Archive for the ‘Apex Publications’ Category

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The Kraken Sea doesn’t stop. Its pacing only ramps up and spirals out of control until the very entwined ending. In fact, there are no chapters and it reads a bit like an epic ballad. There’s also no break once you starting reading this unique, novella in length story from E. Catherine Tobler. I finished it all in one night after a two or three hour binge, I’m not sure of the actual time. I lost track of myself and surroundings a bit while immersing myself in this story.

We follow a special boy named Jackson and his struggle to find himself in a world he is so different from. His character rapidly evolves in more ways than one, he grows up in mind to be a man, however he is isn’t truly human but something more.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one and being published by Apex, I wasn’t disappointed. My initial assumptions for the storyline were far off base, at the very beginning I was thinking this might have a Chronicles of Narnia relation. Tobler has an ability to grab the reader by their throat and shove them face first  into a muddied world of mythical creatures and territorial battles between rival houses. The author does all this by weaving beautiful prose in a blend of wondrous character descriptions and actions somehow simultaneously, it really is a very artistic writing style.

If I had to give a few basic descriptions to give the overall feel of this story, I would go with: dark, mysterious, and tantalizing. I felt like I was trailing the entire time on the rooftops behind Jackson and Mae, watching from behind a cloud of mist as their stories unfolded. I still have more questions than answers with this one but that didn’t stop me from enjoying The Kraken Sea.

If you are looking for something a bit unique, a bit thrilling, and something that will take your mind to another plane of reality, then you really should give The Kraken Sea a look.

 

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This anthology was sooo good it hurt! Lavie Tidhar has compiled an exquisite, exotic collection of short science fiction stories in The Apex Book of World SF, Volume 3.

It was so refreshing to read these stories written by SF writers from throughout the world. Each had their own international slant that felt so fresh and unique.

Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

This a love story – of sorts. Sriduangkaew has created such an alien society that it was almost hard to follow the concept here. Yet the beings who populate this world were captivating and somehow had human attributes – machine or not – as they battled their arch enemies.

A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight by Xia Jia

Chilling and creepy. Gave me visions of that pale creature with the black soulless eyes and black hair who climbs out of the TV to terrorize the babysitter. Is the main character real or a ghost, like the others? You be the judge.

Act of Faith by Fadzlishah Johanabas

Ok, I’ll admit it. This one had me tearing up. What does it mean to be human and love a father and to love your faith? Can an android do any of these things? Deep, sweet story.

The Foreigner by Uko Bendi Udo

What an awesome blend of crooked civil servants, ethnic bias, and science fiction! This one was written so well as the main character attempts to establish his legitimacy in the face adversity.

The City of Silence by Ma Boyong

Boyong has taken the Internet and oppression to its far extreme. It is big brother tightening down the thumb screws and squeezing out your soul. Makes you want to scream.

Planetfall by Athena Andreadis

This is such a dreamy sort of tale of the establishment of a colony on a new world and the legacy those involved created. Well told with rich description and realization.

Jungle Fever by Ika Koeck

What talent to be able to instill such terror in this really short short about a monster’s metamorphosis! It all starts with a scratch.

To Follow The Waves by Amal El-Mohtar

This tale is actually about a dream weaver who unintentionally invades and controls another’s dream world. She falls in love but, alas, it is unrequited and has an unplanned consequence.

Ahuizotl by Nell Geraldine Garcia-Rosas

A chilling little horror story about a devilish water monster. Very atmospheric and told well.

The Rare Earth by Biram Mboob

Factions fighting in the name of religion. Whether in medieval times or now in the Middle East, tyrants and true believers have all called on religion to back their goals. Mboob has blended this timeless crusade with a modern ruthless twist.

Spider’s Nest by Myra Cakan

Cakan tells the tale of an addict’s descent into madness that leads to his doom.

Waiting With Mortals by Crystal Koo

This is a really hip world where humans host ghosts and ghosts plunge into humans – and it’s all policed by a supernatural police force. But there’s such a nice element of humanity between daughter and father and living up to expectations here as well.

