In The Apex Book of World SF 2, editor Lavie Tidhar collects short stories by science fiction and fantasy authors from Africa and Latin America.
An expedition to an alien planet; Lenin rising from the dead; a superhero so secret he does not exist. In The Apex Book of World SF 2, World Fantasy Award nominated editor Lavie Tidhar brings together a unique collection of stories from around the world. Quiet horror from Cuba and Australia; surrealist fantasy from Russia and epic fantasy from Poland; near-future tales from Mexico and Finland, as well as cyberpunk from South Africa. In this anthology one gets a glimpse of the complex and fascinating world of genre fiction—from all over our world.
Featuring work from noted international authors such as Will Elliot, Hannu Rajaniemi, Shweta Narayan, Lauren Beukes, Ekaterina Sedia, Nnedi Okorafor, and Andrzej Sapkowski.
This is a collection of 26 (!) stories and, as far as I can tell, this is one of the more truly diverse, global anthologies in genre–if not easily the most, what with there being writers in here who aren’t from the US. Even the cover artist is from Mexico!
Sedia’s story convinced me that I need to read more of her short fiction–and considering that I started from really disliking her first novel, my opinion’s certainly changed a lot. “Zombie Lenin” is easily the star of the collection and eminently quotable for a reviewer.
“A dead woman is the ultimate sex symbol,” someone behind me says.
His interlocutor laughs. “Right. To a necrophile, maybe.”
“No, no,” the first man says heatedly. “Think of every old novel you’ve ever read. The heroine, who’s too sexually liberated for her time, usually dies. Ergo, a dead woman is dead because she was too sexually transgressive.”
“This is just dumb, Fedya,” says the second man. “What, Anna Karenina is a sex symbol?”
“Of course. That one’s trivial. But also every other woman who ever died.”
“Undine,” the first one says. “Rusalki. All of them dead, all of them irresistible to men.”
I finish my coffee and stand up. I glance at the guy who spoke— he’s young, my age, with the light clear eyes of a madman.
“Eurydice,” I whisper as I pass.
It’s a fine thing, smoothly crafted, and convinces me that I must buy her short story collection Moscow But Dreaming coming out later this year.
Joyce Chng’s “The Sound of Breaking Glass” has a fine title and unfortunately rough prose but features a narrative not commonly seen in genre–that of age and loneliness. “A Single Year” by Csilla Kleinheincz is spare, sometimes sharp, but often stilted in prose and dialogue. I’m not fond of the way she describes India as “the country of red plains and curry” with “the stink of spices” (really now). I liked this, though:
Unspoken words have weight. First you barely feel it, then, as they proliferate you realise you cannot carry them anymore. You either release them or keep them in, in which case they start to press and pinch your heart. You feel the grip even if you are happy. Especially then.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Maquech” is interesting, though it’s more of an ambient piece (or slice of life?) than a story as genre is used to, which is hardly a bad thing. Shweta Narayan’s “Nira and I” has the makings of brilliance but the language falls somewhat short. It’s a piece that engages with complex issues of caste, sexuality, gender and might have benefited from more space (well, more words).
She ducks outside. Arms grab her. She fights. My father shouts, “Don’t try to lie. We saw you with that boy, that fisher caste scum! And all this time you were living in my house, luring in the mist. . . .”
Nira says, “Your ataa won’t beat her, will he, Shaya?” Her voice is small.
I say, “Shh,” and put my arms around her.
Voices pile on each other, words like Law and Honor, words like stones. Nira’s eldest brother says, “Fishers use children’s fingers for bait.” He is supposed to marry Hemal.
Amaa sobs, “Sister, little sister, how could you?” and Hemal says, “How could you?”
Then the half-bricks start, and cobblestones and broken bottles. Shadows huge and sudden against the door screen; the thud of Hemal falling; screams and wet breaking noises.
“This isn’t happening,” I say. Sounds blur outside. Shadows lighten.
Nira huddles closer to me. I put my arms around her. “It’s all right,” I whisper. “Remember, she said she would come back.”
It’s not the strongest thing I’ve seen from Narayan; “Daya and Dharma” is considerably better writing-wise.
I have many, and obvious, reasons to enjoy Daniel Salvo’s “The First Peruvian in Space”:
Anatolio Pomahuanca had reason enough to hate whites. Hundreds of years ago they had invaded and conquered his world and reduced his forebears to the sad condition of serfs or second-class citizens. There were historic changes like independence wars, rebellions and revolutions. But, be it as it may, whites were still those who ruled and decided everything in Peru and throughout the rest of the world.
The captain belonged to the worst: those who believed there was already a harmonic conviviality between whites and natives as a result of centuries of history that had erased past wounds.
The plot twist weakens rather than strengthens, though I suppose without it the story would’ve been too obvious.
Samit Basu’s “Electric Sonalika” is a Cinderella retelling that begins with an amusing megalomaniac monologue but soon descends into the odious “serially abused woman gets revenge” combined with the toxic trope of the female sex toy android (The Wind-Up Girl anyone?). It’s the kind of stories men absolutely love to write for some reason–perhaps under the impression that they are being Good Feminist Allies by doing so–and is just as lacking in nuances as you’d expect; in short while this type of stories might be done well, it’s almost never successful when a man writes it. Unlike Bacigalupi though, Basu manages to do his without being racist on top, so that’s one point in his favor if nothing else.
As always with anthologies, the quality’s uneven, but as far as sheer range (not only in nationalities but subjects and styles), there’s nothing to criticize. It includes a lot of content for the money, including but not limited to Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s excellent “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life.”