Review: The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) anthology
by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Somto O. Ihezue, Pemi Aguda, Russell Nichols, Tamara Jerée, Tlotlo Tsamaase, Sheree Renée Thomas, Tobias S. Buckell, Inegbenoise O. Osagie, Tobi Ogundiran, Chinelo Onwualu, Moustapha Mbacke Diop, Marian Denise Moore, Michelle Mellon, Eugen Bacon, Craig Laurance Gidney, Makena Onjerika, Tendai Huchu, Yvette Lisa Ndlovu, Derek Lubangakene, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Shingai Njeri Kagunda, WC Dunlap, ZZ Claybourne, Dilman Dila
Publisher: Jembefola Press
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The first ever Year's Best African speculative fiction anthology with works from some of the most exciting voices, old and new, published in the 2020 year.
“Where You Go” by Somto O. Ihezue
“Things Boys Do” by Pemi Aguda
“Giant Steps” by Russell Nichols
“The Future in Saltwater” by Tamara Jerée
“The ThoughtBox” by Tlotlo Tsamaase
“The Parts That Make Us Monsters” by Sheree Renée Thomas
“Scar Tissue” by Tobias S. Buckell
“Ancestries” by Sheree Renée Thomas
“Breath of the Sahara” by Inegbenoise O. Osagie
“The Many Lives of an Abiku” by Tobi Ogundiran
“A Love Song for Herkinal as composed by Ashkernas amid the ruins of New Haven” by Chinelo Onwualu
“A Curse at Midnight” by Moustapha Mbacké Diop
“A Mastery of German” by Marian Denise Moore
“Are We Ourselves?” by Michelle Mellon
“When the Last of the Birds and the Bees Have Gone On” by C.L. Clark
“The Goatkeeper’s Harvest” by Tobi Ogundiran
"Baba Klep” by Eugen Bacon
"Desiccant” by Craig Laurance Gidney
"Disassembly” by Makena Onjerika
"The River of Night” by Tlotlo Tsamaase
"Egoli” by T.L. Huchu
"The Friendship Bench” by Yvette Lisa Ndlovu
“Fort Kwame” by Derek Lubangakene
"We Come as Gods” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
“And This is How to Stay Alive” by Shingai Njeri Kagunda
“The Front Line” by WC Dunlap
"Penultimate” by ZZ Claybourne
“Love Hangover” by Sheree Renée Thomas
“Red_Bati” by Dilman Dila
I absolutely adore speculative fiction anthologies, so when I saw that both C.L. Clark and T.L. Huchu had stories in this one, I had to read it. This is a collection of twenty-nine stories from 2020 told by African or African diaspora writers, a good mix of science fiction, fantasy and horror. There are stories that deal with age-old problems like racism and parenthood and newer ones like climate change and gentrification, from robot revolutions to vengeful djinn. Most of the stories were a solid three or four stars, but there were a few stories that particularly stood out to me:
“Things Boys Do” – Pemi Aguda. A delightfully atmospheric horror story about three new fathers.
“She hates that word, destination. Too close to destiny. Too far from reality.”
“Giant Steps” – Russell Nichols. A journey of discovery for one scientist, from her childhood to her arrival as the first human on a new world.
“A robot can’t cry, but it can be worried.”
“Scar Tissue” – Tobias S. Buckell. My absolute favorite of the collection. Told in the second person, a deeply emotional exploration of trauma and parenthood, through the lens of a man who’s suffered an accident and now agrees to “raise” a robot in return for extra cash.
“A Love Song for Herkinal as Composed By Ashkernas Amid the Ruins of New Haven” – Chinelo Onwualu. Another heartwarming one, where after the collapse of most of the world, a family is running a hotel for supernatural creatures – even the not so pleasant ones. Absolutely fascinating and amazing world building.
“You always taught me that it’s easier to run forward than backwards.”
“A Mastery of German” – Marian Denise Moore. A story about racial memory and ethics. Very thought provoking.
“Desiccant” – Craig Laurance Gidney. I absolutely loved this one, about a woman who moves into a rundown apartment and discovers something is critically wrong, housing segregation as a horror story. My only complaint was that it was too short!
“Egoli” – T.L. Huchu. Told in the second person, a story about an elderly woman reflecting on technological – and other – advancements during her lifetime. Lovely.
“And This Is How to Stay Alive” – Shingai Njeri Kagunda. My (extremely close) second favorite. A gorgeous, bittersweet story about a gay teen, suicide, time travel, and a sister’s love.
Overall, a well-rounded collection with a little something for everyone. Highly recommended!
Content notes: View Spoiler »Death, cancer, child death, parental abandonment, drug use, toxic relationship, kidnapping, murder, transphobia and anti-trans slurs (by bad guys), suicidal ideation, depression, suicide, homophobia, police brutality, racism « Hide Spoiler