the Little Red Reviewer

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apex-world-sf-volume-4The Apex Book of World SF, Vol 4, edited by Mahvesh Murad

published Aug 25, 2015

where I got it: receive review copy from the publisher (thanks Apex!)

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Quick!  how many anthology series can you count on one hand!  Some of you probably need both hands and a foot.  If you’re looking for a new anthology (or just want to read some compelling and fun fiction), allow me to introduce you to the Apex Books of World SF Volume 4, which showcase speculative fiction from around the globe.  Lavie Tidhar edited the first three volumes, and he’s passed the reigns to Mahvesh Murad.  I’ve read and reviewed the first and third volumes of this series (and I’ve got Vol 2 around here somewhere), and Lavie, I gotta tell you, Mahvesh put one helluva book together. You better make sure you’ve contracted her for at least three more of these!  In more than 24 stories, this volume takes us from Pakistan to Israel to Mexico to Iceland to Bangladesh to Uganda to Singapore to Kenya and beyond.

 

Reading science fiction from elsewhere feels a little like reading mythology from elsewhere. Mythology doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither does speculative fiction. Both are affected by current and previous cultural mores, ecology, weather, local resources, politics, rivals, etc. Well, so is any kind of story telling, and science fiction is just another type of story to tell.  And like mythology, people everywhere use fantastic fiction to explain something that seems like magic to the uninitiated. I used the term fantastic fiction because these stories bleed through and beyond the assumed limitations of science and even speculative fiction – in this collection you’ll find magical realism, mythology retellings, the languages of artificial intelligences, mourning practices, experimenting scientists, families torn apart, and more. A handful of these stores are available online, if you want a sample:

 

The Good Matter by Nene Ormes (at Io9)

Six Things We Found During the Autopsy by Kuzhali Manickavel (Apex Magazine issue 76)

The Four Generations of Chang E by Zen Cho

 

My absolute favorites in this anthology were Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith  by Shimon Adaf and The Four Generations of Chang E, by Zen Cho.  Here are my thoughts on those and a number of others.  I’ve split this review into two parts, because I just had so much I wanted to say!

 

Setting up Home by Sabrina Huang – a very quick and very effective story in which an amnesiac man’s empty apartment slowly fills up with furniture, gifts, and household items. It’s quite magical actually. The final item is accompanied by a note from his father, explaining how this final gift should be “used”. There is a lack of overt context and background,  but you’ll figure out what’s going on pretty quickly. I do wonder though, how the man will react when he figures out what’s happened.

 

In Her Head, In Her Eyes, by Yukimi Ogawa – young Hase is a servant girl at the compound of wealthy indigo dyers. She does her job, but everyone treats her cruelly. She claims to be from a mythical island, and here to learn about patterns, that she’s been tasked with bringing home as many patters as she can. What makes Hase so weird is that she wears a metal helmet that she never takes off. It covers her face, and can’t be pulled or pried off.  Hase also seems to love being teased and treated badly, as to her, this is just another pattern. What’s really on her home island? When someone finally does she her face, that’s when the story really gets weird.  Hase certainly did learn something from her time with the indigo dyers, and it’s not what anyone expected.

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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.