I’m sure you’ve all seen the posts I did for this anthology – an interview with Ivor and three posts spotlighting the authors who had stories published in in (post 1, post 2 and post 3), and now, finally, here’s my review! Just in time for the paperback edition, which is available!
It goes without saying that I will refrain from saying anything about my story in the anthology, other than I’m lucky that I have one in it. Let’s get into the review, shall we?
AfroSF is an awesome look at the talent of African Futurists and Fantasists; one might expect to be subjected to preaching in this anthology, perhaps focused on what Colonialism did to Africa, perhaps regarding the lengths to which the developed West seems to want to keep Africans uneducated and labour ready. But that’s not what this anthology is about – it abounds with optimism, ingenuity, fresh looks at SF tropes we’ve come to take for granted. It looks at many subjects – the bonds of a family, extremism, exploitation, how important community and respect is, how easy it is to give up everything we cherish for a quick fix. It takes the reader and pushes them into situations they will probably never face but which echo, nonetheless, and more importantly force the reader to wonder and ask questions.
‘Moom!’ by Nnedi Okorafor is a wonderful, bitter-sweet tail revolving around the experiences of a swordfish; it’s a tale that echoes the many experiences mankind has had with industry and the pain of these interactions. She captures beautifully the cycling emotional turmoil of fear, anger, resolute action, understanding, revelation – it’s a short tail, but one beautifully told, the ideas beautifully expressed.
‘Home Affairs’ by Sarah Lotz is a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, and scarily believable tale that examines the bureaucracy of a government department – in Sarah’s tale, the emotionless, uncaring civil servants have been replaced, with terrifying and comic consequences; definitely a tale that will resonate with anyone who’s ever hated standing in a que while waiting for a bored civil servant to get to them. Which is everyone.
Tendai Huchu’s ‘The Sale’ is actually a damned scary tale – a look at what the world might be like in a decade or two, when Corporations -massing more money than any government on the planet- run everything. How far will we go, the story seems to ask, to ensure that our lives are peaceful and productive?
‘Five Sets of Hands’ by Cristy Zinn is a tale that will resonate with many students of history, especially people who have studied slavery and its various incarnations – and it also asks the question: “When we spread out onto new planets and create new colonies, when we find strange new faces looking at us, will we find something new for humanity to explore or will we be forced to face every dark aspect of ourselves?”
‘New Mzansi’ by Ashley Jacobs was one of my favourite tales, a story that fans of Lauren Beukes’ ‘Moxyland’ will definitely enjoy, too; it follows one man’s quest to make sure that his friend, Lion, get’s the medication he needs; it’s filled with amazing and yet useless technology (much the same as the tech we use today – I mean, we can’t feed ourselves wirelessly, van we?), a country that seems to be suffocating under the pressure of its history – I wouldn’t at all mind reading an entire novel, or series, set in this future South Africa.
‘Azania’ by Nick Wood is pure SF gold – great, conflicted and memorable characters, a limited and contained setting (which adds to the tension that permeates the tale), and a plot for the characters that will define not only their lives but ensure the continuation thereof; excellent story!
‘Notes from Gethsemane’ by Tade Thompson is a look at the loyalty between brothers, how any government wanting to keep people out of a place will fail, and how something strange and beautiful can hide in plain sight – excellent SF!
Sally Partridge’s ‘Planet X’ is an excellent look at how the people we almost never meet in SF tales -those walking the streets, waiting at the traffic signals, working in the kitchens of fast-food joints, living in shacks and taking taxis to work, how these people might experience something world- and life-changing, like the discovery of a a new planet in our solar system, and how that discovery might affect a society that struggles daily with xenophobia…
‘The Gift of Touch’ by Chinelo Onwualo can best be described by what I said to Chinelo on Facebook just after I finished reading the story – if Firefly ever returns to our screens, Chinelo should write some of the episodes. I definitely want more of these characters! Excellent, funny and a real adventure in space.
