaves me with a hankering for more.
“The Second Card of the Major Arcana” by Thoraiya Dyer
A Sphinx travels to a modern city as she seeks to find an intelligence who can answer her riddles. I loved the bridge between the modern and the myth, as well as the science fiction ending. I suspect that if I were to encounter the Sphinx, I would fail to answer a riddle correctly and would be exterminated. I had the pleasure of interviewing Thoraiya Dyer earlier this week, and if you’d like to check it out, you may find it here.
“The Bread We Eat in Dreams” by Catherynne Valente
This was the first story that I read in the collection, and as usual, Cat Valente managed to blow me away with her intensely lyrical writing. In “The Bread We Eat in Dreams,” Valente spins a tale of a demon named Gemegishkirihallat, who is exiled to earth, where she takes the name Agnes. Gemegishkirihallat is a sympathetic character. She has a beautiful vegetable garden and bakes the most delicious bread in town. Despite her willingness to share her recipes and gardening tips, the townspeople become jealous and burn her as a witch. The story shows that sometimes the greatest darkness doesn’t come from hell, but rather from human hearts.