To paraphrase a famous quote from Forrest Gump, short story collections are like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get.
That’s the great thing about a collection of short stories — if you come across a story you don’t care for you, there’s generally another chance (or five) that the next story or a story later in the collection will be more your speed or taste. Since the start of 2014, I’ve immersed myself into two short story collections — one that had been languishing on my to-be-read shelf for far too long and the other as part of the Book of Apex, Volume 4 Blog Tour.
Thanks to the hard work of Andrea from The The Little Red Reviewer, I was given access to a digital copy of this short story collection. The collection covers the best of fifteen or so issues from the on-line Book of Apex and is edited by Lynne M. Thomas. The stories selected here represent the cream of the crop from her first several issues editing the magazine and they run the gamut from sci-fi to fantasy to horror. Given that I enjoy each of these three genres and that I recognized several of the names included in this collection, I was eager to sit back and enjoy the stories.
Stories run from a couple of pages (or in my case, clicks on the Kindle screen) to close to novella length. The varying length of each story makes the collection an intriguing one. Among my favorite stories from the collection were:
“The 24 Hour Brother” by Christopher Barzak — In a way, this reminded me of the story of Benjamin Button, only with a slight twist. What if you had a sibling who was born, grew up and passed away in a day. That’s the premise of this one and there were a couple of details that stuck out for me — one is that at one point the brother eats dinner with the family and then casually watches a police drama on television. This made me ponder that if I were to live for a day, what is the one show or single episode of a show I’d most want to watch or have shown to me. Of all the stories in this collection, this one has kept me coming back to it and turning it over in my mind long after I’ve read all the others.
“Blood from Stone” by Alethea Kontis — I may be biased toward this one a bit since I met Ms. Kontis once at a book club meeting (she probably doesn’t remember it). So I feel a bit like I’m supporting a friend by picking up her books or reading one of her short stories. Luckily, I’ve yet to be disappointed by her writing, though this is one is a nice change of pace from what I’ve previously read. But like her fantasy novels that put a contemporary spin on a classic story, so does this one put an interesting spin on the horror story. I can’t say too much without giving away some of the fun twists and turns of the story. Trust me — seek it out and read it. You’ll probably like it.
“Erzulie Dantor” by Tim Susman — The good thing about a short story collection is you can read them in any order you want. I’ll admit I read this one first, not because I’m familiar with Mr. Susman’s work but because of a guest post that will appear on this site later this week. Susman’s story is one of the more intriguing of the lot, a bit of an examination of mythology of another culture and its practices. An intriguing little story that I’m glad I read first in the collection. Another favorite.
“Winter Scheming” by Brit Mandalo — This was particularily interesting to read around Valentine’s Day. Brit is haunted by a past relationship and, well, if I say more I might give away some of the fun of this one. The thing with short stories is that it’s far too easy to give away too many details and possibly ruin some of the fun of reading them for yourself. I am trying not to do that.
These four stories were my favorites from the collection and have made me curious to see what other treats Apex Magazine will offer in the future. The good news is that if you’re intrigued by any of my reviews, you can easily follow the link above and read the original stories for free on their site. And after you do, I recommend that purchase this entire collection and put it on your e-reader. I’m glad I did and I think you’ll be glad you did as well.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a digital review copy of this collection in exchange for an honest reviews.