Monday 29 February 2016

Reviews - Book of Apex & Azanian Bridges

Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 by Ursula…

Best of Apex Magazine Volume 1
Edited by Lesley Connor & Jason Sizemore
I received this book in return for a review

First of all - what a cover! I love this, and it really sets an expectation of quality that I'm glad to say was more than met by the stories inside. Usually with a collection of stories that are unthemed and from different authors there would be an unevenness and a hit and miss quality. This wasn't the case here - although not all the stories were to my taste there were certainly no bad ones. Indeed as a writer there were plenty of - 'I wish I'd written something like this' moments.

It was also very nice to read a few new authors, although there were also some old favourites (of mine) like Genevieve Valentine, Ken Liu  and  Rachel Swirsky all of whom didn't disappoint. Especially Valentine's story - Armless maidens of the American Midwest which was one of the stand out tales of the anthology.

Other tales that I especially liked were: L’esprit de L’escalier by Peter M. Ball which is a striking tale and one that stays with you for days, telling of a grieving man who decides to descend an endless stairway; Remember Day by Sarah Pinsker in which one day a year a veil is lifted from those who have voluntarily given up their memories of a horrible war and Advertising at the End of the World by Keffy R.M. Kehrli which managed to be both melancholy and creepy at the same time.

Overall I can give this a hearty recommendation. Maybe not all the stories will hit the right spots for you, but if you don't read it you'll be missing out on some excellent examples of the speculative.

Azanian Bridges by Nick Wood

Azanian Bridges
By Nick Wood
I received this book in return for a review

Imagine what South Africa would be like now, if Mandela hadn't been released, if Apartheid didn't end, and where someone invents a device that allows for direct exchange of memories, thoughts and feelings.

We follow two characters - Martin, a white psychologist and Sibusiso, a black man suffering from PTSD after seeing a friend killed in a demonstration where the police use live rounds to disperse the crowd.

Martin, and a friend, have invented the device the plot revolves around. Despite the ethical quandary it poses he uses it to treat Sibusiso and risks his job, and after a warning from the secret police, his freedom.

There is the touch of a thriller as the box becomes an object that different groups desire, for different purposes. The ANC, the secret police etc. Both Martin and Sibusiso are thrown headlong into confronting the inherent nature of such an apartheid state - from different ends, white privilege and black oppression.

There's more than a hint of Orwell's 1984 here, especially with the fabled Room 619 (from which people do not return) although it is brought bang up to date and, as is pointed out in Imaginary cities (which has changed my perspective of dystopias permanently), each dystopia also contains someone's utopia and vice versa.

This is an intelligent book that manages to transcend the thriller style plot to be genuinely thought-provoking. Which is what speculative fiction should be.


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