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

Apex Magazine #86, July 2016

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Apex Magazine #86, July 2016

"Lazarus and the Amazing Kid Phoenix" by Jennifer Giesbrecht

"Starpower" by Christopher Shultz
"The Big Bah-Ha" by C.S.E. Cooney

Reviewed by Chuck Rothman

Apex Magazine goes with its usual mix of well written stories this month.

"Lazarus and the Amazing Kid Phoenix" by Jennifer Giesbrecht is a different take on the superhero story. The protagonist, an aspiring comic book writer, was terribly burned, but rescued by Old Man Gasper and takes on the superhero identity of Kid Phoenix to Gasper's Lazarus. Gaspar has, as his superhero name implies, come back from the dead as a man made up of steam. Kid Lazaraus wants to take revenge on those who burned him, but he has to follow Lazarus's rules. There's a great juxtaposition of the events with a comic book that the kid is writing in his head. It also touches on a favorite theme of mine -- that revenge might not be worth it.

Christopher Shultz's "Starpower" is the story of an aspiring punk rock band, whose songwriter/lead singer begins to notice that his songs have a very strong effect on the listeners. It leads to disaster and the members of the band -- and especially the songwriter -- can't deal with the ramifications of those effected. It reminded me of Norman Spinrad's "The Big Flash," though in this case the ending is far less bleak (but with some overtones of the movie Bob Roberts), and it's overall an interesting take on the idea.

It's hard to classify "The Big Bah-Ha," but that’s not a complaint. C. S. E. Cooneys story is set in a world where the adults are all gone and the children create their own society and myths. Beatrice dies and wakes up in some sort of afterlife, where she goes to a city filled with clowns and circus motifs, ruled by the Gray Harlequin as filled with madness and cruelty. Meanwhile, her friends Diodiance, Tex, and Granny Two-Show and Sheepdog Sal go to the Flabberghast, one of the tall ones who seems to have eliminated the adults, hoping he can rescue Beatrice. The story is weird and imaginative and, while I admit I found the background a bit vague, it doesn't matter to me, since the journey is filled with off-beat characters and bizarre imagery.

Chuck Rothman's novels Staroamer's Fate and Syron's Fate are available from Fantastic Books. He has work in the anthologies Temporally Out of Order and at Digital Fiction Publications.