I finished reading my first issue of Apex Magazine! It was the first issue of 2023, number 135. On the whole, I enjoyed it. Interestingly my favorite two stories were the classic fiction that were originally published elsewhere. Hopefully that won’t always be the case. Now on to my brief review of each story.
The Big Glass Box and the Boys Inside by Isabel J. Kim is one of those rare stories written in the second person, making you feel like the story is about you. You work as an intern downtown in a glass high rise for a global magical corporation. The longer you work there, the more your body transforms. If you decide to accept their offer of a permanent position at the end of the summer, your body will become completely transformed; you will no longer be human. But that’s okay, you have no intention of staying. But maybe that boy across the office may change things…. This is a well-told story exploring the deeper aspects of what we really want out of life. (My rating: 4/5)
In Carnival Ever After, Mari Ness tells a tale of a woman who has joins the carnival due to an unusual condition that her family just couldn’t accept. When someone comes to “save” her, she might not be interested in leaving the supporting arms of her new “family”. While this story is interesting, it treads on ground that feels already well covered without offering much new to say. (My rating: 3/5)
A chess game forms the outline of The Immortal Game by Lindz McLeod. But don’t worry if you don’t know anything about the game. The story works even if you don’t understand chess notation. It is the story of a seduction. But who is seducing who and to what end? This is a somewhat familiar story told in a novel way. (My rating: 4/5)
Daughter, Mother, Charcoal by Akis Linardos is a story of generational subservience, showing just how difficult it can be to change one’s circumstance. And it isn’t always the physical obstacles that get in the way. It can be our culture as well as our own resulting mental states that hold us back and why it can take generations to change. This story evokes the feelings of darkness and despair that go along with challenges of such circumstances. (My rating: 4/5)
There was just one story that really didn’t do it for me. It was The Wreck of the Medusa by Jordan Kurella. A young trans boy comes of age on a pirate ship. It might just be me or my environment when I read it, but this story felt all over the place. I wasn’t sure what was happening or even what the point was. It is a story of transformation and growing into yourself, but it just didn’t quite work for me. (My rating: 2/5)
The shortest story in the issue is Experimental Protocol for the Coronal Sectioning and Assessment of a Human Soul by Sagan Yee. It intertwines a quasi-medical document describing how to remove a soul with a dying person’s telling briefly of their life as they approach their own end. It is clinical, beautiful, and haunting all at the same time and only 800 words. (My rating: 4/5)
Walking the Deep Down by Michelle Denham is a clever fable about a trek through the desert, avoiding being eaten by a monster, and planting something special that grows into something unexpected. The main character avoids the foolishness in old fairy tales and wisely outfoxes the monster in way that is reminiscent of Aesop’s fables. (My rating: 4/5)
Message in a Vessel by V. G. Harrison takes place on the moon in a future where some sort of medical disaster has split humanity into vampires and humans. The humans have essentially become livestock that the vampires feed from. One vampire isn’t entirely comfortable with this state of things. Her compassion and sense of justice is too much to resist as she attempts to save a human life. The world building is fantastic for such a short tale and the characters and circumstances really come alive. (My rating: 5/5)
My favorite story by far is Your Rover is Here by LP Kindred. A Rover driver (think Uber or Lyft) tells of how he uses magic to thwart a would be terrorist’s attack by one of his rides. In the aftermath, he is not treated as a hero. A thrilling but dark tale about the reality of social injustice from the view of someone in the midst of suffering it. (My rating: 5/5)
When I average my ratings for all the stories, this issue comes out to be a 3.8. Not bad! But as I said in the intro, the two best stories were not originals. Regardless, for a first issue this was a good experience. Dark stories that touch on deep human issues in ways that engage all the senses and make you feel something. That’s what I was hoping for from Apex, and it delivered.