Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 2

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my last post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

  • The Leavings Of The Wolf, by Elizabeth Bear. (***)
    Dagmar is an animal researcher with a problem. Multiple problems, really, although they are all connected. The root of her issues is her recent divorce (or, depending on who you ask, her recently-ended marriage). Through the course of the messy divorce, she gained enough weight that she can no longer get her wedding ring off of her finger without destroying it, which she is unwilling to do. So, in a quest to lose her excess weight and free herself from the wedding band, she runs. One day she finds herself in a part of the woods that is completely new to her, and there connects with her ancient heritage…. This was a good story, but it didn’t really work for me for some reason. Maybe because I didn’t have much in common with the main character? Ms. Bear did a good job of developing her, but as a young newlywed-and-happily-married male I didn’t really identify all that strongly with Dagmar the thirty-something divorcee, and the implication that marriage is sometimes the equivalent of sticking your hand in the mouth of a wolf rubbed me the wrong way.* I liked the Norse mythology, but not enough to salvage my opinion of this particular tale. CONTENT: Mild language. A little bit gruesome in one particular part, but not too disturbing.
  • The 24 Hour Brother, by Christopher Barzak. (****)
    Remember the story The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button? Brad Pitt film, Oscar buzz, all that? This story is kind of like that. Except that it isn’t. A haunting story about family, loss, and inevitability. There’s no suspense here, you know how it will end almost from the beginning, but this isn’t a story where that matters. This isn’t about fooling readers with a twist ending. This is about the inevitability of death, and how sometimes the scales of fate don’t balance properly. I didn’t enjoy it, but I don’t think Mr. Barzak intended me to. CONTENT: No language, violence, or sexual content. Still not really intended for kids, or at least not for ones who wouldn’t understand.
  • Faithful City, by Michael Pevzner. (****)
    This one almost made my previous post. A young man is given a vision calling him to a far-distant utopian city away from the wasteland the rest of the Earth has become. Upon arrival, he is asked to come to the temple and join the city, shedding his flesh and joining his spirit with the rest of the city’s inhabitants. Is all as it seems, or is the city a far more sinister predator than is being let on? I really liked this one, and I can’t pinpoint why I chose to omit it from my list of favorites. The premise is mildly disturbing, but I read disturbing things all the time. If I had an aversion to being disturbed, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this anthology. CONTENT: Some violence.
  • Sweetheart Showdown, by Sarah Dalton. (****)
    My initial reaction was to compare this to the Hunger Games, but that’s a bad comparison. The Sweetheart Showdown competition isn’t a large-scale ordeal serving to suppress revolution, but is instead far more disturbing. It’s basically a Miss America pageant that ends in gladiatorial combat, for no discernible reason than the entertainment of the masses. Again, I really liked this one and it almost made the cut for my previous post. Can’t say for sure why it didn’t…. CONTENT: Slightly gory violence. Some sexual innuendo. Brief language.
  • Bear In Contradicting Landscape, by David J. Schwartz. (***)
    This is the tale of a writer who meets the character from one of his unpublished short stories on the train one day, and they strike up a friendship. I love the idea, have even played about with some of the ideas involved in my own work, but the ending just didn’t work for me. I hate to admit this, but I just didn’t “get it.” Maybe you’ll fare better. CONTENT: Sexual content, not too explicit. Brief language.
  • My Body, Her Canvas, by A.C. Wise. (****)
    In a studio converted from a slaughterhouse, our narrator allows a troubled tattoo artist to transcribe her nightmares into his flesh. Very beautifully written, with incredibly evocative prose, but it was very bleak. It’s a little unclear as to whether there’s actually something strange going on here or if our narrator is just unstable, but in either case the relationship is hardly healthy. I’m sure some people will like this, but it wasn’t for me. CONTENT: Sexual language and innuendo. Strong language. Possibly some occult content, depending on the narrator’s sanity.

This is the second in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
-Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

*Yes, I know not all marriages are a good idea. I wasn’t born yesterday. I just didn’t particularly want to read a story built around that idea.

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