You might remember that I reviewed the first volume of AfroSF back in 2013, and although I missed the second volume, I was glad to be able to read and review this third volume.
This anthology features writers also had work published in the first and second volumes – voices who have quickly become a well-deserved barometer of the growth of African Science Fiction, and writers I haven’t read before.
The anthology opens with Njuzu from T.L. Huchu, and explores the roles grief and long-held beliefs co-mingle off-planet. The tale is heartfelt and gentle, exploring a mystery not easily understood – but the mystery of the tale adds to the sadness and Huchu leaves it up to the reader to decide whether the mystery is important or not. Follow Tendai and his work at @TendaiHuchu.
The Girl Who Stared at Mars by Cristy Zinn explores how we always take with us what we’re trying to escape from. It is a lyrical, soft and yet intense read which many, many readers will love, even though it might call upon some of their own painful memories. Head over to cristyzinn.com for more info about Cristy and her work.
The EMO Hunter, by Mandisi Nkomo, explores a variety of themes by way of a kind of cyberpunk personality-crisis meditation on the extremes of climate science or beliefs. Sounds like a bit of a mouthful, but the tale works on both the detailed, character-focused level and the more encompassing top-down level. Visit thedarkcow.com for more info and Mandisi and his work.
The Luminal Frontier, by Biram Mboob, is one of the best time travel tales I’ve ever read. One thing that has always bugged me about time travel is the inherent paradox at the heart of every plot – and Biram answers this in a mind-bending manner even Christopher Nolan would be blown away by. I will be very surprised (and both saddened and angered) if this story doesn’t appear in Best Of’s and Mammoth Book Of’s later this year. Mind-blowing stuff! Follow Biram at @BiramMboob.
The Far Side by Gabriella Muwanga seems almost unfinished, or perhaps ‘unfocused’ would be a better description. The tale follows what a father will do for his child, and on the face of that, works – but the story is marred by the sometimes almost childish reactions and spitefulness of the main character, which leech a bit of the emotional strength of the story. Still, it will make readers think, and succeeds.
Drift-Flux by Wole Talabi is a great example of how much one can cram into a short story to make it exciting, pacey and entertaining. There’s a wonderful feel of The Expanse and Firefly to this tale, and the main character’s Nigerian-Idoma roots play an important part in the plot. It’s well-written, with great pace and excellent action. Check out Wole’s site for more info about him and his work.
Journal of a DNA Pirate by Stephen Embleton is a nasty, vicious, exciting tale – it shows how of group of extremists plan to ‘reset’ humanity, and works well enough despite what some may think is excessive swearing and, perhaps, the story’s setting. The ideas present and how they were explored have definitely put Stephen on my keep-a-look-out-for radar.
The Interplanetary Water Company by Masimba Musodza was a bit of a disappointment; the tale opens with what reads like a pages-long infodump to set the scene, and by the time I was done with that I wasn’t really interested in reading it further. It also features terms which would be more at home in 1940’s pulp SF – but without communicating that nostalgia to the reader. But even though it’s the weakest tale in the anthology, it remains entertaining and clever in places. Check out more of Masimba’s work at @musodza.
Safari Nyota: A Prologue by Dilman Dila is a wonderful example of how a self-contained story can feel as if it’s part of a greater narrative without leaving the reader feeling as if they’ve missed something. The tale takes place on a generation ship, transporting colonists to a new world, watched over by androids, and explores morality and the price of choice from a synthetic (yet identifiable) point of view. The short story is also part of a larger project, so head over to Dilman’s site for more info.
Parental Control by Mazi Nwonwu is a complicated and emotional tale, taking place both in virtual space and the real world, and explores the core of what makes a family – or what most believe ‘family’ means. It hits hard, so be prepared to think about this tale and what it leaves behind.
Inhabitable by Andrew Dakalira is an unwieldy tale in which the themes of camaraderie, the struggle to survive and betrayal don’t retain enough of their power to be really effective. It’s as if there was too much to fit in, and some of the story’s meat was removed in editing to stick to a wordcount. That might not be the case at all, in fact, but it’s the feeling I got from reading it. Nonetheless, Andrew is now also a writer I’ll be watching out for.
Ogotemmeli’s Song by Mame Bougouma Diene is pure, joyous and far-seeing space opera. One of my favourites from this anthology, and also something I hope Mame is considering expanding into a saga. This is the tale that captures the heart and soul of AfroSF. Check out Mame’s Twitter for more info.
If there’s one thing anthologies such as AfroSF continue to show, it’s that Science Fiction (or more broadly, Speculative Fiction) has depths and colours unheard of or imagined, and that we all (humanity) continue to share the same core loves and needs and hopes and fears – as well as the capacity to imagine. I truly think we are only still witnessing the birth of non-Western Speculative Fiction, and AfroSF is a small but important part of its continued expansion and growth. Nicely done, authors, and Ivor. 🙂
8 / 10
Until next time,