Finally finished that anthology…

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora
by Zelda Knight (Editor),  Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki,  Nicole Givens Kurtz,  Dilman Dila,  Eugen Bacon,  Nuzo Onoh,  Marian Denise Moore,  Dare Segun Falowo,  Rafeeat Aliyu,  Suyi Davies Okungbowa,  Odida Nyabundi

This is a very strong anthology. Even the stories that didn‘t fully grab me gave me plenty to think about. Recommended!

Trickin by Nicole Givens Kurtz

An old god rises up each fall to test his subjects. A Halloween story with a supernatural twist. It was ok. ★★★☆☆

Red_Bati by Dilman Dila

Dilman Dila is a Ugandan writer and film maker. The story is about a robot facing an existential crisis. Is he a human inside of a pet robot? Does he have a spirit? What is his purpose?

This felt a bit like a physics lecture, with a side dish of techno-babble. However, if Murderbot ever wants to adopt a pet, this could be the ideal dog for it. Nice plot, although the ending is a bit abrupt—I think this could make an interesting novella. I liked it. ★★★★☆

A Maji Maji Chronichle by Eugene Bacon

Eugen Bacon is an African Australian computer scientist (born in Tanzania) and author of spec fic.

A magician and his son time-travel to Ngoni country and try to change the course of history. Very wordy, wanting to create atmosphere. I didn‘t like the first few pages, but as the story picked up momentum, I liked it better. It covers the usual ethical ground of time travel stories. It is worth reading up on the Ngoni before reading the story, it helps with the background. The author is pretty sparse with filling in any details. ★★★½☆

“Early in the 20th century, the Ngoni were a fierce ethnic group, distant cousins to King Shaka of the Zulu kingdom. Way before the scramble and partition of Africa, ethnic groups had dispersed across the continent, and this particular Ngoni group set habitat in what later became known as German East Africa. In defiance to harsh methods of forced labour imposed upon them by colonialists, the Ngoni took up arms in what is historically documented as The Maji Maji Rising. Maji is a Swahili word for water. Belief holds that a witchdoctor gave warriors a magic potion that would turn German bullets to water.“

More about the Maji Maji rebellion here. Story can be read for free here.

The Unclean by Nuzo Onoh

Nuzo Onoh is a British-Nigerian writer. She is a pioneer of the African horror subgenre. More about that here.

The main character Desdemona tells her story. About her horrible marriage and what it leads her to do… Names matter, so all kinds of alarms went off in my head, when I read her name and that of her sister.

“Desee’s quest will force her to make some terrible choices, and with the diabolical help of a powerful witch-doctor, embark on a harrowing journey that will end in deadly consequences, culminating in a trial by ordeal underneath the infamous Tree of Truth.“

Very good, but turns pretty strange and disgusting towards the end. Not for the squeamish. Set in Nigeria, around the time of Nigeria‘s independence. Quite a prolific country in terms of writing, it seems—I keep bumping into authors from that country—and learned about the Igbo and about fetishism. ★★★★½

A Mastery of German by Marian Denise Moore

I couldn‘t find much about the author, but think she might be from Louisiana and is a computer analyst and poet. And this story is a finalist of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award 2021.

A near-future story about memories and passing them on in a genetic procedure. The technology is not explained or shown and the ethical implications are mentioned, but not elaborated on much. But it would probably need a novel to explore all that. I liked it. The main character was relatable, the writing was very readable. ★★★★☆

Convergence in Chorus Architecture by Dare Segun Falowo

Another Nigerian author. More about them and their work in this article / interview.
And a short bio and links to some stories here.

Mythology, Nigerian gods, dreams. Didn‘t captivate me. ★★¾☆☆

Emily by Marian Denise Moore

A snippet with possibilities.

To Say Nothing of Lost Figurines by Rafeeat Aliyu

Another Nigerian author. The title immediately made me think of To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. That book has been on my want-to-read list for ages, but so far I haven’t gotten round to it yet. I can‘t tell if it was a plot bunny for this story, which is a magical portal fantasy. Amusing tone, bit of a caper/heist story. Needs more… ★★★★☆

Sleep Papa, Sleep by Suyi Okungbowa Davies

And another Nigerian author. I liked his David Mogo Godhunter. This story is pretty gruesome, but excellently written. We are talking body parts, corpses and violence. Well crafted tale with no loose ends. ★★★★★

The Satellite Charmer by Mame Bougouma Diene

A Franco-Senegalese-American author. I found quite a few interesting articles written by him. Dark Moons Rising on a Starless Night, his collection of four novelettes, is mentioned several times.

