Short Story Review: “Kabu Kabu” by Nnedi Okorafor and Alan Dean Foster

2 of 5 stars.

The landscape of Chicago gets imbued with specters of the Nigerian Igbo culture in this short story. Not unlike Jarmusch’s Night on Earth which shows the flavor of five major world cities from the backseat of taxis, this tale veers through the narrative from the backseat of an illegal cab in Chicago which bears an uncanny resemblance to a Nigerian kabu kabu, ie car for hire.

Ngozi’s hesitance to fly to Nigeria for her sister’s wedding rises to the top as she confronts both her lack of knowledge and yet her pride in her native culture. She doesn’t speak the language nor recognize much of the cultural iconography. The kabu kabu, in return, gives her more of a ride and lesson than she originally planned when it stops to pick up 3 other passengers much to her discomfort. In short order, she’s missed her flight at O’Hare and been robbed of her credit cards and cell phone. Allegorically, she’s stripped of her western safety net.

Her journey bounces from a confused Chicago landscape through otherworldly highways on her fantastical trek to the land of her parents.

This tale would be strengthened by a coherent sense of Chicago’s landscape rather than naming landmarks and streets that don’t pertain to any sensible trip to the airport. Also, the three passengers–who they are or what they represent–could also be made more clear. The second is barely human, if at all, and the third is drenched in human blood. Some sort of explanation is in order.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Original Poetry: A Gathering of Four

This man (curled into
      himself) sits outside
the turnstiles of Washington Street Station
      right at the maw of the vast
subterranean Pedway
      moaning with errant winds.
His cardboard sign faces his lap.
      Dirt and thirst are kneaded
into the fibers of fleece.

***

Picasso’s old, blue
      guitarist is blocks away,
propped up
      by a cheap guitar.
His face – cadaverous,
      fallen forward;
sunken eyes –
      drawn shut as dry husks.
No warmth radiates
      from cyan skin draped
over gentle bones.
      No music escapes
this blind guitar.

***

As if trying to bow
her long-forgotten
cello, my grandmother
          full of grace
breaks the prayer circle,
starts to wail
in dissonance with
           blessed
winds at the window pane
           among women
Rosary beads dangle
           blessed
as two aunts
regather her hands
           of thy womb
These tendoned talons
           Mother, pray for us
pull and flex
with the banshee cries
           at the hour of our death.
She writhes;
her eyes dart. Her tongue
flicks
from her cavernous mouth.

***

Grandfather’s hands flutter;
      one gently, one not.
He speaks softly, too
      softly and too rapidly.
He rocks to propulse
      from the chair, to beat
those who would push him
      back into its cradle.
They’ll ask, what
      do you want? One
more time. Just say
      that again. Just one
more time.

 
 
 
[This poem was published by The Eunoia Review in mid-April 2015.]
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Original Poetry: Urban Dwellers

Two fat brown rats
      harvest Wicker Park’s morsels:
community garden tomatoes,
      waste from pampered corgis,
an abandoned burrito.
      Their comings and goings
in the star-hiding glow
      of night reveal the despoilment
and entrance to a nest
      writhing with musky bodies.
It’s lined with sidewalk sale notices,
      wrappers, a commuter’s shredded
Starbucks venti cup.

           ***

Musty pigeons settle
      with concrete dust
beneath the elevated tracks—
      loitering. The birds
disperse like a newspaper
      caught in the wind.

           ***

The morning rush hour train
      is ripe with jostling commuters
intent on their i-Pods or feigning
      interest on ads
circumscribing the ceiling.
      The downtown stations scatter
and gather the people. Debris
      is pushed to the periphery.
 
 
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Novel Review: Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)Death Masks by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Detective noir stories exhibit an enticing mix of swagger and self-doubt, sexiness and vulnerability. They provide something relatable, while yet inspiring toward the noble. All the better when said detective noir tale is read aloud by James Marsters–thank you audible.

The Dresden Files series is episodically enjoyable, and yet an increasingly complex overarching world that bring the detective noir genre to modern day Chicago with a wizard at the helm. Harry Dresden always has one foot in his mouth and another mired in trouble from either this reality or another realm of existence. He’s also usually aided by a few of his growing number of associates and acquaintances.

