“Uncontainable” by Helen Stubbs
Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett
The 91st issue of Apex has three original stories.
“Uncontainable” by Helen Stubbs
Stubbs’ fantasy is about Rochelle, a wild young girl who seems to have prescience abilities. Normally non-vocal, Rochelle warns her family about the old woman who brings special milk for her newly born brother. She loves her baby brother and fights in her own way for his safety. Other babies have died, months after drinking the special milk, but no one else suspects the kindly old woman of being the culprit.
When the family brings home a bottle of that special milk Rochelle snatches it and drinks it herself. Months later, on her brother’s first birthday, she becomes deadly ill. Her mother hopes the illness will finally take her uncontainable daughter, but Rochelle somehow pulls through. It is then when the strange events take a twist; will the milk somehow bring the wild girl back to normalcy?
“Uncontainable” was one of those fantasy stories that was a real pleasure to read. It started strong and the mysteries kept building as the story ran along to an unexpected twist at the end.
“The Love it Bears Fair Maidens” by K.T. Bryski
This fantasy short story takes a new look at the maiden and unicorn story. In this version, the maiden is scared or even repulsed by the unicorn. The big horn is more of a phallic symbol, there to take away her maidenhood. At her first meeting, her fear drives her to run away. She escapes when the unicorn impales its horn into a tree. But after her friends whisper about her unnatural behavior, she decides to try one more time.
This time her repulsion overcomes her temerity and she tries to escape again. But when the unicorn impales itself once again, she decides to end the fight once and for always.
There were many undertones to this story, which seemed to be an allegory for how people treat young women around the world. Though the story had a good flow and pace to it, it did little to advance its genre. But maybe as a story to show worldwide opinions on the worth of young women, it did do a good job.
“Red Christmas” by Lavie Tidhar
“Red Christmas” is an alternative history SF short story. Communists and Jews have forced Hitler out of Germany and he now resides in England, a bitter man. He is scratching a living as a private eye when a German actress asks for his help to stop a blackmailer from exposing lurid pictures of her with a prominent politician. For a paltry fee he agrees, but suspects there is much more going on.
His investigation reveals the politician is James Joyce, an admirer of his fascist regime in Germany. At the bag drop, Hitler follows the man picking up the money, he recognizes him as a prominent member of his final solution. As they face each other, a fast moving car strikes and kills the blackmailer. When Hitler reaches him, he finds no ransom money, just as he suspected. He quickly puts the pieces together, but keeps his own council, hoping to exploit the situation.
Tidhar has written an interesting and engaging short story. More of a Sam Spade remake than a SF short, with little in-depth exploration of the alternative history.