This story is probably the longest in this anthology. And it is odd. Set in a near future, where Chinese corporations mine African land via satellite. We are told the life story of Ibrahima in several jumps. He is an odd and fairly unlikable guy with an unusual connection to those satellites. Interesting concept, but I didn‘t like the story particularly much. Still, I learned something about the Caliphate, which was new to me. ★★¾☆☆

Here is a free online story by the author, that is very, very similar to this one here, if you want to get an impression of his writing.

Clanfall: Death of Kings by Odida Nyabundi

I had a hard time tracking down the auther, but eventually found this story, with the same beginning as the prologue of Clanfall:

“Fisi Wahoo basked in the rapturous applause of the crowd. It seemed like the whole population of New Machakos had turned up for his coronation. Fisi! Fisi! Fisi! They chanted.“

https://awacho.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/what-goes-around/

I think we are looking at a story by an author from Kenya. Good, pretty puzzling at first, set in the far future, in what used to be Kenya, with bionically enhanced, conscious and intelligent animals (I think?), where humanity has disappeared long ago. It would have been nice to have gotten some visuals on the characters. There are a lot of claws, cannons, armour and various augmentations, but we never get to see what the protagonists actually look like.

Society is ruled by feudal clans. War and conflict seem to be the favoured state of being. I liked the characters and the writing. However, this was not a coherent story and it leaves the reader in the middle of things, just when the story starts to get interesting. 

If the author ever decides to make a novella or novel out of this, with a proper plot, I would like to read it. ★★★½☆

Thresher of Men by Michael Boatman

Boatman is a US American actor or novelist, writing in the splatterpunk horror genre. Sounds gory, right? I had to look it up. And holy crap, that was gruesome. Rape, gore, lots of blood. Well written though. ★★★★☆

Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon by Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald

Another Nigerian author, with a finalist for the 2020 Nebula Awards for Best Novella and a bunch of other awards for this and other stories. Content warning: attempted rape, nonconsensual sex and suicide.

The discrimination of women in parts of the story irritated me too much to truly enjoy it. That part of the story was intentional, but women were still just weak victims throughout, determined by men and the female MC, Imade, was ultimately at fault because she didn‘t know her place and didn‘t do as she was told. This didn‘t sit right with me. That‘s just me though, plenty of others liked this a lot.

The action scenes were good, the post-apocalyptic world building was good, even if I didn‘t buy the premise of the nuclear war. So this was a mixed bag for me. I might pick up the author again. ★★★☆☆


I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

Dewey‘s

So, I went to bed around the halfway point of the event. At which point I had finally finished Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora. Review to come! Here I am, catching up with the various posts from Dewey‘s that I slept through…

Mid Event Survey 

1. What are you reading right now? — the same two books I started with.

2. How many books have you read so far? — see above. At some point I distanced myself from the notion that reading is about how many pages I read and how fast I am. It doesn‘t make me a cooler or worthier reader, when I read 200 books a year or whatever the figure is.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? — I finally finished Dominion and I am looking forward to listening to more of Rovers by Richard Lange. Not sure yet, what print edition or ebook I will pick up next.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? — I made dinner, received some texts, etc. I will go to bed now and when I wake up, I will be busy with life first. Can‘t be helped. It is unlikely that I will get much reading done in the second half of the readathon.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? — no big surprises.

What’s your relationship to the spooky and scary? Not your for (which is perfectly fine)? Your lifeblood (which is perfectly fine)? Somewhere in between (also perfectly fine)?

I often find horror boring. I need a good plot with some suspense and good characters. Or, if I read something really bad, for example Meg by Steve Alten, it needs to at least be funny (even unintentionally) to hold my interest. And if the books sounds really creepy and disturbing, I will simply not read it! Why torture myself?

Ok, off to write that last review for Domninion and then to deal with life.


Magical portals and body parts

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora
by Zelda Knight (Editor),  Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (Editor)

To Say Nothing of Lost Figurines by Rafeeat Aliyu

Another Nigerian author. The title immediately made me think of To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. That book has been on my want-to-read list for ages, but so far I haven’t gotten round to it yet. I can‘t tell if it was a plot bunny for this story, which is a magical portal fantasy. Amusing tone, bit of a caper/heist story. Needs more… ★★★★☆

Sleep Papa, Sleep by Suyi Okungbowa Davies

And another Nigerian author. I liked his David Mogo Godhunter (my review is here).

This story is pretty gruesome, but excellently written. We are talking body parts, corpses and violence. Well crafted horror tale with no loose ends. ★★★★★

More of the uncanny

Uncanny Magazine Issue 16: May/June 2017
by Lynne M. Thomas (Editor),  Michael Damian Thomas (Editor)

Sun, Moon, Dust by URSULA VERNON
A farmer inherits a magical sword from his dying grandmother. But he doesn‘t want to become a warrior

HUGO 2018 short story finalist. 

Very poetic, from an author with a love for potatoes, apparently. Satisfying ending. 


Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. SZPARA
“I am trying to piss against a wall when the vampire bites me.“
As first sentences go, this is a pretty good one!

Not bad. An alternative world, where vampires are a known part of society, combined with a trans character. Unusual, thought provoking, slightly sexy. I am curious to know, what those small changes could turn out to be. I have ideas, obviously. 

Hugo Awards 2018 Novelette Nominee


What to expect from the Hadron Collider as a college roommate
BY BETSY AOKI | 201 WORDS, poetry

It will probably not be home for supper anytime soon.
Things will get broken and not put back together again.

Pretty amusing poem. I liked it!

Six degrees of separation, lottery across the ages

Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I mostly use this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here.

How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here. October begins with Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery. If you haven‘t read this, please do—it‘s very short and only takes about 20 minutes.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Probably a shocking read in 1948, when it came out. In the days of The Hunger Games barely worth a twitch, I guess. Which itself is probably considered a modern classic by now, starting a whole subgenre of likeminded YA books. I wonder, if Ursula LeGuin was inspired by Lottery, when she wrote The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas a few years later? That one had much more of an impact on me.

Anyway, we get a short story that seems to describe a regular, ordinary sounding event in a small town. People are nonchalant about it and want to get on with it, to get that interruption of their normal day out of the way. Suspicion sneaks up on you slowly, that not all is as it seems to be, all the way to the horrific ending.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins, read in 2016

Well written, good world building, the prose flows along nicely. Well-paced suspense. Love the idea of the mockinjays. All the charactes come to life swiftly and are believable. I saw it all vividly in my mind’s eye. Katniss has the odd moment of stupid. But the action is great, excellent plot and suspense. Katniss Everdeen, where have you been all my life? I read half of the book in one sitting. Bonus points for a YA book, that doesn’t read as if the author thinks that teens are stupid. Obviously, if you read this, you need to read the rest of the trilogy.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin, read in 2020

I picked this up, because I wanted to get to know Le Guin a little better. It looked like a good starting point, having won so many awards. I don‘t want to get into the plot, this needs to be read spoiler-free. If you liked The Lottery and are interested in speculative fiction, read this!

What are you willing to give up to do the right thing? Would you walk away? And would that be good enough? Obviously not, but it‘s not as easy as that. You‘ve dealt with your guilt by walking away, but that doesn‘t really help, does it? How do we deal with our privilege, what would be an acceptable response?

Omelas leads me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, read in 2019.

“A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.“

https://gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius-amazing-story-that-swept-the-hugo-nebula-5958919

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Only 11 pages long, another quick read that packs a punch. It leads me to:

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, read in 2019.

Story of Your Life is the basis for the movie Arrival.

“Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.“

I have seen the movie several times and like it a lot. The most interesting for me were the differences from the story to the film. Would I have liked the story more or less, if I hadn‘t seen the movie? Did I like it more, because I like the movie? Despite the differences? Probably. Would I have understood the story as well without knowing the movie? Maybe. 
Did the story add layers to the movie? Possibly. Either way, it was painful and a great piece of story telling.

Another book looking at family, children and a setting that fits the theme of all these stories, is:

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

The world is a dystopian one, where people can be genetically enhanced and those that choose not to enhance their offspring have started to be relegated to the fringes of society and the children are disadvantaged.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley comes to mind after reading Ishiguro.

I read this about 30 years ago, give or take. I struggled with understanding it and remember that I found it hard to get into it. But I liked the concept of the story and ultimately liked the book quite a bit. I think it should be recommended reading for anybody interested in SF that predicts how our society could develop in the not too far away future. Especially nowadays, with the advances being made in cloning, I think this book gains even more importance.

A horrific lottery in the past leads to impossible choices in the future.

Ongoing

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora
by Zelda Knight (Editor)

Still making my way through this anthology.

A Mastery of German by Marian Denise Moore

I couldn‘t find much about the author, but think she might be from Louisiana and is a computer analyst and poet. And this story is a finalist of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award 2021. https://www.tor.com/2021/07/07/theodo…

A near-future story about memories and passing them on in a genetic procedure. The technology is not explained or shown and the ethical implications are mentioned, but not elaborated on much. But it would probably need a novel to explore all that. I liked it. The main character was relatable, the writing was very readable. ★★★★☆

Convergence in Chorus Architecture by Dare Segun Falowo

Another Nigerian author. More about them and their work in this article / interview: http://strangehorizons.com/non-fictio…
And a short bio and links to some stories here: https://www.thedarkmagazine.com/autho…

Mythology, Nigerian gods, dreams. Didn‘t captivate me. ★★¾☆☆

Emily by Marian Denise Moore

A snippet with possibilities.


I will post updates whenever I finish another story.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

My September 2021

Here is what I read in September:

Ancillary Sword ★★★★★ audio, Imperial Radch #2, re-read. I remembered most of this and this time around liked it better than #1. Loved Dlique and Tisarwat.
– Return to the Center of the Earth ★★★★☆ KU, sequel, re-tracing the steps of Jules Verne. Brain candy. Fun!
– Babylon’s Ashes ★★★★☆ audio, Expanse #6, re-read
– City of Bones ★★☆☆☆ ebook, dystopian fantasy by Martha Wells. Not enough sarcastic AIs. I liked parts of it a lot, but as a whole it didn‘t excite me. I pretty much skimmed through the second part, because I didn‘t care.

Poetry:
– “You’d Have Me Be White” by Alfonsina Storni, https://betterthanstarbucks.wixsite.c…, ★★★★★, feminist poetry, made me smile and nod my head…
– Scifaikuest Online, https://www.hiraethsffh.com/scifaikue…, ★★★★½, great SF haikus
– “Among the Scythians“, Deborah L. Davitt, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #49, August 1, 2021, ★★★☆☆, https://www.heroicfantasyquarterly.co…
– Horrific Punctuation, poetry, KU, DNF, my ebook was barely readable and the poetry too abstract.

Comics:
– The White Trees #1 ★★★★☆, KU, eComic, high fantasy, x-rated, ex-killer has to pick up his weapons again to save his family
– The White Trees #2 ★★★☆☆, eComic, not as good as the first issue

Return To The Center Of The Earth by Greig Beck Horrific Punctuation by John Reinhart Babylon's Ashes (The Expanse, #6) by James S.A. Corey The White Trees #1 by Chip Zdarsky The White Trees #2 by Chip Zdarsky City of Bones by Martha Wells Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie 

Currently reading:
– Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, ebook, #ReadBIPOC2021, TBR pile, Netgalley
– Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paperback, TBR pile
– Ancillary Mercy, audio, Imperial Radch #3, re-read

Planned, but lacking in motivation:
– Persepolis Rising, audio, Expanse #7, re-read
– Tiamat’s Wrath, audio, Expanse #8, re-read
I might abandon the plan to read those two and just jump to the new book…

Movie watched:
– Dune ★★★★★ — I considered deducting a star, because it‘s only „Part One“. I was pretty frustrated about that. The beginning took forever! Is Caladan supposed to be Caledonia, aka Scotland? Never really thought about that before. My first visit to a cinema since 2019! 

Dystopian fantasy, not enough sarcastic AIs

City of Bones
by Martha Wells

Rating: 2 out of 5.

“Somewhere else, in a room shadowed by age and death, a man readies himself to look into the future for what may be the last time.“

First chapter

It took me five days to read the first chapter. I only read in bed that week and this book put me to sleep so fast that I made no decent progress. I could not get into this for the life of me. City setting, two outsiders and underdogs as main characters. Dystopia, aka apocalyptic fantasy world having risen from a world ravaged by climate change and turned into a desert world. One of the main characters with unusual biological features. Magic that drives its wielders crazy—where have I read that before?

The second chapter then turned into Mad Max and I started to become interested. I liked the part in the Waste (desert). The initial chapters in the city were engaging enough, but the plot didn‘t exactly move fast. A lot of explanations and descriptions of the scenery. Nice, but although I liked what I read, it ultimately bored me. It went downhill from there.

I would have liked more exploration of Khat‘s society and biology, sadly it was only light backstory details. I also liked the idea and workings of the Remnant. 

Wells lost me somewhere in the city and never got me back. I heavily skimmed from the middle of the book. It seems that fantasy these days only works for me if it is heavily plot driven and fast moving. I liked the idea of this story, but not the execution.

Overblown finale

The White Trees #2
by Chip Zdarsky,  Kris Anka (Cover Art) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Our MC Krylos is not having a good day. Who needs enemies with friends like that? 

The plot of this second issue was underwhelming. It felt as if the finale of the first issue had been blown up to justify a sequel, instead of tightening it up and making a satisfying one-issue story.

I liked the ending, but this was nowhere near as strong as the first part of the story. Good fight scenes, nice final thoughts. Good lineart and colouring. 

Not quite sure what to make of that final panel.

Horrible past, scary present

The White Trees #1
by Chip Zdarsky,  Kris Anka (Artist) 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Our MC has retired from being a hero and warrior, but has to pick up his weapons again, to save his family. High fantasy, swords, a dragon, cat-like humanoids, mentions of an epic war.

Interesting artwork. Coloured pencils and watercolours? Unusual perspectives.

Rating: graphic nudity, graphic sexual content

I already downloaded issue #2, RTC.