Paula Guran Reviews The Sunday Morning Transport and Apex
The Sunday Morning Transport 1/8/23, 1/18/23, 1/22/23, 2/5/23, 2/12/23, 2/19/23
The Sunday Morning Transport started 2023 on January 8 with the first of a two-part novella, “Tears Waiting to Be Diamonds” by Sarah Rees Brennan. The second part was published January 28. Brennan revisits the Borderlands from her acclaimed novel In Other Lands. Set about ten years after the novel begins, the hero, Elliot Schaefer, is now 23 and a teacher of a group of young misfits. A dwarven prince, Marcus of the bloodthirsty Diamond Clan, is captured and becomes Schaefer’s student. Marcus, like Elliott, is a dislikeable young man, but similarly will eventually win your heart. The story, like the novel, is hilariously subversive as well as occasionally incisive.
I wish there were more to “Our Lady of Tomorrow” by Natalie C. Parker (1/18/23). She introduces us to a rather benign happy-tech future in which mims – some type of artificial humans with blue skin to set them apart from real people – do everything from teach school to make candy art. Just as we begin to get to know the nameless narrator and her friend Erin, the story stops.
In Benjamin C. Kinney’s “The Work-Clock” (1/22/23) apprentice Zek checks the runes that keep the Temple Works running which, in turn, is part of keeping the Destroyer sealed up forever. The job usually takes three workers, but with all the journeymen and master inspectors on vacation, there’s only Zek. He’s behind schedule but doing his best. As for the anchoress, there are always things needing doing to keep the world safe. Dire emergency arises, and these two have a job to do. A truly magical tale.
“The Ethnomusicology of the Last Dreadnought” by Yoon Ha Lee (2/05/23) blew me completely away. Weapons of war as instruments, battleplans as orchestration, war itself as music – any synopsis is sorely lacking. And the conclusion is devastating. Six on a scale of five.
In “Exiled to Gravity” by Marissa Lingen (2/12/23) a woman whose mother lied about her “allergy to artificial gravity” exiling them to a life on Earth to scam wealthy men – or so she thinks. Then until leaves Earth herself. A science fiction story with a happy ending.
Rachel Hartman’s “Ghost Story” (2/19/23) is a beautiful tale about the nature of stories and the importance of knowledge. A ghost-sage is purposefully bound to a place now below a city so they can impart their wisdom across the ages. But time has passed, and faith has change and they have been forgotten and alone for centuries. Then a child, fleeing dragon flame that has killed his family and destroyed the city crawls into its tomb.
Apex #135 leads off with “The Big Glass Box and the Boys Inside”, in which Isabel J. Kim devises a fantastical version of mega corporations. Working for one of these old extradimensional firms as a summer associate means a whopping salary, great benefits, and – by the end of the season – that you’ll be transformed, no longer human. But you have no intention of staying. Unlike everyone else, you don’t even have a heart’s desire – a perk the firm offers in escrow, to be returned if you leave. So, why not? The transformation will wear off once you leave the firm… but then your office mate turns out to be this cute guy, and the summer goes by so quickly. A sweet romantic fantasy, but also a telling tale about power and desire.
Mari Ness cleverly combines the old Charles Perrault fairy tale “Diamonds and Toads” with a carnival setting for a refreshing new take. “The Immortal Game” by Lindz McLeod is told through chess moves. This high-stake game of seduction works surprisingly well. K.S. Walker’s dark gem “River Bargain Baby” is written in a fabulous voice that draws you straight into its swampy core. But y’all be careful: “What the river takes, the river keeps” and what it “gives back is a curse indeed.”
The issue also has two good pieces of flash fiction. In only 900 words – some of them medicalese – Sagan Yee’s “Experimental Protocol for the Coronal Sectioning and Assessment of a Human Soul” explains how to excise a soul. A monster story set in the desert, “Walking the Deep Down” by Michelle Denham tells of a little girl who avoids making all those wrong decisions little girls make in old-style fairy tales.
“Tears Waiting to Be Diamonds,” Sarah Rees Brennan (The Sunday Morning Transport 1/8/23 – 1/28/23)
“Ghost Story”, Rachel Hartman (The Sunday Morning Transport 2/19/23)
Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron OH, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.
This review and more like it in the April 2023 issue of Locus.
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