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

Strange Horizons -- February 18, 2019

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Strange Horizons, February 18, 2019

Dem Bones” by Lavie Tidhar

Reviewed by Christos Antonaros

An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is a common idiom used as kind advice from our parents or even our doctors. In the dystopian short “Dem Bones,” however, one apple will save your life literally. Doctors are creatures wearing gas masks resembling vultures' heads, roaming the streets in mysterious cars asking passengers for apples. If someone doesn't have an apple to give, they then meet immediate death. Consequently, when Ezra discovers a garden with an apple tree his desire to cut its apples overcomes any alarming feelings. Thus, with the help of two other men, Ezra will try to break into the garden and cut apples.

The significance of an apple becomes apparent through grim and apocalyptic images, where factories and overpopulation have defeated nature. Nature, however, finds a way to reappear. An apple is not only an object that would save our lives but also one of the last remaining produce foods. The thought that a hungry man has to hold on to an apple and not eat it gives a hint of eternal punishment. With that in mind, it is not clear if the world Ezra lives in is a dystopia or hell. Maybe this was the purpose of this narrative from the beginning. In any case, it is one of those stories that will grab your attention and give you food for thought.