In this tale, his CPD partner Murphy takes a back seat as does the Fae realm of the Nevernever. Harry strives to solve an international theft of the Shroud of Turin that’s made its way into Chicago’s underworld. Thieves, priests and fallen angels are hot on the trail of this treasure. Not surprisingly, Knight of the Cross Michael partners up on this case, along with a couple new faces from his Order. Meanwhile, Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan the bitten-but-not-turned-yet vampire has returned to Chi-town right as a major noble of the Vampire Red Court descends to kill Harry for his part in the war between the Red Court and the Wizarding White Counsel.

Typical of these novels, the dual storylines weave into a frenzied tapestry with a few loose threads left dangling for later episodes. Romance, family, politics, magic and mystery each get an update here.

I recommend the entire series. I’ve previously read:
     Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)–4 stars
     Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)–4 stars
     Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3)–4 stars
     Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)–4 stars
     “Last Call” (The Dresden Files, #10.6)–5 stars

 

 

 

[Check out my other reviews here.]

Novel Review: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harry Dresden is the quintessential modern day, wizarding detective. With one foot in Chicago, and the other kicking the supernatural world of the Fae called Nevernever, Harry is ever learning about broader worlds and politics that make Chicago’s look tame. The first few books in the series established Harry as a talented yet poor wizard that has to advertise his abilities to pay the rent. This includes working for the Chicago Police Department as a paid consultant in all things weird.

Early books hinted at Harry’s dark past in which he killed his mentor in self-defense, and fought to maintain his life and to retain his talent from the White Counsel that rules over all wizards. Vampire and Fae politics also ensnared him, while werewolves, pixies, demons and worse prowled, buzzed and bullied Chicago.

This strong addition to the series starts with a murder and climaxes with Harry trying to prevent all out war between the two main fairy factions. Considering that Book 3 saw him fail to keep the 3 vampire factions from declaring war on each other and against the White Counsel, this is no small order. The tale is highly recommended.

James Marsters read this tale to me thanks to Audible. I’ve previously read Butcher’s:
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)–4 stars
Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)–4 stars
Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3)–4 stars
“Last Call” (The Dresden Files, #10.6)–5 stars

 

 

 

[Check out my other reviews here.]

Original Poetry: 10:55 Flight to Chicago from Heathrow

A final look back at the boarding gate
               shows stand-bys milling, rushing
               among linen scarves, watches and fresh
               fruit booths from the Tube station escalator.
Trains networking out embrace fields, coasts,
               and leaping rivers, disturbing the contours
               to reach the valleyed cities.
Rains sweep down and stop miserably,
               as they had started, luring
               someone into the sea by warm sun
               and high waves industrially glossed.
The castle deteriorates upon the throbbing
               club pulsating with men-by-day
               experiencing Madonna with each breath
               of bottled poppers.
Separate out a quarter and smoke it, surfer.
Gather blossoms from the rhododendrons
               to sprinkle on the water ebbing further
               from shore draining this filthy bay
               marred by a fresh stream cutting
               through attracting gulls.
Come in, roll up, blow blue smoke
               out the windows from the lofty ledges
               used by bees that just want the jam packets
               to get drunk on like we get drunk on
               before dancing, dancing, and sleeping
               with the nice looking guy who tries
               to lure us back to his place before coming in ours.
Was it worth it?
 
 
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Original Poetry: “Daughter of Bilitis: for Del Martin (1921-2008)”

You are the defiant devotion of a half-century of modern, queer courtship
     resolving with your domestic vows.
You are the equanimity that surmounts court-forced annulment
     on your anniversary by reenacting your marriage while California
     patiently waits.
You are the tympani echoing from the bayside Pacific cathedrals since
     nineteen-fifty-five. Daughters of Bilitis beckon while mouthing, Qui vive.
You are the silent vanguard among our disaffected communities huddled
     in gay ghettoes bracing against communist brands and police
     who strip your Chicago sister-dykes.
You are the deviant teacher of variant knowledge, unbarring our doors
      and expunging our records of psychopathologies.
You are the asterisk and footnote to the legal chapter that quietly registers
     as an obvious coda.
You are the legend that, in death, no proposition can amend again.
 
 
 
[This poem was written in 2008 upon Del Martin’s passing to honor her work in promoting equality for a half-century. She and her partner were the first same-sex marriage in California before it was later nullified by the courts and voters. Del died before the proposition was overturned and before a single court upheld marriage equality.]
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]