Short Story Review: “Icon” by Nnedi Okorafor

3 of 5 stars.

Journalists and photojournalists tell living stories, with one subset going so far as to embed in war zones and other areas of terror and strife. Sometimes, these journalists become the story . . .

After Nigerian rebels fight off American oil interests with acts of terror and sabotage, an American journalist and his camera person decide to embed to tell the rebels’ story. The leader of the rebels, Icon, is less welcoming and stands more interested in telling a story through the reporter rather than with the reporter. Under threat of being killed, the reporter is told to shoot a young boy in the head. . .

Reporters can only report what they understand. When one cannot understand or trust what one is witnessing because it seems to defy the laws of nature and physics, the entire story is broken . . .

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Carpet” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

Many folktales include an object with mysterious or mystical properties, be it a mirror or piece of jewelry or abandoned lamp in the Arabian desert. Said object may contain echoes of its own past or act as a portal for a character-building adventure. This tale hints at and then fails to deliver on a modern version of this style of folktale. Using a colloquial voice, the teen-aged narrator and her sister, older by a year, experience something outside of “normal” after purchasing a carpet at market. Despite the obvious elements of fantastical, the tone is fictional realism.

The sisters head from America to Nigeria without their parents for the first time. Despite having been to the country many times before, cultural differences rub up against them as they need to navigate the vacation without adult help. They purchase a carpet in the big city before heading 8 hours into remote parts of the country to stay at their family home in their father’s village. Upon arrival, they are disturbed to find out that their kindly neighbors and cousins had stripped the house of all their possessions while they were away. Also, spiders, geckos and other unknown creatures had taken up residence inside the house.

Locked in a nearly bare room with only a single borrowed bed, the girls hear disturbing noises in the house throughout the night . . .

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Novella Review: Johnny Rev by Rachel Pollack

4 of 5 stars.

The mash-up of supernatural urban fantasy and detective noir works time and time again. For Chicago this means Harry Dresden. London has Bob Howard of Stross’ Equoid. Here, Pollack gives NYC a reality-bending, multiverse-traveling detective named Johnny Shade. His wife is dead [by a poltergeist] and his daughter trapped in the reality beyond. Johnny stays a half step ahead of doom and demise by a canny network of associates and lovers.

He’s oath-bound to accept any client with his card, which cannot be a good thing. Especially when his own self-created and later destroyed–or so he thought–doppelganger comes to hire Johnny Shade to “beat” the duplicate’s maker, ie Johnny himself. As the duplicate Johnny known as Johnny Rev tries to take substance from the realm of dreams, Shade turns to the help of his ex-lover the Dream Hunter who happens to be the illegitimate daughter of a formerly worshipped sun god and the Queen of Eyes [oracle of oracles] . . .

The layers of the history and worlds upon worlds tantalizes as around every corner lies another Johnny Shade anecdote or past lesson learned or lucked through. This tale is highly recommended.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Science Fiction Novellas: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, which I received directly from Prime Books.

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Short Story Review: “Long Juju Man” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

Supernatural ghosts and tricksters exist for many cultures. The tricksters often match wits with their victims, doling out humorous to vindictive comeuppance.

In this folktale-style vignette, a narrator relates her childhood run in with the trickster ghost of the village’s former sorcerer. As a 9 y.o. girl on a mission to deliver a basket of eggs to her aunt, the narrator holds her ground in a stand off with the ghost of the Long Juju Man. The stakes are the basket of eggs . . .

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Winds of Harmattan” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

This tale is an undeveloped, lesser version of Okorafor’s “How Inyang Got Her Wings”. Originally, the 2 tales were meant to be a part of the same longer novel with this tale of magic and superhero-like abilities acting as a cautionary tale showing what could go wrong when a strong, independent woman in a male-dominated society exerts her power without looking out for herself. It was never meant to stand alone and act as the antithesis of empower which it ends up doing here. Whereas, “HIGHW” is empowering and insightful.

In both tales, isolated women in Nigerian tribal villages earn the ability to leave their respective villages–by flying out. The flying is linked to mature female sexuality. In both cases, the women are deemed witches and sentenced to poisoning. The outcomes differ greatly.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor

4 of 5 stars.

As protests over the rights of people versus the rights of oil pipelines grow more confrontational in the American Mid-West, this short story slides in with an imaginable future in which oil pipelines wend through villages and ecologically sensitive areas of Nigeria with disregard for the villagers. Artificially intelligent, large white cyber-spiders scurry up and down the pipelines fixing leaks and dismembering humans that get to close or tamper with the infrastructure.

The narrator toys with death when she routinely slips out of the hands of her abusive, alcoholic husband and hides in the long grass by the pipeline where she can watch the “spiders” and practice her guitar. One particular spider stops to observe the music making. Day after day. Then one day, it produces its own musical instrument . . .

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Steel Victory by J. L. Gribble

Steel VictorySteel Victory by J.L. Gribble
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An uneven smorgasbord of fantasy and urban fantasy tropes jumble together in a post-nuclear apocalypse setting. A millennia after the nuclear war, society has reformed with humans, elves, vampires, mages, and were-creatures of all sorts. The political entities are the New World Greek city-state of Limani and the British and Roman Empires somehow revived after the wars. This unlikely mix stretches the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point in its refusal to world-build with any sort of coherence.

POVs alternate between a thousand-y.o. vampire, Victory, as she juggles the politics of Limani dealing with both internal xenophobic pro-humanists and external Roman aggression and that of her adopted, mage-warrior teenaged daughter offering the angst-ridden, young adult angle.

Eyebrow raising developments lie around every plot twist. The implication of a bonded pair of mage-warriors. The implication of said pair being separated. An unexplained curse that stops one from doing magic. The threat of a 1000-y.o. nuclear missile without a delivery system.

The convoluted cultural and historical structure assumed in the tale would strengthen with careful pruning. This would allow the two themes of conservative xenophobia and imperial expansionism to take root. Each has merits worth exploring.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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