The Apex Book of World SF 4 (Apex Book of World SF #4)

By Mahvesh Murad

Rating: 3 stars

I’ll get on to the important stuff in a minute, but did anyone else notice the smell of their book? I don’t know if it’s something to do with the binding process used, or the glue, but it really doesn’t smell like a book at all. In fact, it smells sort of unpleasant.

Anyway, skipping over that, this was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It was very definitely speculative fiction, not science fiction. There was a reasonable amount of fantasy as well as SF and more horror than I would have liked.

Highlights included The Gift of Touch, a space opera about a freighter transporting some passengers, which reminded me a bit of the marvellous The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet; The Boy Who Cast No Shadow, a tale of being different, literally and metaphorically, powerful and melancholic; and The Symphony of Ice and Dust about an expedition to the far reaches of the solar system and the remains that they find there.

There were a number of misses for me as well, stories that I just didn’t really get, including Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith, which may have been a Jewish zombie tale, but I’m not really sure. I felt completely lost for most of that one. Jinki and the Paradox was going okay until the end, when it lost me again. I’m really not sure what to make of the last story in the collection, A Cup of Salt Tears, it’s not the way that I would have chosen to end the book, this Japanese almost fairy tale about a woman whose husband is dying and a kappa comes to her and tells her it loves her. Very odd, a bit melancholic and (there’s a theme emerging here), I got completely lost by the end.

I like the little flash pieces in between some of the longer stories. While they weren’t all to my taste, they were short enough to not outstay their welcome if they weren’t. And they were nice little palate cleansers between the chunkier stories.

So an interesting collection albeit one that I sometimes struggled with. I don’t know if that’s just the stories picked, or the international nature of some of them. I certainly felt that there were a few where knowing more about the cultural context would help me understand them, but it was good to read stuff from a different point of view to the usual British/American perspective. I’m not sure that I’d buy any of the others, but I might look for them in the local library.

Book details

ISBN: 9781937009335
Publisher: Apex Book Company
Year of publication: 2015

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