The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas
Genre: Adult Mixed Genre Short Story Collection
Publisher: Apex Publications
Release date: October 24 2013
Source: e-book from publisher
In a word: A strong collection of weird, gory, scary, creepy and just plain strange stories that will satisfy any reader who loves a wide variety of genre short fiction.
I’m so happy I was introduced to Apex Publications this year. I’ve discovered some new authors that I love and read some stories I would never have found on my own. The thirty-three short stories in The Book of Apex Volume 4 come from the Apex Magazine side of the company, and bring together stories from fifteen issues of Apex Magazine, under the editing helm of Lynne M. Thomas (who unfortunately, has since stepped down from her position at Apex). There are far too many stories gathered here to discuss individually, but here is a numerical breakdown of my overall enjoyment of the collection. Out of thirty-three stories I:
- Loved: 17
- Liked: 12
- Didn’t care for: 4
Not bad, eh? In the interest of space, I am going to highlight my top ten favorites of this collection (in no particular order).
The Bread We Eat In Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente
And in her long nights, in her long house of smoke and miller’s stones, she baked the bread we eat in dreams, strangest loaves, her pies full of anguish and days long dead, her fairy-haunted gingerbread, her cakes wet with tears.
You may recognize her name: she’s the author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (longest title ever!!). I haven’t read Valente’s Fairyland books, but I will after reading this gorgeously written tale full of magic and mystery, about a demon who can grow anything in her magical garden, even in winter.
So Glad We Had This Time Together by Cat Rambo
One of my favorites, Rambo concocts a reality TV show where a vampire, a werewolf, and a demon are thrown together in the Winchester Mystery House with some humans (for dramatic effect). Events unfold the way you might expect, but Rambo’s narrative is so funny and well-paced that the story actually feels like it could be real.
Sweetheart Showdown by Sarah Dalton
Another one of my favorites, this creepy story about a crazy-ass beauty pageant has shades of The Hunger Games, but with humor added it feels even more horrifying than you might expect.
Love is a Parasite Meme by Lavie Tidhar
He wanted to tell her, that last time, that you could forget the word for love, but the feeling itself could still be there. Language only describes things that already exist.
A dreamy apocalyptic tale of the last two people on earth, as they travel through ruined cities and slowly lose the need for language.
Decomposition by Rachel Swirsky
This diabolic story of revenge was at times disgusting (as you might tell from the title), but it held me captive despite the graphic descriptions.
Murdered Sleep by Kat Howard
Sleep is dying, and has been for a long time now, through uncounted ticks of clocks and the flickers of thousands of too-brief candles. Sleep is dying, a slow exsanguination of dreams, a storm-tossed suffocation of nightmares. Sleep is dying, and she is not alone in her throes.
I loved the dreamy and dangerous quality of this story. A woman is invited to a party and decides to stay, but whether or not it takes place in the waking world or a dream is uncertain.
Sexagesimal by Katharine E.K. Duckett
A very sad and poignant story about the afterlife, where time is currency and memories can be gained or lost by moving back and forth through time.
During the Pause by Adam-Troy Castro
I loved the original voice of this story! An alien being warns the human race about an approaching apocalypse, but the reasons behind this warning aren’t at all what you might expect.
Always the Same, Till it is Not by Cecil Castellucci
A weird-ass zombie story written in a completely original voice about a group of zombies, one of them who plans a horrible sacrifice. This story was strangely touching, and I loved it.
Labyrinth by Mari Ness
A woman with a terrible job must engage in a fight to the death with those brave enough to enter her maze. A horrifying tale of duty versus familial love.
Other stories that made me laugh, cringe or otherwise gasp at their originality and skill: Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster, Erzulie Dantor by Tim Susman, Waiting for Beauty by Marie Brennan, Ironheart by Alec Austin, and The 24 Hour Brother by Christopher Barzak.
I was happy that many of these stories, especially the ones that really spoke to me, were by authors that I’d never heard of before. Although these tales all have elements of horror or the paranormal, each one relies on the human condition to get their points across. Strange and dreamy, shocking and brutal, humorous and poignant, The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine is a strong collection that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
You can find The Book of Apex: Volume 4 here: