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.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


Short Story Review: “The Ghastly Bird” by Nnedi Okorafor

2 of 5 stars.

The strength of science lies in the scientific method–form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, collect data from the test, and check the conclusions. If that isn’t enough, peer review has other independent scientists check the work and cross check the methodology. Science is not just another form of faith like a godless religion, despite the implications of some unscientific skewing of the term “theory”.

Fictional scientists should act like scientists, at least somewhat.

In this tale, Zev is an ornithologist, a zoologist that studies birds. He moves to the island nation of Mauritius to teach because his favorite LIVING bird is the dodo. That’s right, he profoundly has faith that the dodo isn’t extinct. Without empirical or observational evidence, he also decides that the dodo is an intelligent animal and friendly. Due to his beliefs, his girlfriend leaves him and he hides his dodo faith from colleagues. [As well he should considering his very unscientific stance.]

One day while observing the many bird feeders he maintains on the back of his property, Zev witnesses a dodo emerge from the forest. Or does he? . . .

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

Short Story Review: “The House of Deformities” by Nnedi Okorafor

3 of 5 stars.

Experiencing a foreign culture opens one’s eyes to things one takes for granted. While everybody experiences these differences in slightly unique ways, the experiences of children and adults can vary quite remarkably. The rich fantasy life of children filters the experience of foreignness.

In this short tale, two American girls on an extended family trip to Nigeria grapple with their wild imaginations and the less familiar cultural practices especially as it concerns using outhouses or even the open terrain for bodily functions. The younger sister’s Stephen King novels add fuel to their vivid imaginations and run-ins with exotic animals and practices.

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

Anthology Review: An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press

An Unreliable Guide to LondonAn Unreliable Guide to London by M. John Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The flavor of a city is the combination of its neighborhoods and all the stories of the people contained within. This off-kilter collection of tales and vignettes highlights many of the peripheral neighborhoods of London. Some stories are fantastical and absurdist, while others present a realistic take on a narrower London experience. Above all, the tales show a wonderful diversity of voice doing much justice to the multi-cultural and international megalopolis that is London.

My absolute favorite tale, which I rated 5-stars, was the profoundly moving “Warm and Toasty” by Yvette Edwards. It’s a tale of hope and humanity with an eye on London’s ethnic history.

I’ve reviewed all of the component tales of the anthology. The rest are:
F., George–“Mother Black Cap’s Revenge”–4 stars
Newland, Courttia–“The Secret Life of Little Wormwood Scrubs”–4 stars
Shukla, Nikesh–“Tayyabs”–4 stars
Singh, Sunny–“In the Vauxhall Pleasure Garden”–4 stars
Thompson, Stephen–“The Arches”–4 stars
Budden, Gary–“Staples Corner”–3 stars
Burrows, Tim–“Broadgate”–3 stars
Caless, Kit–“Market Forces”–3 stars
Godden, Salena–“The Camden Blood Thieves”–3 stars
Jacques, Juliet–“Corridors of Power”–3 stars
Oyedeji, Koye–“Thy Kingdom Come”–3 stars
Rees, Gareth E.–“There is Something Very Wrong with Leyton Mills Retail Park”–3 stars
Schilz, Aki–“Beating the Bounds”–3 stars
Victoire, Stephanie–“Nightingale Lane”–3 stars
Williams, Eley–“In Pursuit of the Swan at Brentford Ait”–3 stars
Aridjis, Chloe–“N1, Centre of Illusion”–2 stars
Ewen, Paul–“Rose’s, Woolrich”–2 stars
Harrison, M. John–“Babies From Sand”–2 stars
Okojie, Irenosen–“Filamo”–2 stars
Wells, Tim–“Heavy Manners”–2 stars
Wiles, Will–“Notes on London’s Housing Crisis”–2 stars
Saro-Wiwa, Noo–“Soft on the Inside”–1 star

I received this anthology directly from Influx Press editor and contributing author, Gary Budden.



[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Market Forces” by Kit Caless

3 of 5 stars.

Meals are a shared cultural practice the world over. For some, it’s the insistence on a gathered family. For others, it’s the work place rite of the 10 am coffee break. In the culturally-mixed urban centers, ethnic restaurants are often the first mingling of disparate cultures.

This curious piece is an accumulation of 5 vignettes all centering on the ethnic food market in one London neighborhood, Exmouth Market. The cultural origins of the customers and the food mix as a reflection of the neighborhood itself. It also reflects the neighborhood’s mix of residential and business.

The story is in the accumulation of the vignettes and character situations and not in any particular micro-plot of any particular character. The vignettes do not bleed over into each other.

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “There is Something Very Wrong with Leyton Mills Retail Park” by Gareth E. Rees

3 of 5 stars.

Sometimes it takes leaving to gain perspective on a place. What was known, if not mundane, can prove to be absurd verging on surreal upon revisiting what one thought one knew. Such is the case in this vignette as the author returns to the neighborhood of his first house as a newlywed. Most of the humor is observational and ironic.

I walk down a tree-lined pedestrianised street with Subway, TK Maxx, Pizza Hut and KFC on one side and a row of fake independent shops on the other, their frontages painted onto the back wall of a building. There’s a pretend shop called Your Fashion, another called Musica with a door that’s been painted ajar as if to lure you in, and a cafe called The Leyton where they’ve painted graffiti onto the pretend exterior. An entirely fabricated boutique called b’Leyton Fun has a sale on, which is great fictional news . . .

. . . Next door is a place called Livo Jazz–‘open daily from 5pm’–but they’ve painted shutters onto the painted door to show that the non-existent venue is closed. I should come back at five o’clock with a saxophone and start hammering on the fake shutters, crying, ‘Open up you fuckers!’

At the end of the row of fake shops is an alleyway full of cans and sleeping bags. The homeless here are real enough. A sign on the wall says:

Counterfeit DVD vendors are trespassing and may be prosecuted

This seems a bit rich bearing in mind the street I’ve just walked down.

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Warm and Toasty” by Yvette Edwards

5 of 5 stars.

The best of a city is not its architecture, parks and other tourist attractions, but rather the unseen efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of everyday people working to make the city a better place. Most of a city’s true heroes remain largely unrecognized.

This heart-warming tale shows the best of the best that a city has to offer. Phin runs the Warm and Toasty cafe serving pricey toast and hot drinks to the neighborhood yuppies. This is her post-retirement second career serving the neighborhood she grew up in. Every weekday, Phin sees the same down-and-out woman scowling through the window as she walks her hungry, preteen son to school. So, one cold day Phin invites the guarded, proud woman inside for a free cuppa.

The woman is less angry than she is in pain from her chronic sickle-cell anemia. The government doles booted her after she was unable to fulfill the job they found for her due to side effects of the disease. Not to say that she doesn’t find a cafe serving expensive toast to yuppies ludicrous.

Phin remembers going to school hungry, and her mother’s chronic pain from sickle cell. But she also knows pride. She requests Latisha’s paid assistance, daily from 7am-9am, 7 days a week. And Latisha should bring her son. She only has 2 demands:

“I thought you opened at eight?”

“I open to the public at eight, but I need you here at seven.”

“Don’t you need references or anything?”

“I just need two things; for you to be here on time, and for you not to call my customers ‘fucking yuppies’. Do you think you can do that?”

The next day, Latisha arrives ten minutes early. The door to the cafe is unlocked, and a queue of school children await at the counter . . .

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through
[Check out my other reviews here.]