Fabulous Riverboat – 4/5 Stars
In this follow-up, we have Sam Clemens deciding that he’s going to use the height of his power and 19th century technology to build himself a huge riverboat to cruise the long river in the center of the world, searching ala Inferno for his lost love. That said, the woodburning 19th century boat is offered some interesting upgrades via 20th and 21st century people in Riverworld. And like with the first book, the racial politics that were at play in the 19th century get re-inscribed within this new context and people whose minds were molded in that old world have to learn to adjust to this new world. It’s almost an inverse of what we have today in which people who have been willfully ignorant of how the past still has its tentacles enmeshed within the fabric of our society have to actually learn about what came before them before they can move forward themselves.
Similar to the previous book there’s an epic scope to this book that is belied by how much happens and how long the book is. And as I am an older now, it’s nice to not have to dwell in all the necessary details. In part this reminds of me any movie, game, or book that involves a time loop, as the cycles of death and regeneration in this book are very similar in this way. If I were going to describe to you my playing of a game like Dark Souls, you don’t want the details of each individual life in the cycle of beating the game, just the highlights.
Black Stars – 3/5 Stars
Like a good pun?
Anyway, this collection of stories produced by Amazon and Audible and written by a handful of Black writers of African, African Diaspora, and African American heritage write primarily science fiction stories (with some elements of broader speculative and fantasy elements as well). For the audiobooks, we’re also treated to some very compelling and talented readers narrating the stories. The stories are:
“These Alien Skies” by CT Rwizi and read by Indiya Moore where humans in one dimension are caught up in a construction disaster while working on a wormhole tunnel and are blasted into another dimension inhabited by a culture of Black people who found liberations generations earlier.
“Clap Back” by Nalo Hopkinson and read by Adenrele Ojo. In this much more grounded story, a researcher finds a way to make exploitation free clothing via nanotechnology, but it seems too good to be true.
“We Travel the Spaceways” by Victor LaValle and read by Brian Tyree Henry in which a seemingly mentally ill man in 1980s New York is actually struggling to keep his sanity as his thoughts are constantly barraged by alien communications about an upcoming arrival.
“The Black Pages” by Nnedi Okorafor and read by Naomi Ackie where a young man returns home to Mali to see the devastation of a terrorist cell becoming an influential political entity. He enlists the help of a cosmic being to address it.
“The Visit” by Chimamanda Adichie and read by Nyambi Nyambi. In this story contemporary Nigeria is imagined but with a complete reversal in gender hierarchy, where the matriarchy has criminalized so much of male life. A visit between old friends comprises the plot.
“2043 (A Merman I should Turn to Be)” by Nisi Shawl and read by LeVar Burton. This is my favorite of the stories and works as a kind of satire ala George Schuler (Black No More), Paul Beatty, and Derrick Bell. Black people are being given the ability to breathe underwater in order to be moved away from the interiors of land and into under the sea dwelling. And even thought white society is finally getting what they want, there’s still plenty of resentment to go around
See you next year (tomorrow) everyone!