Apex Magazine #114, November 2018

Sunday, 18 November 2018 21:25 C. D. Lewis

Apex #114, November 2018

Master Brahms” by Storm Humbert

Godzilla vs Buster Keaton, Or: I Didn’t Even Need a Map” by Gary A. Braunbeck
Toward a New Lexicon of Augury” by Sabrina Vourvoulias

Reviewed by C.D. Lewis

This year’s November issue of Apex Magazine offers a reprint and three new pieces, including a Patreon-funded novelette by Gary A. Braunbeck. The three new works offer variety – a locked-room SF mystery set in an AI house, a post-disaster inner city urban fantasy revenging citizens against a nonrepresentative government, a fantasy reunion with a dead relative that opens in a public park – but each offers readers a view into a dark world. If that’s not enough, there’s gorgeous cover art, interviews with an author and a visual artist, and a dark near-future private military horror reprint.

Storm Humbert’s “Master Brahms” is an SF short mystery set in the AI-operated house of its owner and his clones. Who did it? Great job showing an innocent bystander’s decision to ensure a crime goes unsolved.

Named after a piece of artwork that appears in the story, Gary A. Braunbeck’s “Godzilla vs Buster Keaton, Or: I Didn’t Even Need a Map” spends most of its word count in a flashback to the main character’s interactions with his sister during her decline from a fatal illness, then exploring the gift she sent him to arrive following her death. Communication between the deceased and her grieving brother makes this a work of fantasy, but the emotional force comes from human interactions that could as easily have been set in any genre, even without speculative elements. The conclusion is all fantasy, however: a realistic danger is played for laughs by the deceased sister’s playful spirit. The work’s power comes largely from two sources: the idea of reclaiming from a world that grinds people down the confidence one knew as a youth, and the joy of having an innocent outing in the company of a departed loved one. It’s not clear that the main character has really confronted a hard question that proves his character—which some argue a climax requires—but the main character’s transformation is as real and positive as anyone could demand. There’s a lot of emotional energy to be found following the main character’s journey building regrets to suffer after his sister’s death, then watching his sister lead him through his memory to redeem the lost courage of his youth. Strong emotional appeal, sympathetic characters, and an alarming-but-fun short-story end.

Narrated by a Latina bruja, Sabrina Vourvoulias’ “Toward a New Lexicon of Augury” is an urban fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic neighborhood targeted for a government-funded project to revitalize it into an age-segregated-for-efficiency multi-use real estate development that combines the security of a police state with the profitability of a company store. The narrator’s voice includes vocabulary that requires some background to decipher; had the reviewer never checked groceries in a majority-Hispanic county in Texas, it’s doubtful “veevahpohroo” would have been understood as Vic’s Vapor Rub™ and a folk-medicine cure-all. This kind of opacity may frustrate readers who can’t decipher the code in which she speaks, but it offers readers a rich opportunity to stretch a bit, live with some new language, and pick up enough cultural color to follow the story. Like “The Cask of Amontillado,” this work’s climax doesn’t turn on a soul-wrenching difficult choice so much as a plan revealed. Given the wrongs wrought upon the righteous in this work, the revenge plot feels absolutely delicious as its shape becomes clear. Enjoyable portrayal of magic. Delightful and highly recommended.

C.D. Lewis lives and writes in Faerie.