Reviewed by Jim Steel

When you do a lot of reading while commuting you do have to judge a book by its cover, and Apex #8 has one of the most disturbing that I've whipped out in public in a long time. The front cover is a peeled baby illo for Jennifer Pelland's fine Blood Baby, a strange tale of a remote village where the locals keep a demon at bay by having a dedicated virgin throw her sanitary towels into a chasm every month. When the current incumbent rebels and flees to become a mother, she has the bizarre and disturbing blood baby of the title. The back cover, incidentally, carries an advertisement for an erotic fantasy anthology and it has the gayest illo that I've seen in a long time.

Blood Baby doesn't open the magazine; that honour falls to Tom Piccirilli's Madness Blows the Winds of History. It's a weird choice, not because of its quality--it's a good future war mash-up--but because it is a reprint from Talebones magazine. Those two set the scene for the rest of this digest magazine. It is full of short, punchy stories and given that the subtitle is Science Fiction & Horror, you will have a fair idea of what to expect. The writing can sometimes vary, but none of the stories is dull. Matt Wallace's A Place of Snow Angels and Shane Jiraiya Cummings' Genesis Six both tackle religion in an ambivalent way, the first with new saviours in a new ice age, and the second with the apocalypse. They are also amongst the two best written stories in here. John B Rosenman's The Death Singer is set on another planet and deals with the interaction between alien customs and a dying man. It has the feel of a fifties Galaxy story, and is none the worse for that. Steve Savile's Temple has the feel of Vertigo's Hellblazer about it, although given Savile's background as a comic scripter, perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise. This is probably the longest thing in this issue, and it's part four of a serialisation. Last Chance Morning by Timothy Waldron Semple is an escape-from-a-prison-planet story. It's hardboiled and pulpy, and enormous fun. M.M. Buckner's contemporary horror, Babble, is a bit confused, and there are other shorter stories from William F. Nolan, Lavie Tidhar and Aaron Gudmunson that fly past without leaving too much of an impression. Overall though, the fiction is entertaining and worth your time.

Top of the non-fiction (and possibly the whole magazine) is an article by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis on the fiction of Baron de la Motte Fourqué, which was an influence on both Poe and Lovecraft. These days he is more often mentioned than read, but this overview will have most who see it hunting down his work. Alethea Kontis tells us of going to the premiere of a low-budget slasher film that she was involved in, and it's a warm, engaging article that is as much about people's dreams as anything else. Finally, we have interviews Tom Piccirilli and Kelly Link wrapping up what has to be a recommended issue of Apex. Curiously, an advert for #9 on one of the pages states that it was due to come out in March 2006, but this is surely a typo given that #8 didn't appear until January 2007. It looks like a tasty line-up, too.

Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest, edited by Jason Sizemore and published by Apex Publications, PO Box 2223, Lexington, KY 40588-2223, USA. A5, 128 pp, $6 US or $20/4 US. For other countries and various special offers/combinations refer to website.

Website: - www.apexdigest.com

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