The Apex Book of World SF, because I couldn’t jam all my favorites into one post.
Posted July 31, 2014on:
You know I wasn’t going to keep you waiting forever, right? yesterday I start talking about my favorite stories in the next Apex Book of World SF, and I just couldn’t jam all my favorites into one post! So here’s the rest of my favorite stories:
“Jungle Fever” by Zulaikha Nurain Mudzar was a satisfyingly enjoyable horror story which starts with a scratchy plant. After reading this I’m going to wear garden gloves every day outside, even if I’m just watering the tomato plant! Sailin gets a scratch, which turns into a wound, which turns her into something else all together. this is not how she planned on getting revenge on her abusive uncle, but well, what are you going to do? As the disease progresses, she keeps enough of her mind to see what she’s doing, but it’s like she’s watching from outside her body. Since she doesn’t narrate the worst parts, either she’s in complete denial, or she’s so detached that she’s not aware of what’s happening in those moments, or she doesn’t want the reader to know the gross details of what’s she’s done. Someone has got to have a cure, but when she finds a physician, she’s terrified of what he might do to her. I appreciated that Sailin never became a mindless zombie. She might not be herself anymore, but the reader consistently sees her as a human, as someone deserving of our compassion. Or at least, we might be compassionate towards her so long as she eats someone else. . .
If you’re looking for a unique take on Cthulhu mythos, look no further than “Ahuizotl” by Nelly Geraldine Garcie-Rosas, in which Elena is travelling to New Spain to visit the grave of her brother. She’s barely heard from him in the thirty or more years since he left her at the gates of a convent in Spain. On the voyage she has vivid and terrible dreams of fish like creatures whose tails end in hands, of horrible screaming, of terrors her mind has no reference point for. The ship makes landfall, and she takes possession of a small idol some natives appear to be praying to. The little fish-man idol brings her nothing but misery, especially when she’s seen at her brother’s grave with it. Does she realize that by the simple act of carrying it around, she becomes it’s unwitting servant? It was so much fun to read a Cthulhu mythos set elsewhere than the traditional New England. And since “Ahiuzotl” takes place in the 1500s, it’s easy to wonder if the Cthonic deep things spent a few generations in the warmer waters of Central and South America.
“Regressions” by Swapna Kishore was a story I kept coming back to this story over and over again, and I’ve finally figured out why: While I had trouble wrapping my head around the beginning, especially all the Indian names and terms, the futuristic SFnal meets mythology plot really picked up in the middle for me, and then once i got to the end, everything suddenly made sense and I needed reread the beginning to catch all the details I’d missed on the previous reading. Lemme sum up, and you’ll see what I mean. Kalpana was raised in an all female community, and trained to be a futurist who researches the past, learned what went wrong and how to avoid it in the present. Due to her physical resemblance to an agent, she’s forced to travel back in time to the time of Sita, the ideal daughter/wife/mother figure in Hindu mythology. It’s hilarious when Kalpana let’s her “contemporary” thinking get the best of her – she says things that make no sense to her new family, she talks back to her elders, things like that. The story takes a turn for the dark when she meets another agent from the future, someone who sees Sita’s life and the future of India in a very different way. This isn’t a spoiler because the story is so much more complex than just time travel and changing the past, but it becomes a tragic paradox to realize that if Kalpana succeeds in her mission, her future won’t exist. And every time I got to that paragraph, i instantly wanted to read the entire story again.
“Waiting With Mortals” by Crystal Koo will lure you in in the few first paragraphs,and then oh so gently it’ll break your heart. -It’s easy for ghosts to inhabit a mortal’s body, but it’s polite to get the mortal’s consent first. Ghosts don’t eat, can’t taste anything, can’t feel another person, can’t get their earthly business conducted, but once they inhabit a mortal, they can do all those things and more. Ben met J.G. before he died, and he’s still trying to get up the nerve to tell her how he feels about her. It’s a little more difficult now, he’s got to climb into someone else’s body, and talk with their voice to even get her attention. But she always knows it’s him, even as her newest occupation is slowly killing her. I loved the tender interactions between Ben and his dad and Ben and J.G. How do relationships change once you’re dead? Of course this is a sad story, as populated by ghosts as it is, but it’s a heartwarming love story too. Everyone here is searching for acceptance, for love, for release.
I first got introduced to Karin Tidbeck’s “Brita’s Holiday Village” while reading her 2012 collection Jagannath, and this story only gets more wonderfully weird with time. The narrator is borrowing her aunt Brita’s cabin for some quiet time to write during the summer. She doesn’t get much writing done, but she does notice some really weird shit happening happening at the neighboring bungalows. At first she thinks it’s some kind of insect infestation, but she never sees any bugs or anything, so she stops worrying about it. The story gets very surreal very fast, and it dawns on the reader a little quicker than it dawns on the narrator as to what’s happening. Aunt Brita knows exactly what’s going on and she assumes that her niece does, so it’s funny to watch the narrator not have any idea what’s happening. Some lives are not measured in years, and as the days get shorter, the story takes a turn for the sad, as opposed to the dark and weirdly surreal directions it had been going in. This wasn’t my favorite story from Jagannath, but it was nice to see it included in this World SF volume, because it reminded me how much I enjoy Tidbeck’s writing.
The anthology closes with the whimsical “Dancing on the Red Planet” by Berit Ellingsen. Enroute to Mars, the multinational team of astronauts requests to be allowed to “dance” down the ramp of the lander. The mission commander thinks they’re crazy, but they’ve already chosen the music, already gotten permission from other parties. Commander Vasilev is a bit of a stick in the mud, but he doesn’t want to be the only one not dancing, or even worse, the only one dancing badly! there is lots of funny chatter about how no one cares if you dance crappy at a club, because all the other dances will hide you, but this? this is going to be televised, it’s going to be history! If you don’t have the moves, everyone will know! It sounds cheesy, but the music and the dancing really does bring everyone together. Instead of a mission of Russians and Belgians and Americans, they become human beings all dancing with joy to be standing on another planet. Makes me hopeful that there is a lot of music and dancing on the ISS.
By the way, Apex Book Company just totally redesigned their site. That matters to you, because they are doing a massive 20% sale. Which means you can get The Apex Book of World SF Vol 3 at a really good price, and the Apex Book of World SF 2 at a really good price, and the Apex Book of World SF Vol 1 at a really good price…. and you get the idea!