I went into this book thinking I would love it. Hoping I would love it. After all, I am a huge Lovecraft fan, in spite of all of the underlying concerns with his tales (for all of his racist and anti-Semitic tropes, as well as a prose so purple it could be smoke on the water, he does present some incredible ideas in his stories). The thought of taking a Lovecraftian universe and exploring it through the eyes of people of color in the 1950s was a fascinating one. Sadly, it never really succeeded for me.
When I read a story, I want to connect with at least one of the characters in some way. It can be sympathy, affection or even hatred but I need to feel something for at least one or two of them. I never felt that with anyone in this collection. And this is truly a collection of stories, all interconnected by shared history, family relations and culture. The stories present an excellent view into how difficult life was for African Americans in the US during this period on a level we can barely comprehend right now, with a sprinkling of a Lovecraftian occult to add zest to the story.
The writing is solid, and from a straight socio-political perspective it tells a good story, albeit one laced with horror as you read about these people who simply want to live their lives are harassed and worse simply for the color of their skin.
But the characters never felt more than two dimensional to me. When one brilliant character whose focus is on astronomy finds a device that allows her to visit other worlds, it should have been thrilling and felt flat because I never had the foundation to become invested in this character and her motivations.
The occult aspects also seem forced to me. Conceptually I understand that there is supposed to be a dissonance between the world of magic or super science and a more grounded reality but it was clear to me that Ruff had little interest in detailing that aspect of the story and so it just felt shoehorned in.
I would give this book 2 stars, as it never fulfills the potential.