Tag Archives: Mari Ness

Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 5

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 first 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…..

  • Splinter, by Shira Lipkin. (***)
    A group of friends, all with magical powers, step into another world. I’m not sure why, but this story just didn’t hit the mark for me. It wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t all that impacted by it. Maybe you’ll fare better than I did. CONTENT: Strong language. No sexual content, no violence, although the emotional impact of their trip can be a little disturbing.
  • Erzulie Dantor, by Tim Susman. (***)
    In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti darkness holds sway over the land, both in the land surrounding Bas-Le-Fond and in the hearts of some of it’s inhabitants. But the voodoo gods can be fickle, especially to those who merely pay them lip service…. I wasn’t a fan here. Perhaps it’s my antipathy towards voodoo, or perhaps I was simply in the mood for a more uplifting tale. Either way, despite my lack of investment in this tale it was well-crafted. Perhaps you’ll find it more appealing than I did. CONTENT: Some strong and disturbing violence. Mild sexual innuendo. Strong voodoo occult content. No profanity.
  • Labyrinth, by Mari Ness. (****)
    Below the temple, there is a labyrinth. In it, trained Dancers wait for the condemned. If the condemned can beat the Dancers, they are innocent and go free. If not, their guilt is proven and their death just. To be a Dancer is a great honor, but it also comes with a terrible potential for loss…. This story was very well crafted, but very bleak. Perhaps another day I would have received it better, I don’t know. At any rate, this one disturbed me. CONTENT: Strong violence. Mild sexual innuendo. No profanity.
  • Blood From Stone, by Alethea Kontis. (****)
    This tale was excellently executed. Ms. Kontis takes the real historical character who was the alleged basis for the fabled Bluebeard, Baron Gilles de Rais, and seeks to explain just what turned him into that legendary monster. The story was well-told, very evocative and frankly disturbing–how could it not be, given the subject matter? My one complaint is that Lord Death, once he appears, speaks with a modern idiom that was jarring in the medieval setting. CONTENT: Strong, disturbing violence. Sexual innuendo. No profanity. Strong occult content.
  • Trixie And The Pandas Of Dread, by Eugie Foster. (*****)
    This one would have made my best-of list, hands down, had I managed to finish the anthology before the time came to post it. Oh well….In the world Ms. Foster presents here, there are far more gods than our humble sphere has ever conceived of. There’s apparently a Karmic Council that can elevate someone to godhood if they deem you worthy. Anyway, Trixie is the goddess you’ve always wished existed–she exists purely to smite the @$$holes of the world. That guy posting racist and fascist comments on your favorite YouTube video? She just pulled out his heart. That drunken idiot at the back of the theater yelling spoilers while you try and enjoy the film? His spleen just spontaneously ruptured. (I can only assume he went to Shepherd Book’s “special Hell….”) The only problem is that Trixie is running solely on duty. It’s been a long time since she’s felt any sort of the righteous anger that keeps her running, and she’s getting tired. And her totem Pandas that carry her sedan have a severe case of flatulence due to their all-bamboo diet…. CONTENT: This story is pretty offensive on every front, but I have to confess that I loved it anyway. R-rated language. Semi-explicit sexual content. Occasionally-gruesome (but always deserved!) violence.
  • The Performance Artist, by Lettie Prell. (****)
    Anna Pashkin Bearfoot is a performance artist. Her latest work will be the most controversial of all….Not gonna lie, this story was fairly disturbing. The prose was excellent though, and it was a good story. The ending had a particularly biting commentary on our culture…. CONTENT: Some sexual content, including implied rape and molestation in a character’s past. No overt violence, but some fairly disturbing content I can’t place in any other category. No profanity.

This is the fifth and final post 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)

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Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 3

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 first post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at more of 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…..

Also, go check out part one of this review series. There’s a giveaway!

  • A Member Of The Wedding Of Heaven And Hell, by Richard Bowes (****)
    This one almost made my favorites list. I’m still not sure why it didn’t. According to Mr. Bowes, the hosts of Heaven and Hell never leave their respective realms anymore. Instead, they recruit humans who show certain predispositions, imbue them with a measure of their power, and employ them as proxies in their endless cold war. Now both Heaven and Hell are in an uproar, as a wedding between two of their agents prepare to wed…. CONTENT: Brief sexual innuendo, non-explicit. The implication that one character may have been molested as a child. Mild violence. Mild language.
  • Copper, Iron, Blood And Love, by Mari Ness (***)
    This is a tale of the raven’s daughter, one of seven children born to a woman in the village of Sandel and the only one to survive their mother’s madness. This is also a tale of the blacksmith’s daughter, who loved the raven’s daughter for saving her life. There is also a poet, a singer, or a prince, depending on who you talk to. First off, I didn’t really like this one that much. I didn’t “get it” when I was reading it. On reflection, however, it is growing on me. The vagueness that annoyed me at first glance now looks more like Ms. Ness taking on the tradition of folk tales and how they are a little different every place you find them. It’s an exploration of how stories evolve, and maybe a comment about never really knowing which one is true. I’m still not a fan, but I can at least appreciate the craft and technique here. CONTENT: No language. Implied violence. Possible implication of a character having been molested.
  • Love Is A Parasite Meme, by Lavie Tidhar (***)
    (Ostensibly) the last two people on an Earth devastated by unexplained disaster set out to forget certain words they deem useless. I didn’t really get pulled into this one, whether it was the never-explained fate of the rest of the world or the fact that I was put off by the titular declaration concerning love. I did like the ending, but not enough to redeem the experience. CONTENT: Harsh, R-rated language throughout. No violence. Non-explicit sexual content.
  • Tomorrow’s Dictator, by Rahul Kanakia (****)
    Science has cracked the secret of mind control and brainwashing. Visit the right therapist (or whatever they call themselves where you’re from,) one little adjustment and voila! That smoking habit that’s stubbornly refused to be beaten? Gone forever. That job you despise? Now you love it. Perfect, right? And just perfect for that cult you’re trying to start that is having trouble keeping your converts committed…. CONTENT: Mild sexual innuendo. No language. No violence.
  • Winter Scheming, by Brit Mandelo (****)
    Harvey is disturbed, haunted by a relationship gone wrong. To tell you more would be to invite spoilers, and I really don’t want to do that. Instead, I’ll simply say that this strange story involves reincarnation, a taciturn bird lady, a golden owl, and an act of nearly divine retribution. Shutting up now…. CONTENT: Strong lesbian sexual content. Violence, evocatively described. Harsh R-rated language. Reincarnation counts as occult content, right?
  • In The Dark, by Ian Nichols (****)
    There is a darkness that lives deep in the Earth, hungry for the dark and dreary dreams of humanity. The miners know this, and so they sing songs bright and cheerful to keep the darkness at bay. But not all who travel through their lands are familiar with this timeless enemy, and there are those who love nothing more than songs of heartache and pain…. There was a beauty to the prose of this story that I’m sure I can’t do justice to in description. I really enjoyed it, and it narrowly missed making my best-of list. CONTENT: Implied sexual innuendo, but nothing explicit. No language. No real violence, though there are some frightening elements that I’ll not elaborate on because spoilers.

This is the third post 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)

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Filed under Books, Reviews, Short Stories