Apex #129, January/February 2022

Apex #129, January/February 2022

“It Happened in ‘Loontown” by Lavie Tidhar

“City Lights” by Yilun Fan

“Sheri, At This Very Moment” by Bianca Sayan

“What Una Loves” by Rich Larson

“Lamia” by Cristina Jurado

“The Cure for Loneliness” by M. Shaw

Reviewed by Chuck Rothman

Lavie Tidhar’s “It happened in ‘Loontown” starts out the January/February issue of Apex with one of the weirdest concepts for a story I’ve seen in a while. It’s a hard-boiled detective story set among sentient balloons. The concept is cleverly constructed, with plenty of in-jokes and balloon puns and somehow manages to keep from being purely silly.

“City Lights” by Yilun Fan (translated by S. Qiouyi Lu) is the story of the dancers in the City Lights Dance troupe. Dancing has changed over the centuries and prejudices remain. The agency responsible for grants looks down upon the use of cyborgs as dancers, but it turns out that the training now given to dancers gives some unexpected results. I usually like stories from different cultures, and the perspective is interesting, though the story is just routine.

“Sheri, At This Very Moment” by Bianca Sayan sets up an emotionally fraught situation. Sheri is dying, but is kept in suspended animation. Her family can bring her out of it for special occasions, at the risk of shortening her life. The story is a chronicle of one of those days. Much of it is mundane, but the dilemma is taking its toll on her family. The story concentrates on the emotions involved more than the plot, and they are complicated and interesting ones.

Rich Larson contributes “What Una Loves,” about plastic surgery as entertainment. Una is a star, going under the knife to approving audiences who also suggest the next surgery. But it slowly begins to involve Una’s daughter Addy, and leads to a horrifying result. The story is a bit too cruel and creepy for my tastes.

“Lamia” is based on the Greek myth. Lamia leads a hard life: her mother dead, her father abandoning her, leaving her to raise her brother. When a strange man comes by to seduce her, she gives in as a form of escape, but it turns out to be a trap, and Lamia has to get her revenge. Cristina Jurado (as translated by Monica Louzon) has created a strong character and a new twist illuminating the origins of the old story.

The final new story in the issue is M. Shaw’s “The Cure for Loneliness.” Set in the midst of a plague, it has the protagonist trying to grow philodendrons from cuttings. But instead of putting them in water, she roots them in pickle brine. The results are strange, to say the least. It’s ultimately a tale about a charming type of alien invasion.

Overall, a strong issue that goes into some very different places.

Chuck Rothman’s novels Staroamer’s Fate and Syron’s Fate are available from Fantastic Books. His short story “Dinosaur Stew” can be found in the anthology Temporally Out of Oder.