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 These are excerpts from the author’s unpublished novel.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
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Bakasi Man” by Nnedi Okorafor

3 of 5 stars.

A mere vignette or kernel to a larger untold story, this tale employs fictional realism to describe an assassination of the title character, Bakasi. Bakasi, a hunch-backed dictator, pits his majority tribe against the minority tribe to whom he assigns all of the social ills. It’s a tale that’s played out repeatedly in post-colonial Africa.

The narrator is one of a team of 5 members of the minority Agwe people that set out to remove the head of the political hydra. Unfortunately, the tale does not develop beyond the actions of the hour of the assassination nor more deeply into the minds and motivations of any of the characters.

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

2 of 5 stars.

This is a tale of greed and exploitation pitting the overreach of American materialism against Nigerian desperation.

American companies are stripping Nigeria of oil without benefit to the people affected by the pipelines and environmental damage. The locals cannot even afford gasoline for themselves. When pipelines leak, the locals swarm to collect what they can for their use or for resale. But pipeline leaks also lead to health problems and combustion disasters. One such conflagration claims the right arm of the narrator’s mechanic father.

In a speculative twist, this short tale has American scientists also exploiting Nigerians by testing experimental medical procedures. The one-armed father undergoes one such test by allowing the Americans to give him a new, bionic arm to replace the one he lost.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel completes the The Red Rising Trilogy in a worthy and satisfying way. The expansive world-building of the second installment pays off as Darrow and company try to realize his martyred wife’s dream of a caste-less solar system.

The entire series is highly recommended.

The first in the series, Red Rising, was easily one of the best debut novels of 2014. It took tones of dystopian, young adult series like The Hunger Games and elevated the dialogue on social justice, honesty and loyalty. The second and best in the series, Golden Son, abandoned all comparisons as the world-building went into overdrive, sculpting the framework for the grand conflict of liberating the enslaved masses throughout the solar system. The plot veered toward Space Military without losing its heart. If anything, the human element matured to a nuanced field of grays.

A year has elapsed between the second and final installments. Darrow is a broken shadow of his former self having endured nothing but torture and seclusion since he’s last been seen. His allies need to be rebuilt and re-earned. And, he needs to rebuild himself physically, emotionally, mentally, and strategically. Much has transpired in his absence vaulting him to mythic status which even he cannot live up to. The expectations are mountainous, and hope dwindles . . .

While coasting on the great work of the second installment, pleasingly this novel doesn’t embrace a fairy tale ending. Unless one means the original Grimm’s tales which were dark messy things embedded with lessons for the ages.

[Check out my other reviews here.]

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: “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.]

Short Story Review: “The Black Stain” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

While post-apocalyptic dystopian societies aren’t rare in literature, ones set in Africa are when compared to their American kin. In this tale, the ancient cities of skyscrapers and technology [of the modern world] are deserted husks waiting to be mined for precious metals. And terrifying electrical storms which last for days and flood everything to the horizon are barely survivable away from the villages.

Society has descended into two major races or castes with the darker race, the Okeke, serving as slaves for the lighter skinned, Nuru. Nuru think nothing of killing an offending Okeke as their religion holds that they are an evil people in the eyes of their sun goddess.

Two Nuru brothers lead very different lives when one chooses to mine the ancient cities with his large caravan of slaves and workers and the other resells the gleanings at the family store. Uche, the miner, survives a week-long storm in the desert with an Okeke woman whom he falls in love with. But the greater society isn’t ready for such tradition-breaking action . . .

Unfortunately, the narrative takes a detour about this point as the 3rd-person tale gets recast as a folk tale and varying accounts start to surface, as do supernatural implications on the characters actions.

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