The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 2
A collection of short stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres from authors from countries the Western world is not used to reading. A fascinating collection and well worth reading, even the stories that don’t quite work. The were all interesting and challenging and reengaged my interest in the genres again, it was so refreshing to get different cultural perspectives than I am used to. "The Bird Catcher" by S.P. Somtow, ThailandA modern version of the Boogeyman and the conditions that made him.This was a dark and disturbing story and I found the ambiguous ending unsettling but it was also subtle and fascinating and I was pulled into it immediately, it made some of the darker tendencies of humanity accessible if not understandable."Transcendence Express" by Jetse de Vries, NetherlandsA new form of computer and technology and how it can transform the world.At first I had a hard time getting into this story as I had a hard time deciding where it was going, and at the end I realized it was because it was a more upbeat and positive story vs. the dark and cautionary themes I’m used to in science fiction. I was more blown away by my reaction to it than to the story though it certainly made me think about my expectations from science fiction and want to search out more positive themed concepts."The Levantine Experiment" by Guy Hasson, IsraelA look at a scientific experiment into the development of self and special awareness.The very concept of the story made me very unhappy and unsettled, I don’t like dark stories involving children but I found the exploration of her mind and how she perceived the world around her fascinating. The ending was a bit to abrupt and unsatisfying, it felt a bit forced in order to make its point but the rest of it was worth it. "Ghost Jail" By Kaaron Warren, Australia/FijiThis was a mix of social activism in what I am assuming is a third worldish island dictatorship mixed with local magic. I never really got a feel for or was able to develop any sympathy for the main character/s and they mostly acted naive and stupid, which did not help. I did find the use of ghosts and magic fascinating and would have liked to read more about that. A mixed story, interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. "Wizard World" by Yang Ping, ChinaA look at what happens when a virtual world takes over and then is taken away.As a gamer whose favorite MMO had just shut down this resonated with me and hit close to home so I was the perfect audience for this book. It felt believable in how people can become so immersed in their virtual worlds that the real one fades away, the ending was a bit abrupt but still felt believable within the world created here."L'Aquilone du Estrella" ("The Kite of Stars") by Dean Francis Alfar, PhilippinesA fairy tale of a young girls life long quest to gain the attention of her love at first sight. This truly reads like an old time fairy tale, it is epic and grand in scale and for all its unbelievability it was believable. Everything fit with this, the world, the language used, the characters, a real gem and joy to read."Cinderers" by Nir Yaniv, IsraelI’m not sure if this was a story about renegade artists, a murderer or psychosis or all three. For me it was the only fail in the whole book as I did not like it and the ending left me vaguely angry, like it had wasted my time. I don’t need things spelled out for me but this was so obscure it just ended up meaning nothing."The Allah Stairs" by Jamil Nasir, PalestineAnother fable/fairy tale about a boy who can summon monkeys from Allah? I’m not really sure how that works but it was interesting if not engaging. I really couldn’t tell if anyone was a good guy in this story or if there was supposed to be a moral or anything so I ended up not caring but the visual imagery was effective and captivating so I enjoyed it for that."Biggest Baddest Bomoh" by Tunku Halim, MalaysiaThe dangers of using love magic. Another one I found hard to get into as I felt both characters were dislikable and the guy especially but I did like the not really a total surprise twist ending, I felt that was handled well."The Lost Xuyan Bride" by Aliette de Bodard, FranceA mystery/detective story set in an Alternat History Mexico.This was my favorite story in the book, she is the only author I’ve gone out of my way to track down more of her writing. I loved how full and realized the world she created felt, you don’t have to read any of the others stories in this universe to fully understand and get into this story. Very satisfying. "Excerpt from a Letter to a Social-Realist Aswang" by Kristin Mandigma, PhilippinesA letter from a Communist demon. Short, amusing, a little self indulgent but since it is so short it works. "An Evening in the City Coffee House, With Lydia on my Mind" by Alexsandar Ziljak, CroatiaA cyberpunkesque story about voyeurism, pornography and well, other things. Not a pleasant story but a fascinating one. For me it did a great job of creating the world and it’s technology and was positively reminiscent of the original cyberpunk movement. "Into the Night" by Anil Menon, IndiaAn aging Brahmin trying to adjust to a more Western and technological world than he is used to. I found it a somewhat interesting look at the culture clash between different generations but it was a bit unbelievable that he would have no familiarity with the current technology which took me out of the story completely, and it was pretty obvious how things would go for him so it was very hard to care that much as neither he nor his daughter were very likable and we were given no reason to care, they were both just their to fulfill their story bound roles. "Elegy" by Melanie Fazie, FranceA mother dealing with the unusual disappearance of her children.This is another one I had a hard time getting into, I couldn’t tell if this was something that really happened or if it was all in her mind and she had gone crazy with the grief. The writing didn’t flow for me and felt forced and with the concept not being clear to me it just left me confused and unsatisfied."Compartments" by Zoran Zivkovic, SerbiaA somewhat existential story of a mans journey on a train and the people he meets there. I have read this authors stories before so knew better than to expect anything easily understood or clear cut and this was no exception. His writing has a more lyrical and poetic feel to it vs. traditional narrative story telling and you never really find out what is going on and while that was a tad frustrating at the end, the journey itself was so magical that it still makes the story worth reading.