The Foreigner by Uko Bendi Udo tells a tale of belonging and the right to have rights; here we have an asylum-seeker who is very young and stubborn, and you’ll probably cheer as I did at the end of the tale.
‘The Rare Earth’ by Biram Mboob is excellent – not many SF tales can pull off an injection of religion, but Biram manages to do it very well; it’s intense and thoroughly thought-provoking, with a messianic man at the story’s centre who is also the leader of an insurgent group. It’s tense, action-packed, and a tale that lingers.
‘Terms and Conditions’ by Sally-Ann Murray is a tale that looks at what could happen if Big Pharma was in charge of everything; it’s a melancholic affecting tale, an exploration of the many answers to the question, “What might you do to survive? To live?” Very good!
‘Heresy’ by Mandisi Nkomo is one of my favourites in the collection – as close to proper South African SF as it comes; satirical, thoughtful, funny, it also pokes fun at the government and a particular former Youth League leader, while also poking fun at science and religion at the same time. Excellent!
‘Closing Time’ by Liam Kruger is an excellent time-travel tale, and trust me, Liam’s tale is unique – no-one has ever travelled the way the main character does! It’s not only strangely cautionary but sparsely, beautifully written, too.
‘Masquerade Stories’ by Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu is an excellent exploration of tribal customs and their origins; just how might the tribe be affected if the origin wasn’t African, or even earthly…?
‘The Trial’ by Joan De La Haye is thoroughly terrifying – being a writer or a poet in Joan’s world might just cost you your life! It’s a dark look at a South Africa that has fallen to leaders bereft of the gift of imagination and empathy, tensely written with a hard ending – excellent!
‘Brandy City’ by Mia Arderne is a dark tale, a tale of car-modification, a new and oddly intriguing form of prostitution, how alcohol can come to be the answer to everything, and the end. Memorable, especially in the way the characters swirl together toward’s the tale’s hectic climax!
‘Ofe!’ by Rafeeat Aliyu is probably the best example I’ve ever read of what African superheroes might be like – flavours of exploitation and oppression abound in this tale of a dangerous weapon and a targeted minority, and though it does seem to end a bit abruptly it’s still entertaining.
‘Claws and Savages’ by Martin Stokes is an excellent tale that looks at a problem many African countries face – that of infinitely richer tourists hunting for sport, but takes it off-world and introduces the reader to a bastard; thoroughly engaging!
‘To Gaze at the Sun’ by Clifton Gachagua was a tale of the price of war and survival, the pain of parents releasing their children into the world, and the exploitation and misunderstanding that occurs when we lose sight of the humanity of others; affecting and sadly beautiful.
‘Proposition 23′ by Efe Okogu deserves all the praise it has already received and will receive – practically an epic in it’s own right, it’s the tale of freedom fighters, infiltrators, martyrs, those who are curious enough to become caught in their own traps, and the simple yet deeper pleasure of disconnection – excellent!
This anthology is truly ground-breaking and excellent, taking the reader beyond our solar system, backwards and forwards into time, on journeys towards distant stars and planets, putting the reader in the minds and behind the eyes of warriors, dreamers, prophets, mothers, fathers, children… Entertaining and vibrant, it announces the African Futurists and Fantasists are every bit as good as their world-wide counterparts, and I’m sure it’ll put many new writers on the radar of SF fans everywhere! It goes without saying -yet I’ll say it anyway- that I’m damned proud to be associated with this excellent anthology!
9 / 10
To order AfroSF, click here (Kindle Edition) and here (paperback) for Amazon US, here (Kindle Edition) and here (paperback) for Amazon UK, and for readers in South Africa, order your copies from Kalahari.com. If you’re on Facebook, check out the publisher’s page at Story Time, and you can also interact with the authors and with Ivor at the AfroSF page. AfroSF Volume 2 has already been announced – check out this page for details!
Thanks to Ivor and all the contributors for such an excellent anthology!
Until next time,