Three Little Children by Ange

Holy crap! Never tell this bedtime story of a child murdering monster to your kids! They will never be the same. Horrors!

Brita’s Holiday Village by Karen Tidbeck

I don’t know why, but this story so reminded me of the movie, Cocoon, where these alien pods are discovered in a swimming pool and when the local aged neighbors go for swims they are suddenly rejuvenated. The main character stays in her aunt’s cabins and encounters curious neighbors and strange pupas hanging from the cabin’s eaves. Is there a connection?

Regressions by Swapna Kishnore

This story is really cool. So deep and layered about a young woman sent back in time to help reshape the world to reshape and change the past to make the future better for women. What happens is definitely not what she had planned.

Dancing on Red Planet by Berit Ellingsen

Fantastic story to round out this collection of short stories as multi-national astronauts prepare to land a first manned mission on Mars. Joyful and hopeful, Ellingsen expresses the wonderful shared elation of the Mars landing.

After reading this book, I really want to read more World SF from Apex publications. Good thing there are more volumes and, I hope, more to come in the future.

Maia Station says it best when describing J.M. McDermott’s Maze at the very beginning of the book. She talks of everything being, “…disjointed, wrapped in silver gauze…” and also “…sand ground away at her mind…”  Maze is truly a piece of human art and each layer is peeled back like skin to show the bloody tissue and bone beneath the surface.

The stories of those living inside the maze are formed by what at first appears to be a jumbled mass of hodgepodge characters. Maia Station is a scientist from the future somehow sucked into this bleak and unforgiving world. Joseph lives in a similar time stream to us, just in a more apocalyptic world before birthing a Djinni from his flesh and then is dragged through pipes into the Maze. Wang Xin is a young boy turned fearless warrior, who sees all his paths laid out before him by the water Djinni splashed into his eye. Then finally, there is Julie Station, born inside the Maze by Maia and her closing chapter. This diverse group of characters and different periods of time, are all interconnected as we weave through the maze, one life at a time.

Life in the Maze is cruel, harsh, and only those with a strong desire to survive can flesh out a meager existence for themselves. Feast on maggots, berries, vultures, or even minotaurs and harpies to quench the ache of hunger in your stomach. McDermott knows the very depths humans can go to in order to survive. Joseph’s story is particularly graceful in his downward spiral for survival.  Just an average guy who finds love at a high school reunion, except for the ball of light he sucked into his lungs and births from his chest. A creature known as Jenny, who rips his life and that of his loves apart when it spits them out into the hostile world of the maze.

Each page you turn grabs hold of your hands and yanks you deeper into its clutches until you’re so far entrenched in the Maze you can’t find your way back out. Each of our characters hopes to carve out a better life for themselves and possibly gain some understanding of the maze along the way, all the while each of them are somehow linked together by a bond of blood.

I won’t claim to fully understand the circular closure in the novel, but I do appreciate McDermott’s story-telling prowess. Not often am I left in a dark tunnel with a glimmering light dangling in front of me and I totter after it on uneasy steps. Maze did that to me. If you want to lose yourself into a hostile world with only a small chance of survival and comprehension, then I dare you to step into the Maze.

Find out more about Maze and J. M. McDermott: Blog | Twitter

I Can Transform You by Maurice Broaddus is Book Two in a series known as Apex Voices. The first, Plow the Bones by Douglas F. Warrick, was a brilliant collection of Mr. Warrick’s short stories. Both feature two unique and outstanding authors and each book has a very different feel from the other.

I Can Transform You left my head spinning after the first read through. It has a distinctly apocalyptic/end-of-times flavor to it, one that I’m starting to get obsessed with. Here is the blurb Apex provides:

From the dust of The Trying TimesTM, corp-nations have risen up in place of failed governments, and twilight haze dropped down in place of the sky. The economy fell, and the Earth itself shot heavenward, transforming the very face of the planet into an alien landscape with towers punching past the new sky into one of many unknowns. Soon after, the jumpers started raining from among the blue lanterns that took the place of sun and stars.

