Apex Magazine #116, January 2019

Friday, 01 February 2019 14:58 Kevin P Hallett
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Apex #116, January 2019

The Pulse of Memory” by Beth Dawkins

The Great Train Robbery” by Lavie Tidhar
The Small White” by Marian Coman (translated by Sebastian Simon)
Bone Song” by Aja McCullough
With These Hands” by L. H. Moore (reprint, not reviewed)

Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett

The 116th issue of Apex has four unpublished original stories, including one novelette and one flash.

The Pulse of Memory” by Beth Dawkins

In this SF short, Cal, a seventeen-year-old girl, is travelling in a space colony that has adopted a unique way of preserving memories through fish. When a person reaches sixty-five, society sends them into a fish tank where genetically modified fish eat them and capture their memories. When a child reaches its coming of age, the authorities give them a fish to eat, passing on the memories.

After her coming of age ceremony, the council assigns Cal to help manage the fish tanks. But when she sneaks an extra fish, her memories begin to take over her persona and she remembers some difficult times from the past, times that could jeopardize her life and the stability of the colony.

This was an intriguing and nicely crafted story, leaving the reader with many ideas with which to grapple.

The Great Train Robbery” by Lavie Tidhar

A train carrying some Substance is climbing up into the mountains in this fantasy novelette. On board, the Stranger and the Kid relax and enjoy the shaky ride, unaware that outside, in the cold, a group prepares to board and rob the train.

Sensing something is wrong, the Stranger warns the Kid, and together they head for the engineering car. Here they discover that ghosts power the train, when the stoker throws them into the ‘freeze’ boiler.

As the train passes onto an island in a desolate lake, the robbers strike. At first, the Stranger thinks he can handle them, but then the robbers’ mountainous master appears.

The first half of the story was slow and peppered with unimportant details. Once the story picked up the pace, it was interesting, but with poorly developed characters it wasn’t enticing.

The Small White” by Marian Coman (translated by Sebastian Simon)

Brightly painted butterflies suddenly appear overnight on some apartment buildings in this short fantasy, set in communist Bucharest. The local schools are abuzz with the mystery, but no one knows how anyone could have painted so many without anyone seeing them.

When Theo visits another girl and tells her about her mentally challenged little sister who loves butterflies, the girl decides to take a common cabbage butterfly she caught recently to the disturbed sister, setting off a chain of events none could have predicted.

The story was interesting for its insights into life in Romania many years ago but offered little else for the fantasy genre.

Bone Song” by Aja McCullough

In this flash fantasy, an old miller, who grew up watching his father carve violins, finds a drowned woman in his mill pond. After some thought, he decides to use the beautiful woman’s bones to make a violin. The music it creates surprises and moves him.

This felt like an updated version of the fairy tale about a singing bone.