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

Apex Magazine #100, September 2017

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Apex #100, September 2017

The Man in the Crimson Coat” by Andrea Tang

Tumbledown” by Kameron Hurley
The Lightning Bird” by Kristi DeMeester

Reviewed by Jennifer Burroughs

The Man in the Crimson Coat” by Andrea Tang

A noir thriller set in a vague dystopian future, “The Man in the Crimson Coat” follows Josefina, a trained killer hunting for Marcellus, the anti-corporate terrorist who raised her. An enjoyable read in an intriguing world, this is a somewhat compacted story, framed between flashbacks of Josefina’s childhood and the fast-moving present, that leaves the reader with questions about the characters and the world that never get answered.

Tang’s world building makes use of small details, like blue whiskey, a jazz player with a cybernetic arm, and references to the “old world” to build up the noir-futurist atmosphere and let the reader’s imagination do most of the heavy lifting. Occupying this setting are well-developed, interesting characters that get far too little time on stage.

Overall, this is an interesting and well-crafted story that left me wanting more of this world and the characters.

Tumbledown” by Kameron Hurley

The colonists of a distant world are threatened by a devastating plague. Sarnai, a medical researcher who survived the plague as a child but was left a paraplegic, must travel across this dangerous frozen world to deliver a serum that can stop the epidemic. Sarnai’s tenacity in the face of impossible odds makes for a riveting adventure across an alien landscape dusted with mercury snow, where the air is unbreathable and damage to an environment suit means death.

The plague left Sarnai unable to use her lower body; she alternates between a basic wheelchair and mechanical braces that allow her to walk. Traveling three thousand kilometers by dogsled through frozen wilderness, stalked by a dangerous creature, and dealing with the complications of a partially paralyzed body, Sarnai proves herself an unstoppable force.

The details of this world are weird and thrilling, the dogs gene-spliced with local fauna to survive the poisonous air and freezing temperatures until they no longer look like the dogs we know. The things that are called bears are utterly terrifying.

Tumbledown” is a highly entertaining piece of science fiction, taking a great character on a harrowing adventure across a hostile and alien landscape.

The Lightning Bird” by Kristi DeMeester

The Lightning Bird” is a tale of dark fantasy and horror, at times grisly and not for the squeamish. Gable faces a world without her mother, who held a vital role in their community as the Amagqhira, comforting people who are dying and performing rituals to help the dead get to where they need to be. Her mother left behind family secrets that were often hinted at but never admitted outright. Random feathers appeared in strange places, blood was found where it shouldn’t be. Gable at first resists taking on her mother’s role, but as she comes to understand the truth of her family legacy, she embraces what must be done to serve the dead.

DeMeester skillfully weaves whispered folk tales in with flashbacks and dreams that transform Gable’s mourning for her mother into a shiver-inducing reveal. Those who enjoy surreal horror and dark fairy tales will find much to appreciate in “The Lightning Bird.”