From Publishers Weekly
After the spectacular Dark Matter (2000), Thomas offers something of a mixed bag in her second anthology of speculative fiction from the African diaspora. Of the stories set during the days of slavery, ihsan bracy's "ibo landing" proves that stylization of subject matter can be more powerful than historical fidelity. The shimmering, brutal outlines created by such simple sentences as "each in their own way understood the distance. they would never again be home" stay with the reader for a long time. By contrast, the weight of research muffles the emotional impact of a story like Cherene Sherrard's "The Quality of Sand." Similarly, Charles R. Sanders's "Yahimba's Choice" seems written by an anthropologist studying a distant culture, the story unable to move past surface ritual and wooden dialogue. The strongest entry is Kuni Ibura Salaam's "Desire," an experimental retelling of a folktale that's wonderfully fresh, with exquisite detail: "Quashe's back formed one gleaming stretch of reptile skin. Her torso, neck, and arms were honey-amber, human-soft skin moist with river dew." This story will probably appear in at least one year's best collection. Other stories of note include Pam Noles's "Whipping Boy" and Tananarive Due's "Aftermoon." Solid reprints from Samuel R. Delaney and W.E.B. Du Bois, among others, round out the volume, along with several essays of varying quality.
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In an excellent, idiosyncratic collection of sf, fantasy and folktale-derived fiction by African American (including Caribbean) writers, the quality of writing is uniformly high, and the contributors constitute practically a who's who of African American writers who have dealt in speculative fiction, beginning with W. E. B. DuBois, represented by a piece dating from 1920. Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, Tananarive Due, and Walter Mosley also appear, and the tone of most of the stories, even "Anansi Meets Peter Parker at the Taco Bell on Lexington," is serious and even desperate. One compensation for that tone is that Mosley seems much more at home in short sf and fantasy than he is at novel length, as in Blue Light (1998). But writing of this quality speaks eloquently for itself, and so do such surprises as Carol Cooper's panegyric to the consciousness-raising influence of Andre Norton, one of three essays at the end of the volume. Frieda Murray
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