The Apex Book of World SF 3 edited by Lavie Tidhar
Genre: Adult Science Fiction Anthology
Publisher: Apex Books
Release date: June 15 2014
Source: Finished paperback from publisher
The nitty-gritty: A tasty buffet of choice stories from all over the world, some stronger than others, but all of them great examples of diversity and imagination.
Before she became a ghost, Xiao Qian tells me, she had lived a very full life. She had been married twice, gave birth to seven children, and raised them all.
And then her children got sick, one after another. In order to raise the money to pay the doctors, Xiao Qian sold herself off in pieces: teeth, eyes, breasts, heart, liver, lungs, bone marrow, and finally, her soul. Her soul was sold to Ghost Street, where it was sealed inside a female ghost’s body. Her children died anyway.
Apex Books continues to delight me with the way they stretch the boundaries of what science fiction and fantasy can be. In this collection, the third in a series, editor Lavie Tidhar has collected sixteen stories from many countries, including China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Nigeria, Greece, Mexico, Germany, France, Sweden and India. I was thrilled to discover some new favorite writers, and I intend to keep them on my radar. Some of the stories are translated into English, others are written in English, but all of them have not only an other-worldliness about them, but at the heart of each one, you’ll recognize the ups and downs of simply being human. For the most part, it was a very strong mix, and while not every story grabbed me, there were two or three that either made me cry or left me speechless.
As is my habit when I review anthologies, I would like to highlight my top five favorites. All five of these have everything I look for in a short story: lovely writing, an engaging story, characters who change and grow during the course of the tale, and emotional impact at the end. Imagine how hard it must be to achieve all these things in only a handful of pages! And yet these writers managed to do so:
A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight by Xia Jia. Translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu. A young boy named Ning lives in an odd family of ghosts, mechanical creatures with a human soul trapped inside them. But what happens when Ning finds out he’s not exactly who he thought he was? This heartbreaking tale had me bawling at the end.
Waiting with Mortals by Crystal Koo.
The neon in Hong Kong is like the past: an image of blurred points of light, and haste and shallow focus where the only certainty is a vivid experience eventually misremembered.
Koo’s writing is so beautiful, and this strange ghost story tells the tale of a group of ghosts who have not yet “crossed over,” but instead spend their days inhabiting the bodies of the living. Ben is a ghost who still pines for his friend J.G., a girl who is slowly losing herself by letting ghosts take over her body. A powerful and emotional story.
To Follow the Waves by Amal El-Mohtar. This author is truly metropolitan: she is a Lebanese-Canadian who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, so I’m not really sure how to categorize her story! This tale was particularly sneaky. It begins as a dreamy story about a woman who has been taught to weave dreams into stones for profit. But when she spies an intriguing and beautiful woman in a café, and begins to use her image as a catalyst for some very erotic dreams, the story suddenly turns dangerous.
Regressions by Swapna Kishore. A gorgeous story about time travel, as a group of “futurists”—women who are tasked with travelling back into India’s past and gently changing the tide of the Indian woman’s lot in life—must make sacrifices in order to improve the lives of women. I loved this story!
The City of Silence by Ma Boyong. Translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu. Just like George Orwell’s dystopian future, this 1984-esque story describes a future where the “appropriate authorities” control all language and publish a daily “List of Healthy Words” that citizens are allowed to use. When one man discovers a secret “Talking Club,” where one can speak whatever words he wants to, life becomes brighter—for a little while, at least. As with any dystopian, this is a chilling look at how dangerous government control can be.
Four other stories that nearly made this list are: Act of Faith by Fadzlishah Johanabas. A lonely man named Daud decides to teach his only companion, an android, the ways of his faith; The Foreigner by Uko Bendi Udo. A Nigerian boy seeks acceptance in a world filled with hate and mistrust. Jungle Fever by Zulaikha Nurain Mudzar. One of the few horror stories in the bunch, a girl contracts a nasty scratch while in the jungle, a scratch that changes her life forever. And Dancing on the Red Planet by Berit Ellingsen. An international group of astronauts, about to set foot on Mars for the first time, decide to make that special moment memorable.
So do yourself a favor and check out this anthology. I guarantee it will make you look at the world a little differently. Big thanks to Apex Books for providing a review copy.
You can find the book here: