Anthology Review: Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu KabuKabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This anthology is a collection of short mostly speculative stories with tinges of sci-fi, fantasy, folktale and the supernatural. A few come from the same world in which a few individuals have the ability to fly. These are excerpts from the author’s unpublished novel. Many fall short of feeling fully developed, resting instead at vignette status. None stand far above or below the rest.

One commonality throughout the collection is Nigeria as a background, often with American narrators. The uneasy pairing of Nigerian and American interests and values is the greatest strength to the anthology.

I rated and reviewed all of the component short stories to this collection:
     “Asunder”–4 stars
     “The Baboon War”–3 stars
     “Bakasi Man”–3 stars
     “Biafra”–2 stars
     “The Black Stain”–2 stars
     “The Carpet”–2 stars
     “The Ghastly Bird”–2 stars
     “The House of Deformities”–3 stars
     “How Inyang Got Her Wings”–3 stars
     “Icon”–3 stars
     [w/ Alan Dean Foster]–“Kabu Kabu”–2 stars
     “Long Juju Man”–2 stars
     “The Magical Negro”–2 stars
     “Moom!”–2 stars
     “On the Road”–2 stars
     “The Palm Tree Bandit”–3 stars
     “The Popular Mechanic”–2 stars
     “Spider the Artist”–4 stars
     “Tumaki”–3 stars
     “The Winds of Harmattan”–2 stars
     “Windseekers”–2 stars

Also by this author, I’ve previously read:
     “Hello, Moto”–2 stars
     Binti [Binti, #1]–4 stars
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “The Palm Tree Bandit” by Nnedi Okorafor

3 of 5 stars.

This very short tale reflects the familial tales told within families about particular ancestors. A young girl is told this tale about her great-grandmother, “Yaya,” while getting her hair braided by her grandmother [or mother]. It comes across as a girl-power, folk tale.

Yaya lived in a village with a strong gender divide in what was allowed. Especially banned for women was the climbing and tapping of palm trees since palm tree sap is an intoxicant. Yaya felt less constrained by the rules and defied the ban in a toyful manner making the male leaders into fools. Slowly, the gender constraint slides away as others carry on the playful defiance throughout the village and on into neighboring ones.

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: “How Inyang Got Her Wings” by Nnedi Okorafor

3 of 5 stars.

A coming-of-age story becomes an origins story when an awkward younger sister learns to embrace her gender and sexuality despite the cultural barriers erected around her. The clear metaphor for “getting her wings” as she starts her first menstrual cycle and members of the opposite sex start to treat her differently becomes poignant as the tribal culture she’s born into kills women that don’t submit to the existing patriarchy.

This tale strongly paints the cultural ideals Inyang accepts as truths, such as “Fat” = “Gorgeous.” Families with money fatten their daughters to make them more attractive brides-to-be. Inyang feels this intimately as she watches her sisters [born to higher ranked wives] treated to the fattening rituals while she is given up as “not marriage material.” [Her mother is a lower ranked third wife, and a few physical oddities cause Inyang to stand out, too.]

Her differences challenge her ability to fit into the broader culture of the village, as differences also equate to witchcraft which is treated harshly. Suspected witches are given a lethal poison from the jungle as a test. If the poison kills them, it proves the victim was a witch. Her survival depends on her leaving the only family and home she knows . . .

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Novella Review: Ripper by Angela Slatter

RipperRipper by Angela Slatter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The intrigue and mystery of notorious crimes has a long memory. None more so than Jack the Ripper, the sordid landscape Whitechapel London, and the horror of five grotesquely mutilated bodies. The five victims were all female prostitutes. This surely put the target on them, but did it also slow the investigation? Would more resources have been allocated to this unsolved crime if the victims had been from a more distinguished caste of society? Did sexist double standards play a role in what has undoubtedly a sexist Victorian England?

Historically fictive accounts of the Ripper have embraced the detective and thriller genres and sometimes even steampunk. Here, the novella takes an urban fantasy approach with witchcraft and supernatural motives layered onto the detective and thriller genres. Most satisfyingly, the gender issues are explored and embraced at many levels. What double standards led to the women becoming prostitutes? What were the current relationships with men for these married [yes, married] women? Importantly, it also asks whether the male investigators were adequately inspired to solve the crimes and right headed in their efforts to do so.

Apprentice Investigator Kit Caswell wants to unravel the secrets surrounding the gruesome murders of 2 local Whitechapel prostitutes. But Kit has secrets, too, that could aid and undermine the investigation. She’s illegally impersonating a man to hold the job. That’s the only way she can earn enough to support her less-than-sane mother and her sickly younger brother. She happens to be good at her job. But she has her naysayers in the department, along with her advocates.

Out on the street, one particular neighborhood denizen sees right through Kit’s disguise. Mary Jane is a low-level witch, friend of both deceased, and a prostitute with a target on her back . . .

This highly recommended tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, which I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Female Factory”, “A Good Husband”, and “The Song of Sighs”


 

 

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Short Story Review: “A Shot of Salt Water” by Lisa L. Hannett

2 of 5 stars.

Rich folklore emerges from coastal villages in fishing cultures from selkies to mer with creatures with one foot in the sea and another on land.

This quizzical tale bucks most of the lore to redefine mermaids as a female-dominated fishing culture of mixed ancestry, both human and what would traditionally be considered as mer. The ocean-born members of society are stolen/kidnapped from the unnamed gilled people.

The strengths of the tale are in the flipping of gender expectations within the culture as the men are waiting for the women to come home from sea, but also have to worry about infidelity. Also, the exuberance of music is beautifully described.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, which I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Female Factory”, “Forever, Miss Tapekwa County”, and “In Syllables of Elder Seas”.

 

 

 

[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Mary, Mary” by Kirstyn McDermott

2 of 5 stars.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley brought life to the monster of Frankenstein raising an early alarm on science crossing boundaries that ought not to be crossed. She also carved a new path as a female writer, holding her own in a male-dominated field and on subjects not deemed appropriate for her fair gender.

This fictionalized biographical tale is about the other Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of her more famous namesake. She, too, is a writer, but her relationships have her at a disadvantage. The earlier men in her life don’t stick around, not even when there is a child, Fanny, in the picture. Later, she does marry and have her more famous second daughter, Mary who was but a baby when her mother died.

The life of the elder Mary flashes through scenes remembered on the woman’s deathbed. Her truest companion is a ghost named The Grey Lady that helps her to see the lessons and truths in her vagabond life. This is all meant to be read as spirit and inspiration for the younger Mary who’ll grow without truly knowing her mother–unless there’s a ghost there to fill in the gaps . . .

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

 

 

 

[Check out my other reviews here.]