Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: The Book of Apex Volume 4

Title: The Book of Apex Volume 4
Editor: Lynne M. Thomas
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9781937009205
Publisher: Apex Book Company
Published: 2013
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

The Book of Apex Volume 4 collects the original fiction from Hugo-winning editor Lynne M. Thomas's first fifteen issues at the helm of Apex Magazine, which included two Hugo Award nominations for the magazine.

Thirty-three science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories grab readers by their emotional cores to star deep into the source of our humanity and inhumanity. Well-known authors like Ken Liu, Genevieve Valentine, Catherynne M. Valente, Lavie Tidhar, and Alethea Kontis, along with newer voices, sketch surreal pasts, presents, and futures full of characters with familiar and outsized desires and fears.

The Book of Apex Volume 4 is a collection of short stories which originally appeared in Apex Magazine. The thirty-three short stories are a smorgasbord of speculative fiction. Whether you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, horror or a mixture of them all you are bound to find something to your taste.

Normally I’m one of those people who read anthologies from start to finish, but for this review I decided to try something different; choosing fifteen stories to read based on the titles which sounded the most enticing. That’s one of the benefits of short story anthologies you can pick and choose what to read without feeling guilty. Only a handful of stories I’ve read so far didn’t really appeal to me. All the rest were thoroughly enjoyable, each in their own unique way.

It’s always tough to review short stories. Most of them rely on the reader experiencing them for the first time, without any prior knowledge, to deliver their full impact. You can’t say too much before you run the risk of ruining the experience. It’s also very difficult to choose which stories to highlight since each story will impact each reader differently.

These are just four of the stories that really appealed to me. There were many more, but I'm trying to keep things brief. 

"The Performance Artist" by Lettie Prell: A hauntingly thought-provoking story which deals with the merger of human and machine. An artist quite literally gives everything of herself for her art only for it to be... Well, the full impact is in the ending, so you’ll have to read it to see how it turns out.

"The 24 Hour Brother" by Christopher Barzak: As can be inferred from the title, this story brings home the fact that time is extremely precious. It deals brilliantly with issues of family, coping with loss and the inevitability of death.

"So Glad We Had This Time Together" by Cat Rambo: Reality TV meets the supernatural world with unforeseen consequences. Loved the subtle hints throughout the story that showed that everything isn’t as it seems and the ending is stunning.

“Decomposition” by Rachel Swirsky: A very macabre tale of revenge filled with magic and decaying corpses. Sensitive readers might find this one a tad too disturbing, but I enjoyed the very dark, disconcerting tone of the story.

The Verdict:
The Book of Apex Volume 4 is a stunning collection of eclectic speculative fiction, both in the array of stories and authors it presents. Like any anthology some stories won’t appeal, but half the fun is uncovering those unexpected gems that catch you unaware, crawl into your mind, and demand contemplation for days afterward. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 7 (Very Good)

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