the Little Red Reviewer

The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad (part 2)

Posted on: September 24, 2015

apex-world-sf-volume-4I had so much I wanted to stay about The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad that I couldn’t possibly jam it all into one blog post.  Last week I talked about a few of my favorite stories in the anthology, and today I’m going to talk about a few more. With over 24 stories in the anthology, it was easy to have a very long list of favorites. I took the list of stories I really enjoyed, and cut it in half. Because I need to leave you something to discover on your own, don’t I?


Here are my thoughts on yet more of my favorites out of The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4.


Single Entry, by Celeste Rita Baker – Written in dialect, it was all I could do not to read this entire story out-loud. You can feel the energy of the carnival in the rhythm of the words, hear people singing and cheering. Dressed as the planet Earth, the protagonist is a single entry in the carnival. But where is the music coming from? How does their costume swell and shrink to fit through every door and fill every plaza?  Momentarily so big people can see themselves and their homes on the planetary surface, the walking dancing planet loses steam and shrinks back down to human size. And then keeps shrinking.  Just a beautiful story to read, it feels like a song whose time signature changes as time flows.


The Language of Knives by Haralambi Markov – I’m not sure how much I enjoyed reading this gory, grisly story, but i certainly won’t ever forget it. In a bakehouse, a loved one is prepared to be fed to the gods. His family strips his body, dries his bones, makes him into meal.   A death rite combines with a coming of age rite, wrapped in a story of love both romantic and familial.  That this story is really a love sonnet makes swallowing the subject matter a very strange experience.


Pepe by Tang Fei – Pepe and her brother are at an amusement park. But they aren’t real children. Created with springs inside, Pepe, her brother, and all their siblings were created to tell stories. But oh, the stories they tell!  They were  born many years ago, and in the time since, their siblings have been destroyed. Such a dichotomy in this story, Pepe and her brother are lightheartedly enjoying the amusement park, the rides, the lights, the laughter of children. But her brother dwells on their dark past, the memories of watching the other storytelling children pulled out of crowds and forced to talk, forced to expose their identities. Remember the movie AI: Artificial Intelligence? this story feels a little like that, but completely from the kids points of view. They never asked for this life, they were never given a choice. They were designed and programmed, and are now locked in a life they wouldn’t choose for themselves. But Pepe’s brother has one last choice to make, one last opportunity for freedom.

Six Things We Found During The Autopsy by Kuzhali Manickavel – I really loved this story.  From the title, you’d like it would be something bloody and gory, but nope, this gorgeous dreamy fantasy is as unique as it is unexpected.  Things found in different parts of her body include ants, saints, angels, pornographic magazines, and diseases. Even while enjoying the poetic language, this is a fun piece to pull apart. The story ends abruptly, but with the subject matter in mind, the abruptness works. The story is more photograph than action, it feels like something that would be in a Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosity.


The Four Generations of Chang E, by Zen Cho –  it’s thanks to Benjanun Sriduangkaew that I’ve become fascinated with the  Chinese Goddess of the Moon, Chang E.  Cho offers a new interpretation of the myth – in which lonesome daughter Chang E won a lottery to move to the moon, and she did so, without regret. On the moon, she is an immigrant, a fish out of water, a foreigner. Perhaps her daughter will do better? And she does. Raised with a moon rabbit for a pet, the second generation Chang E attends lunar university, watches society change before her eyes. The second generation Chang E loses her terran accent, berates her mother for not speaking perfect Lunar, and has body modification surgery to appear more Lunarish.  As the generations pass, the Chang E’s assimilate more and more to Lunar culture, leaving the Earth, and the culture of their parents further and further behind.  A myth I enjoy, re-told through modern lenses to make it a story of assimilation and loss. And who knows? Maybe the original Chang E went through these same conflicts – to change yourself to blend in and be accepted is painful, so why do we do it? Well, we do it every damn day. This was one of my favorites in the anthology.


Tiger Baby by JY Yang – I came across the Blake poem recently, in a Tanith Lee short story in which someone used it to bring a phantom idealized tiger into being.  Born in the Year of the Tiger, Felicity dreams of hunting, of roaring, of prowling. Her day to day life is so uninspiring, a boring job, parents who nag her to get married and move out, so of course she dreams of something better, some more adventurous and interesting. Are her dreams real, or is she going crazy? Can an oft recited poem make you into something new? Or maybe it’s just the stray cats in the alley outback that have her dreaming of change and freedom. The more obsessed she becomes (or perhaps, the more in tune she is with her true self?) the more terms like pads, paws, stretches, and predator are used. When pushed to the brink of fearful symmetry, what will she become?


So that’s a tease of The Apex Book of World SF, Volume 4. I hope you saw something you liked!

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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