Review: The Apex Book of World SF
August 11, 2010 book reviewThe Apex Book of World SF (AMZ | B&N)is an ambitious project that, mostly, succeeds despite its difficulties. [Full disclosure: I read the electronic version, which does not include the story "Compartments", and that I reformatted the ePub version for the publisher immediately prior to reading the anthology.]
Many of the stories suffer from slight translation quirks - unusual turns of phrase, a slight stutter in the flow of words. They are not errors as such, but seem slightly awkward to an ear raised on United States English. The substitution of "whilst" for "while" throughout (including the construction "meanwhilst") was jarring and reminded me that I was *reading* instead of allowing me to be submerged in the story.
Some of the other stories fall slightly flat for other reasons. For example, "The Levantine Experiments" is a story full of "telling", and "Biggest Baddest Bomoh" has essentially the same plotline as "The Monkey's Paw" with little else to distinguish it. "Wizard's World" suffers from technological dating, and the characters are not quite compelling enough (unlike, say, "Johnny Mnemonic") to allow me to ignore it. None of these stories are bad - but they do not excel.
The stories that do excel, however, are transcendent. "The Lost Xuyan Bride" is a compelling noir alternate history. "Excerpt From a Letter by a Social-Realist Aswang" tickled my sociological heart. "Into the Night"'s unreliable narrator frightened me with the possibility (or reality) of my own impending futureshock. And "The Bird Catcher", the tale that opens this book, is beautifully, dreamily, horrific.
Overall, this is a book worth reading (especially the relatively inexpensive digital version). While some of the stories are merely serviceable, the gems more than make up the difference.