Mac Peterson left the employ of LG Security Forces and now cobbles together a life in the shadows of the great towers, filling policing needs for people too unimportant for the professional corp-national security to care about. His ex-wife, Kiersten, stayed behind on the Security Forces, working undercover. When she turns up dead alongside one of the tower jumpers, Mac pairs up with Ade Walters, a cyborg officer, to uncover who would try to hide Kiersten’s death among the suicides. Searching for the murderer of one of their own, Mac and Ade discover plans to transform the Earth and its inhabitants…plans that only started with the great upheaval and The Trying TimesTM.

Mac is your typical, rough around the edges, old-school, take a punch like a champ kind of cop. Except for his one soft spot, Kiersten, and her death lights a fire in his belly that no drink could ever put out. Ade Walters on the other hand, is a much more mysterious figure. He is the Ying to Mac’s Yang and counters the bluntness that otherwise would have left Mac lying dead in a ditch somewhere.

I started reading I can Transform You right around the same time as the TV show Almost Human with Karl Urban and Michael Ealy began airing on Fox. While Maurice’s Mac and Ade are not exactly in the same vein as Karl and Michael, I Can Transform You filled a gaping hole left by the TV show with its impressive world building.

Mac Peterson and Ade Walters don’t waste any time in shaking down the underground gangs, but when that leads nowhere, they quickly follow another trail of breadcrumbs that leads directly up the food chain and even back home. As the duo’s investigation continue, they realize just how quickly the hunted becomes prey and the enormity of what a treacherous path is set ahead of them.

I Can Transform You is an eye-opening read that will leave you on unsteady feet, questioning the once solid foundation your life is built around.  Jason Sizemore is the managing editor for Apex Publication and his series creation of Apex Voices is built to showcase some of their outstandingly talented authors.  I Can Transform You exemplifies everything I think Jason aimed for in the creation of Apex Voices: A dark gritty world filled with wonder, gripping prose that leads to characters leaping out of the pages and climbing towards the stars, and a furious pace sure to leave your heart and mind racing until the very end.

As always, a huge thanks to the folks at Apex and author Maurice Broaddus for providing me with once again another thought provoking read. Another side note, don’t skip author Matt Forbeck’s introduction for this book!

Maze_coverTread carefully, today presents us with this fantastic guest post by J.M. McDermott!

Traveling through most major cities outside the East Coast on foot is a terrible idea. I lived in Fort Worth for a while and I tried to walk and ride a bike as much as I could, but it meant dressing in long jeans and a denim jacket even in high summer for the brambles and trickling weeds. There aren’t safe paths for foot traffic since everyone drives. Pedestrians are dangerous. They must be vagrants and criminals and folks that don’t belong.

We have forgotten what hills and valleys mean, mostly. Living in hills used to mean climbing them all day, every day. Living in mountains was a physical act, not just a view. The material reality of 40,000 years of human history isn’t lost completely for us, who ride the top of human slavery by any other name in this world of ours, but that is a topic for another day. I was watching a fantasy film too much, observing the way we imagine a more interesting world, with goblins and kings and a labyrinth of stone. The film was Henson’s Labyrinth. I have seen it so many times, I could play it scene-by-scene, line-by-line in my memory. But, materiality of things: If I set foot in such a place, I would die long before I ever found the goblin city.

Heroic heroes are actually very dull. Childhood is heroic and someone will win top of the class, a trophy, a race and a game. Adulthood is the realm of confusion, mixed blessings, failure, the long, slow decline. My book is more interested in the muddle and confusion of living, because my only hope in the maze is to find other survivors there, form tribes, hold what place we can against the monsters that are always around the next curve in the stones.

Maze is a book of survivors, lost but hanging on together. Most of them are human enough.

There is a material reality that is hard to imagine when every night we sleep on a full stomach in an air conditioned room. Imagine walking off into the dark where all doors and windows are closed against you, and every turn in the path is a mystery and a menace. Life is a maze, and we fight for our place in the known spaces, with what magic spells we muster to hold dominion where we stand.

