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 These are excerpts from the author’s unpublished novel.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 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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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.
 
 
 
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Novella Review: Gypsy by Carter Scholz

GypsyGypsy by Carter Scholz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humanity reaching out into space remains a recurring fascination. Sometimes this action is one of optimism and scientific expansionism. At other times, it’s a defensive tactic of desperation as Earth becomes unbearable and unlivable. This sci-fi novella stands as a blend of the two.

As Earth succumbs to the apocalypse of 21st Century Western world lifestyles and the emerging dystopian new world order, a billionaire and his hand-picked team of 20 scientists plan an illegal escape into the vastness of space in an attempt to start anew on an unconfirmed planet in the Alpha Centauri system. Only 16 pioneers make it to the starship for the launch, the billionaire not among them.

The 72-year journey requires the travelers to enter hibernation to survive and slow their aging. The ship has the ability to wake individuals to attend to emergencies and system failures. The awakened individual is meant to decide the corrective action, then document their decision and reasoning both on computer and paper as a guide to the next awakened traveler. Each traveler is under a time deadline after which they won’t be able to reenter hibernation. And no one person can emerge and reenter hibernation more than a couple times over the course of the entire journey before the action kills them.

This tale alternates between pre-launch scenes on Earth with the benefactor choosing his team and technology and splices of time in the journey when one of the individuals is called into action. The first to awaken is Sophie and only 2 years into the trip as the ship, Gypsy, enters the Oort Cloud. The communications to the moon station are offline. There’s also signs of an impact a couple months back. The only major effect she can determine is a slightly slowed speed–the journey will now take 84 years. She corrects some time maneuvers and documents it.

38 years later, Fang is the next awakened. After she adjusts to the one-tenth gravity and effects of hibernation, the biologist attends to her sleeping co-travelers. Two are infected with a fungus resembling the bat fungus known as White Nose Disease . . .

The strength of this novella is in following the lives and decisions of the disparate group of scientists each with their own reasons for embarking on such a desperate journey. The decision-making of each is not unlike Andy Weir’s The Martian. Each decision is life or death when traveling the edge of existence.

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: “Notes on London’s Housing Crisis” by Will Wiles

2 of 5 stars.

Urban centers and their housing problems of affordability and availability are nothing new. However, this speculative tale presents an alternate present to modern London with a different crisis with its housing.

Vamping on the 1960’s dream of modular, upgradable housing, this tale assumes the widespread incorporation of modular living. Then, it presents the various problems that arise in its wake as the system ages through decades of development. It also speculates as to the state of real estate for tradition non-modular housing, citing the inherit money-drain of “used” houses.

The kernel to the tale is interesting, and would make for a solid background in a sci-fi narrative. As it is, there is no narrative–merely an interesting concept.

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 bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Dog CountryDog Country by Malcolm F. Cross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And what’s a person who’s been only really trained for war do after being forcibly taken out of the war? This question is an escalation of the issues raised by the transition of a soldier to civilian life. Conflict arises as the soldier is underprepared for the transition, and the civilians fail to understand the POV of the soldier. This sci-fi tale grasps this scenario and runs with it.

By the 22nd Century, genetically engineered, clone soldiers that contain a blend dog and human DNA are made for war. Until they are freed in a half-assed attempt to mainstream the young pups. Despite the efforts of many adoption parents, most of the dogs end up back in the military with whole divisions populated by gen-mods.

Edane, a gen-mod dog, survives the Tajik War but not on his own terms. He lost an arm and was sent home. He’s unsettled with how it all played out and struggles to come to terms with his sense of not belonging in civilian life. His adoptive mothers and his girlfriend likewise fail to see his POV. Edane finds an almost satisfactory answer in the semi-pro Military Simulation Leagues. And then another war comes along . . .

This novel brilliantly captures both the failed communication and understanding between the military and civilian POVs and a strikingly realistic mindset of a gen-mod dog-human struggling to read social cues and emotions that he wasn’t raised to read.

Secondarily, it poses an interesting scenario with a crowd-fund revolution hiring a mercenary army to overthrow a dictatorship.

Slowing the flow of the novel is the time-jumping between the Tajik War and later points. Also, the similarity of names to denote the clone aspect of the gen-mods obfuscates the individuality necessary to pull off this multiple POV novel. Overall, this novel is very good and recommended.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Street of the Dead House” by Robert Lopresti

4 of 5 stars.

Ironically, the intelligence of animals is often quantified by their ability to understand and communicate on human terms. Dolphins and dogs will be granted credit for reacting in specific ways in response to certain words. Koko, the kitten-owning gorilla, still epitomizes animal intelligence for mastering a form of sign language. And yet, humans have yet to master any animal languages . . . whale song, anyone?

This clever tale re-imagines the Rue Morgue [“Street of the Dead House” in sign language] from the POV of the orangutan. And while in Poe’s original, the ape is a brute. Here, the intelligent creature has been trained like Koko and yet plays dumb. The motives of various human and non-human characters play across each other like the inevitable language and cultural barriers informing each character.

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

 

 

 

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