Apex Magazine # 88, September 2016 (e-mag review).

September 29, 2016 | By | Reply More

Issue 88 of ‘Apex Magazine’ is hot off the press and the very striking cover by Mélanie Delon. It is hauntingly beautiful and scary at the same time. Not the type of person you would want to meet on a dark September night. Having savoured the cover, ‘Apex’ kick things off as normal with Jason Sizemore’s ‘Words From The Editor-in-Chief’ piece. I must admit I quite like Sizemore’s contributions as he usually tells us about what he’s been up to while providing additional information on the editions stories, poems, interviews and non-fiction pieces.

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The first story is ‘The Old Man And The Phoenix’ by Alexandria Baisden which I thought was poignant but not a tear-jerker. It is about an old man preparing to die and the Phoenix plays a central role in this but not what you would expect. It is a good, well-written tale by an author making their debut in ‘Apex’. No doubt we will hear more from Alexandria Baisden.

There is as usual an interview with the author which is interesting but rather long. It’s more than twice as long as the story! I hope it’s not a sign that they are padding out the issue due to a lack of quality content. I say this as the next story I think Sizemore implies to dealing with gender identity. I’m unconvinced that it does.

The story in question is ‘The Prince Who Gave Up Her Empire’ by Benjamin Sriduangkaew. In this story, male characters are called ‘she’ and females ‘he’ and that’s as far as dealing with gender identity goes. Putting gender issues aside for the moment, this is not a bad story. In fact, its rather good with some very novel ideas. The prince is heir to the current Empress but a being who can layout the possible future paths for the prince says one path leads to doom. This being is part of a different race and there are competing clans all trying to become the dominant faction.

I couldn’t really see a point in switching the gender labels other than to enforce the idea that the story is set somewhere else with a different culture. It’s not an integral part of the story which would have worked had they been the other way round. Anyway, it is still worth a read.

Abhinav Bhat is the author of the third story ‘The Warrior Boy Who Would Not Suffer’. The story opens with a small boy slowly bleeding to death in a desert from a gash in his thigh. If that was not bad enough his legs have also been crushed. How this happened and how he came to be there is not mentioned. It’s not really important as the story deals with the boy’s two visitations. The first asks a series of questions about the boy’s life. It seems he has done a lot of things and not all of it was good. I’m not going to say anything about the second visitor other than it and the ending was surprising. Another good read.

The fourth story, ‘War Dog’ by Mike Barretta, is actually a reprint as I originally read it in the anthology ‘War Stories: New Military Science Fiction’. It was a good but un-nerving story first time and hasn’t lost any of its quality the second time round. The chilling aspect are the infected people called schroom’s. As the infection progresses in the unfortunate person, they are compelled to climb up as high as they can before they finally die. The infecting organism then sprouts, releasing more spores into the air.

Why this is unnerving for me is that I know of this happening with a species of ant. They are normally ground-dwelling but when infected with a fungus they are eventually compelled to climb before clamping their jaws to a leaf or stem and dying. The fungus then fruits to release spores into the air and repeating the cycle.

Anyway, I digress from the story and while the schroom’s are an important feature of ‘War Dog’, they are not the main item. As the title suggests, the war dog is and it being originally included in a military anthology, you can probably surmise that the military are involved. It’s a good tale of the sacrifices someone will give up to try and right a wrong.

The non-fiction piece is called ‘Words For Thought’ and subtitled ‘Short Fiction Review’ by A.C. Wise. The sub-title needs to be longer as it should read ‘Short Fiction Review Of Stories Mostly About Mother/Daughter Relationships Written By Women’. I know it’s a bit long for a sub-title but it nicely sums up what this piece is about. It seems that there were either no content from male authors available or A.C. Wise was just not interested in it.

There are some interesting poems in this edition and a section titled ‘Contributor Bios’. I think some of this information might be duplicating what’s in the interviews with the contributors but it fills the space.

I wouldn’t say that this was one of the best editions of ‘Apex Magazine’ but it is still good value for money. The stories are good but the cover art is worth the asking price on its own.

Andy Whitaker

September 2016

(pub:Apex Publications. Black & white Kindle edition. Price: £1.99 (UK). ISSN: 2157-1406. ASIN: B005ANGWV8)

check out website: www.apex-magazine.com/issue-88-september-2016/

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Category: Magazines, MEDIA, Scifi

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About the Author ()

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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