 About the author: J.M. McDermott is the author of Last Dragon, Disintegration Visions, The Dogsland Trilogy, and Women and Monsters. He holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program from the University of Southern Maine. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Maze is his new weird/dark fantasy novel published by Apex Book Company. It is available now.

J.M. McDermott can be found on Twitter and over at his Blog.

 

I can’t really top Amber Benson’s introduction to the anthology, Glitter & Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas. She’s pretty much got all the eye-popping, funkadelic, trippy feel to each and every one of these stories down to the very bones. All I can really do is give you a repeat. These stories bend, twist, break just about every stereotype there is – gender bending, race bending, species bending, mind bending. It’s all in here. Between roller derby, roller skating, and disco balling, I began to wonder if I was back in the ‘70s on the planet Neptune. I really felt like I needed to dust off my groove thang’. So with that said, let’s take a look at all the kickin’ stories:

Sister Twelve: Confessions of a Party Monster by Christopher Barzak
What a great intro to this anthology! Disco dancing, amazing twist on the fairy tale story of twelve sister princess who secretly sneak out of the palace at night to go…where? And do what? And how does it happen? Loved this story.

Apex Jump by David J. Schwartz
This was such a fun spacey roller derby story, that didn’t take itself too seriously. The cover of the book seemed almost to animate this tale right out of the rink!

With Her Hundred Miles to Hell by Kat Howard
Complex and gruesome, this story was grim and hard to follow. However, the descent into Howard’s version of Hell was by far one of the most unique I have read.

Star Dancer by Jennifer Palland
Imagine MIB only the Agents J and K are lesbians and combine that with belly dancing aliens and here you have Star Dancer. Another fun, alien dancing story.

Of Selkies, Disco Balls, and Anna Plane by Cat Rambo
Sad, tragic characters bound together in a love triangle by magic and fate, Rambo has done a great job of baring the souls of these characters.

Sooner Than Gold by Cory Skerry
A gritty story of a man tethered to a chest and forced to perform thefts and other acts. If he fails he gets punished. This story was truly freaky and I really wanted to be able to cut the tether and free the main character.

Subterraneans by William Shunn & Laura Chavoen
Partying doesn’t usually end in death, but in Subterraneans it does where the ultimate high is swapping places with other partiers. Fascinating story of thrills gone wrong resulting in revenge.

The Minotaur Girls by Tansy Rayner Roberts
At its heart, The Minotaur Girls feels to me like the embodiment of the old “beauty is only skin deep” cliché. The glittery Minotaur roller club that just everyone wants to be a part of has something evil lurking beneath. A strong female lead gets to the bottom of it.

Unable to Reach You by Alan DeNiro
Julian is targeted by him own online computer service and not just by any creep, but by something far more dark and evil. Will he escape? Creepy and satisfying.

Such & Such Said to So & So by Maria Dahvana Headley
This story follows a cop into the depths of mystery, a woman, and alcohol. Great dialogue and voice, I felt I was in the middle of a ‘30s crime drama.

Revels in the Land of Ice by Tim Pratt
Imagine stepping into another world of partying, skating, dancing and never being able to leave. The party has lassoed you, even when you think you have escaped.

Bess, The Landlord’s Daughter, Goes for Drinks with the Green Girl by Sofia Samatar
What else would two party girls do in life after death, but party? An unusual take on haunting that Samatar only teases us with as we read to the end of the end of the story.

Blood and Sequins by Diana Rowland
Two cops get dressed up to go skating during Mardi Gras and there’s bound to be blood and sequins, right? And some supernatural glitter, too.

Two-minute Warning by Vylar Kaftan
It’s amazing how much depth Kaftan gets in just a few pages about a sister who tries to drag her brother out of a computer-like game.

Inside Hides the Monster by Damien Walters Grintalis
A siren who no longer has the charm ventures into the human world. Will she survive beneath the disco ball with the shrieking music and the grabbing human hands?

