Review – The Book of Apex: Volume 4

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When I got an email from Andrea at Little Red Reviewer saying that she was organizing a blog tour for The Book of Apex, I readily agreed because it was on my list of books to purchase and it sounded like all the awesome.

Luckily, the publisher was willing to share a copy with me and I read it like the obsessed reader I can be. Except for when I got down to the last few stories, in which I drug my reading feet. Seriously, getting to the end was a joy but also sad because all the stories, which are so amazing, different, macabre, scary, creepy, and excellent were over. But the good news is that I now get to talk about them.

First, I’m going to share the full list of stories because there are some amazing writers in this anthology and all deserve a mention.

Table of Contents:

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente

The Leavings of the Wolf by Elizabeth Bear

The 24 Hour Brother by Christopher Barzak

Faithful City by Michael Pevzner

So Glad We Had This Time Together by Cat Rambo

Sweetheart Showdown by Sarah Dalton

Bear in Contradicting Landscape by David J. Schwartz

My Body, Her Canvas by A.C. Wise

A Member of the Wedding of Heaven and Hell by Richard Bowes

Copper, Iron, Blood and Love by Mari Ness

The Second Card of the Major Arcana by Thoraiya Dyer

Love is a Parasite Meme by Lavie Tidhar

Decomposition by Rachel Swirsky

Tomorrow’s Dictator by Rahul Kanakia

Winter Scheming by Brit Mandelo

In the Dark by Ian Nichols

The Silk Merchant by Ken Liu

Ironheart by Alec Austin

Coyote Gets His Own Back by Sarah Monette

Waiting for Beauty by Marie Brennan

Murdered Sleep by Kat Howard

Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine

Sexagesimal by Katharine E.K. Duckett

During the Pause by Adam-Troy Castro

Weaving Dreams by Mary Robinette Kowal

Always the Same. Till it is Not by Cecil Castellucci

Sprig by Alex Bledsoe

Splinter by Shira Lipkin

Erzulie Dantor by Tim Susman

Labyrinth by Mari Ness

Blood from Stone by Alethea Kontis

Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster

The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell

I want to talk about every single story here because they were all that good but in terms of space, here are a few of my favorites.

The 24 Hour Brother by Christopher Barzak — This story will bring out all the feels. It traces the 24 hour life of boy as seen through the eyes of his older brother, who is only a child himself. The baby, then unruly teenager, and then old man, is so sad and absolutely amazing at the same time.

My Body, Her Canvas by A.C. Wise — A man gives his body, and his soul, to a woman he loves — an artist who doesn’t even see him as a person, only a canvas for her art. She calls on him when she needs to expel personal demons, and he answers her call each time.

The Silk Merchant by Ken Liu — A Young man wants to know the secret of the finest silk in all the world. He finds his answer, right next to his broken heart.

Always the Same. Till it is Not by Cecil Castellucci — A zombie story, but a zombie story where the zombies are, well, more than just zombies. They evolve.

During the Pause by Adam-Troy Castro — Your planet is about the be destroyed and we have a message for you. We are here to tell just how horrible your last few minutes of life will be. Aliens, please stay away.

Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster — Trixie, a godmobile, and farting pandas. I laughed so hard at this one. A vengeful god, a self-doubting god, a god with farting pandas.

The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell — This is the last story in the anthology and it’s simply one of the most amazing. It’s also terrifying. A performance artist puts herself on display, downloads herself into a machine, and becomes the installation.

If you missed it, I posted a few thoughts from author Cecil Castellucci earlier this month. Take a look.

Final thoughts: buy this one.

The Book of Apex: Volume 4

Edited by Lynne M. Thomas

An Apex Publications Book

ISBN: 9781937009205

The Book of Apex Volume Four Blog Tour

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Welcome to The Book of Apex Volume Four Blog Tour. If you’d like more info, Andrea at Little Red Reviewer has the full schedule of interviews, guest posts, and reviews. Looking at the schedule, I have to say, February is going to be a good month.

