Tananarive Due takes fairly standard-issue speculative fiction scenarios - a ghost story, a zombie story, a pandemic story - and makes them come aliveTananarive Due takes fairly standard-issue speculative fiction scenarios - a ghost story, a zombie story, a pandemic story - and makes them come alive with closely observed details and characters that feel real. These stories don’t treat the ordinary world as a blank slate, but recognize that it is the source of horrors both vast and intimate. Her characters, most of whom are African-American and Latinx, encounter the fantastic in the context of real-world troubles of all shapes and sizes: the daily challenge of parenting, the slow-motion tragedy of watching a loved one die of cancer, the crushing impact of abuse, the terror and precariousness of state-sponsored racism.
The standout stories for me were the title novella, in which a young boy’s ghost-hunting unearths a tragedy tied to an early-20th century race riot; “Free Jim’s Mine,” and “Trial Day,” set in the eras of slavery and Jim Crow respectively, which reckon with the terrible personal and moral toll of surviving under those systems; and the three linked stories “Removal Order,” “Herd Immunity,” and “Carriers,” which form a trilogy following one woman’s path through the wake of a devastating flu pandemic. “Danger Word,” which doesn’t shy away from exploring just how traumatic a zombie apocalypse would be to live through, is also memorable. When Due tangles with the real darkness at the heart of the American experience, the results are haunting.
I've made these stories sound pretty heavy, but they're also written with a light touch and suspense and reveals in just the right places to make them speed by. Adrenaline carries you through and the hammer only drops afterward.
Throughout, Due is interested in the impact of her scenarios on individual characters’ psyches and emotions, and places those human elements front and center as the fantastic or science fictional unfolds in the background. At times this leaves the speculative elements feeling a bit underbaked or overly predictable, but at their best these stories take hold in a good way....more
This book was a gift; I don’t think I would have picked it up on my own (but that’s part of what’s fun about gifts!) There’s a pretty simple hook hereThis book was a gift; I don’t think I would have picked it up on my own (but that’s part of what’s fun about gifts!) There’s a pretty simple hook here: what if Sherlock Holmes were a black kid from East Long Beach? Isaiah Quintabe, our protagonist (whose initials give him his rather on-the-nose nickname and the book’s title), is a self-educated amateur sleuth who uses his powers of observation, research, and quick thinking to solve local mysteries. The book weaves together two threads: one, in the present of 2013, sees Isaiah gingerly reconnecting with an old acquaintance, Dodson, who hooks him up with a job figuring out who’s behind an assassination attempt on a wealthy rapper with roots in their neighborhood. The other, flashing back to 2005, is Isaiah’s origin story; we see how he came to solve mysteries, as well as the backstory of his relationship with Dodson and what eventually drove them apart.
The weak link here is the actual mystery. The situation isn’t that complex, and all the characters involved in it are broadly-drawn to cartoonish: the burned-out rap mogul, his entourage, the sociopathic hit man, etc.; the resulting action sequences don’t feel that urgent. The meat of the story is Isaiah and Dodson’s wary friendship, and the stakes of their escapades as they use Isaiah’s skills to make some less-than-legal cash feel higher because they’re more real. I realize that the point of this book is not social realism, and there’s an element of fantasy to the chase scenes and extreme bad guys, but for me the forces of poverty and survival that hem Isaiah in during the flashbacks are more frightening than the parts where he’s escaping from a sniper or a giant attack dog....more
This is based on Carrie Fisher's stand-up show, and it reads like it - witty, breezy, self-deprecating, pulling no punches, a bit thin in book form. YThis is based on Carrie Fisher's stand-up show, and it reads like it - witty, breezy, self-deprecating, pulling no punches, a bit thin in book form. You can feel where the beats would land if she were delivering this live. It's sad to read it now, knowing that won't happen again....more