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Posted April 14, 2014
Who doesn’t like a good ol’ story about the end of the world, people trying to survive changes they hadn’t been prepared for, and villains trying to take advantage of the situation? Issue 57 of Apex Magazine focuses on this particular theme – the end of society as we know it and the birth of a new, twisted one, to which the few survivors try to adapt as best as they can. The three short stories featured in this issue – “Antumbra” by Lucy A. Snyder, “Maria and the Pilgrim” by Rich Larson, and “Home by the Sea” by Élisabeth Vonarburg – all deal with people’s tendency of making very bad choices when they’re faced with death and the threat of extinction. After all, who are you supposed to trust in a world that doesn’t abide by the rules everyone used to know? Should you behave the same as always when there’s nothing left of what there used to be? It’s a new world that demands new rules, and only those who think and act quickly will make it.
“Antumbra” by Lucy A. Snyder is, by far, my favorite. It’s twisted, and disturbing, and it managed to make a strong impression on me. I couldn’t believe it was over when I reached the last page. It’s not the shortest in this issue, but it certainly felt like it because I enjoyed it so much. June is trying to protect her younger sister, Lily, in a world that is populated by mutants after a giant black object messed with the Earth’s and moon’s positions and caused storms, earthquakes, and meteor strikes. Their city is in permanent lunar eclipse, and this affects everyone greatly both physically and mentally. June’s mistake is that in trying to keep her sister safe, she trusts the wrong person. Thus, she ends up in a situation from which there’s literally no way out.
The little girl from “Maria and the Pilgrim” by Rich Larson makes the same mistake as June, and for the same reason as June. All she wants is to save her little sister, who needs a membrane to protect her from the sun that burns hotter than the fires of hell. When she should have trusted her family, she chooses to betray them and take her sister’s fate into her own hands. I loved the idea of a small community whose faith borders on fanaticism, because it was interesting to see how the people reacted when faced with impossible choices. Maria’s parents knew the Pilgrim was just a man, and they treated him as one. But the girl, in her naivety, thought he was truly better than all of them.
The third story, “Home by the Sea” by Élisabeth Vonarburg, was also a pleasant read. I admit I would have liked to learn more about the artifacts, how they were created, and for what purposes exactly. The story focuses on a woman whose life changed when she found out she was not, actually, human. When Manou realizes that her mother created her and made her look human, she chose to run away and live her life as the artifact that she was. Now, she is returning home, hoping to get some answers. It’s all about coming to terms with what she is and allowing herself to have everything humans have: a normal life, happiness, maybe even children.
Overall, issue 57 of Apex Magazine was an enjoyable read. Author Wen Spencer makes some interesting points in her article, “So How Does It End?”, showing how the theme of the end of the world and the end of civilization has constantly occurred in all ages and cultures, and will surely continue to fascinate writers and readers alike.