Today, I’m hosting author Cecil Castillucci who wrote Always the Same. Till it is Not which is a must read in The Book of Apex Volume Four. She was more than willing to answer a few questions for your reading pleasure. But first, a quick intro:

Cecil Castellucci is the author of books and graphic novels for young adults including Boy Proof, The Plain Janes, First Day on Earth, The Year of the Beasts and Odd Duck. Her picture book, Grandma’s Gloves, won the California Book Award Gold Medal. Her short stories have been published in Strange Horizons, YARN,, and various anthologies including, Teeth, After and Interfictions 2. She is the YA editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Children’s Correspondence Coordinator for The Rumpus and a two time Macdowell Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles. She has a new book coming out February 25, 2014, Tin Star. More about her and her work is on her website:

1 – I enjoyed Always the Same. Till it is Not immensely. It’s a different take on the zombie idea. Can you tell readers about your inspiration for the story?

To be honest I don’t like zombies. I’m afraid of them. I’m afraid of their shuffling. Of their rotting bodies. Of their eating brains. Of their rambling and relentless groaning. They freak me out. But I was at a shindig and I met Angela Kang who is a writer and producer on The Walking Dead. I told her I’d likely never watch the show, because, you know. Zombies. She told me I should give it a chance. I went home that night thinking about zombies and wondered how I would write a zombie story. The idea was born when I started thinking about how in zombies there is always an infection. A bite that transmits something. I thought what if the infection was becoming human? I thought about the zombie invasion winning and how everyone would be turned and wandering the earth and if there was no one else to infect, maybe infection would swing back. So the story is about becoming other, just like you do when you become a zombie, only in this world other and different is becoming human. It was an exercise and I’m pretty happy with it! For the record, after I wrote it I went and watched The Walking Dead, and I love it!

2 – Every author has a different approach to the writing process. Can you tell us how you prepare to write and a little bit about your process, if there is one? Is it different for each book or story you write or do you have a system you try to follow?

It is a little bit different for every project but many parts of it stay the same. For example, I usually know I’m really going to write a story if I get a flash of the beginning and ending all at once. I usually write those down and then I fill in the middle and build a kind of skeleton. Then I fatten up the baby! With each story I usually have a little exercise or game or challenge for myself. So, like I said, in this one, the challenge was to make a zombie story where the infection was different than what we expected. In my new novel Tin Star I wanted to see if I could write a human who in order to survive has kind of become an alien herself and then is confronted with humans again. I also have different themes that I work on till I’m done. Humanity being a current fave! But then it’ll change and morph into a different emotional question for the next few stories that I’ll write. I also try to write the parts that I am excited to write and not worry about it being in order. Then I mix things around, swap and switch, until I find that right skeleton. Then it is revise, revise, revise. For me it is essential to get words on the page. Any words. Because even if they are all the wrong words, you have something to work with. I don’t have a schedule per se. But I do give myself deadlines. I’ll say, OK I’m only going to work on this project for the next two weeks (or two months) and that’s my time to dream and play within that world. But what I love about process is that it is ever changing and that no two authors write the same way.

3 – You mentioned you have a new book coming out. Can you tell readers about it?

Tin Star is book one in a two book sci fi series. It’s about a girl named Tula Bane who is abandoned and left for dead on an alien space station at the brink of a galactic war. She’s the only human and humans are not really known or liked in the galaxy. It’s about her trying to survive when a lot of bigger political stuff happens and humanity is trying to make itself better known in the galaxy. I was inspired by Casablanca.

4 – I love sneaking a peek at people’s bookshelves. What are you reading right now and is there a book you can’t wait to get to?

I just finished The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and CM Kornbluth. That was great. I have Hild by Nicola Griffith on my night table. But I’m traveling as I write this so I’ve got two books loaded up on my kobo: City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte, Cocaine Blues – A Miss Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood and Uncharted Territory by Connie Willis.

Thanks, Cecil!