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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Apex Magazine #105, February 2018

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Apex #105, February 2018

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow

Work, and Ye Shall Eat” by Walker McKnight
Ghost Marriage” by P. Djeli Clark (reprint not reviewed)
Return to the Lost Level” by Brian Keene (excerpt not reviewed)

Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett

The 105th issue of Apex has four original stories, including one excerpt and one reprint that Tangent does not review.

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow

In this short fantasy, a young foster boy seeks solace in the local library. The librarian is a witch who can both tell what books a client needs and instruct that book to make itself known to the patron. But there are a few books in a secret area that deal with witchcraft and her sisterhood strictly forbids her to let any muddle see these.

Over the summer, the librarian leads the boy through several conventional volumes doing her utmost to help him through his despondency. Some books open new vistas for him. But he wants to escape this mundane life, and the librarian knows that none of the conventional books will help with that.

This was an intriguing story that was well crafted. The one concern was the slow pace in the middle, but the opening and the ending made it a worthwhile story to read.

Work, and Ye Shall Eat” by Walker McKnight

The government traps a historical re-enactment village inside a double ring of electric fences in this short SF. The government liaison keeps Karen, the village leader, in the dark. Each night, the villagers engage in debate about what happened, but none of their standard guesses make entire sense.

Karen does her best to keep the villagers working on self-sufficiency. But time passes and eventually they begin to seek a way out, despite dire warnings against ever attempting it. Karen struggles to hold in the villagers as she believes the electric fences exist to keep the ‘others’ out.

The prose did an impressive job of pulling the reader in. And though the material has been explored many times in this genre, this story was an engaging read.