Bad Dream Girl by Seanan McGuire
Roller derby girls are dropping like flies under mysterious circumstances during matches. It’s up to the main character to discover if it’s just a coincidence or is there someone or something alien behind the accidents.

A Hollow Play by Amal El-Mohtar
Another complex story of unrequited love surrounding a triangle or in this case a quad of unique characters including a bird woman.

Just Another Future Song by Daryl Gregory
Mr. Jones wakes weakened and amnesiac. Is he here of his own free will or is he being held captive for some unknown reason? Scary and threatening, this story has a great ending.

The Electric Spanking of the War Babies by Maurice Broaddus & Kyle S. Johnson
When I speak of shaking my ‘groove thang’, this is the story that really yanks the chain. It’s a bit roadhouse and Foxy Brown disco all slammed into one epic about a young blood who transcends the earthly scene by way of the local skate rink.

All That Fairy Tale Crap by Rachel Swirsky
Honey, this ain’t your white gown and glass slipper Cinderella story. If Cindy was on crack, had sex with her foster-girl peers and stole from her foster mother to survive, well then, this is your Cinderella story.

Ok, so, if you like space aliens, the Hustle, wide lapels, roller rinks, girl-on-girl action, and really amazing stories, you’re probably gonna’ really like partying with Glitter & Mayhem. Get ready to get your groove on!

Elizabeth Massie has created something unique here with Desper Hollow, a gritty backwoods zombie story that isn’t the campy horror read you might be expecting after taking in the book’s back cover:

“Jenkie Mustard loses control of the zombies she created in Desper Hollow, as Granny’s magic moonshine raises trouble from the dead in the Virginia hills.

It begins when hardheaded mountain matriarch Granny Mustard decides she wants to live forever. Then she dies. Her slow-witted but equally hardheaded granddaughter Jenkie decides to pick up the ball and run with it, taking Granny’s unperfected immortality moonshine recipe, a socially-inept friend named Bink, and dreams of fame and fortune to an abandoned, isolated trailer up in Desper Hollow.

But slow-witted doesn’t stand against the terrible mountain power Granny initiated. Jenkie’s experiments with the immortality moonshine only worsen the trouble with Granny’s original recipe, bringing dead critters and a few stray folks back to a state of hungry, vicious, mindless animation. Now a stash of the living dead is locked up in the back of the trailer, a howling herd that has Jenkie terrified. And Armistead, one of the red-eyed living dead, seems way too alert for comfort.

Mountain resident Kathy Shaw and Hollywood reality show pitchman Jack Carroll find themselves caught up in the growing terror surrounding Desper Hollow. They can’t avoid it and must face it head on. So must Armistead, who fights the fog of his ghastly condition to discover the truth of who he really is.”

While Desper Hollow wasn’t one of my favorite reads from Apex Publication, it definitely fits into the more intriguing category simply because I felt this book should either have been a bit shorter or a tad longer. Massie throws together a curious core cast of characters: the zombie Armistead, disgusting Jenkie, and the surprisingly clumsy mountain girl Kathy, while mixing in a few others that could do with some expanding, such as Kathy’s father (the preacher), the Mustard brothers, and Sam & Jack (which I continually kept mixing them up).

Desper Hollow switches viewpoints from one main character to the next as each individual takes his or her path back to the heart of Granny Mustard’s concoction in an attempt to solve their own internal problems. Kathy needs to find out why her father feels responsible for the town’s misfortunes.  Jenkie wants to become famous with her special moonshine. Jack is hoping to hit the next big reality T.V. jackpot and, most curious of all, the zombie Armistead trying to rehash his foggy brain crazed memory and figure out his purpose for being.

The biggest drawback to Desper Hollow lies within the aforementioned characters, as interesting and quirky as they might be, this group tended to bumble along without a strong central lead.  Kathy wasn’t the strong heroine she should have been. All in all I really enjoyed Desper Hollow, but if you are expecting a campy horror/zombie read this isn’t it. Desper Hollow has deeper character conflicts than a simple hack and slash thriller.