February 2, 2021

Magazine Roundup: Apex Magazine, January 2021

"Root Rot," Fargo Tbakhi

This seems to be replaying the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on Mars. I don't know enough about that to comment on it, and as a result I couldn't really get into this story or character. The prose style is jittery, with long run on sentences, which is admittedly appropriate for a main character who's given up and is drinking himself to death. Still, I didn't like this very much.

Grade: D

"Your Own Undoing," P H Lee

This is good. It's a fantasy of a master sorcerer overcome, twisted and enslaved by her own student. But it's also a story about stories, the power a good story has over us, and how to both use the story and escape from its trap--by writing your own ending. 

Grade: A

"Love, That Hungry Thing," Cassandra Khaw

I'm not sure if this is SF, horror, or both, and either way I didn't care for it. It seems to be a fragment that is so caught up in its sense of creepy atmosphere that it forgot it also needs to be a story. The end dribbles away into nothing and the worldbuilding makes no sense. It's well written and the prose is sharp and lovely, but it ends up being an empty shell, for me. 

Grade: D-

"Mr. Death," Alix E. Harrow

Alix E. Harrow is one of my favorite authors, and she knocks it out of the park here, with this beautiful story of a soul reaper who meets the one soul he can't bear to ferry across the river. This story alone is worth the price of the magazine. 

Grade: A+

"The Niddah," Elana Gomal

This is a post-pandemic horror story that could have only been written in the wake of Covid-19, and in fact references it. It's a reminder that pandemics are jump-starters for mass societal change....or in this case, regression. But the ending makes up for it--a sharp stinger that promises revenge.

Grade: B

"Gray Skies, Red Wings, Blue Lips, Black Hearts," Merc Finn Wolfmoor

I don't often say that short stories need to be longer, but this one does. The worldbuilding is adequate for its 5300 words, but there's a universe here I would love to revisit. This tale of a former City guard who goes hunting for a girl's lost soul seems like it's just crying out to be expanded into a book.

Grade: B+

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