Review: “AfroSF Science Fiction by African Writers,” ed. Ivor W. Hartmann

Rating: 5 out of 5

AfroSF Science Fiction by African Writers is a decent-sized anthology filled with wonderful stories by African writers. I often end up giving anthologies a 4/5 simply because not all stories will appeal to all readers. But I genuinely felt the stories in here were worth a 5/5.

There’s a Nnedi Okorafor story in here, “Moom!”, which is charming and fun. The main character is a swordfish!

Sarah Lotz’s “Home Affairs” is a great look at how automating certain civil service jobs could end poorly.

Tendai Huchu’s “The Sale” posits a future in which people are dosed with feminizing hormones to keep them happy and docile. The main character is even growing breasts. Which kind of seems to imply that women should be all happy and docile due to hormones, which, well, yeah, that doesn’t make sense. Other than that detail, this was good.

Cristy Zinn’s “Five Sets of Hands” takes place on Mars, where the Nognagel, people modified to live there, are using the Wuntya as slave labor. A young woman named Njort straddles the line between the two, as a “defective” mute Nognagel. This was a lovely story.

Ashley Jacobs’ “New Mzansi” shows a dystopian future and how people there are treated for HIV.

“Azania,” by Nick Wood, introduces us to a new planet that is harsh but livable, “a veritable waiting Eden.” Then the first arrivals start experiencing strange symptoms.

One of my favorite stories in this volume is Tade Thompson’s “Notes from Gethsemane.” There’s The Pit, a crater filled with dangerous radiation, and the area around it is run by gangs. Tosin, whose brother Bayo runs one of those gangs, is instructed to help out by picking up a package. Only everything goes wrong. I found this story really intriguing and beautiful, and would love to read more set in this situation.

S.A. Partridge’s “Planet X” posits a black-on-black planet hidden a ways out in our solar system, and once it’s discovered due to a radio signal, things start going weird.

Chinelo Onwualu’s “The Gift of Touch” is a far-future story in which several people book passage on a spaceship under false pretenses. The captain of the ship has to resort to extraordinary measures when he starts to figure out what’s going on.

Uko Bendi Udo’s “The Foreigner” features a half-human half-alien boy who wants to claim his human father’s inheritance in order to be allowed to live in Nigeria. There’s a really intriguing (thing? Creature?) called Mboro that I would love to know more about!

“Angel Song,” by Dave de Burgh, is another one of my favorites in this volume. There’s an invasion of Angels, so-called because they’re made of sentient energy and they call out in the voices of one’s fallen loved ones. Ed is doing his best to fight back against them.

Biram Mboob’s “The Rare Earth” introduces us to Gideon, the Redeemer. He can cure at a touch and he’s impervious to bullets. He can call down bolts of fire from the sky. He also seems to be building up an army around him. Is he really what he claims to be? I would have liked a bit more information in this one, but it’s definitely fascinating.

Sally-Ann Murray’s “Terms & Conditions Apply” totally lost me. People seem to be divided into Supers, Regulars, and Tunnelers. Supers are on lots of drugs, I think? Regulars get experimented on for some reason? There’s sex as a commodity somewhere in here. Uh, I really can’t make any kind of definitive statement about this one because I couldn’t make sense of it. We’ll just label it “not for me.”

Another favorite is Mandisi Nkomo’s “Heresy.” Russia and South Africa send a joint space mission that runs into a barrier around the edge of the solar system. They decide to blow a hole in the barrier, and things get weird. The characters are the best part of this one–quirky and in some ways hilarious, while there are also some very serious things going on. It’s a deft blend of horror, humor, and science fiction.

Liam Kruger’s “Closing Time” is a bizarre little story about alcohol-triggered time travel.

Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu’s “Masquerade Stories” delved into a secretive manhood ceremony and a strange creature.

In Joan De La Haye’s “The Trial,” famine and water shortages have ravaged the earth. First the over-65s were culled, then anyone with an IQ below the 110s. Now people must individually stand trial and convince a judge that they’re useful to society. If they fail, they are executed. Marin is a writer who helps out her brother’s family, and she thinks she knows what her trial’s outcome will be.

Mia Arderne’s “Brandy City” gives us a glimpse into a dystopian future that yet retains an air of debauched elegance.

And then it happened. The drought. The heat. The debauchery. The one-world government. The chaos. And the end.

Rafeeat Aliyu’s “Ofe!” shows us a world in which there are people with superhuman abilities, and some of them are being hunted. I feel like this must be part of a larger work which I’d love to read. The story was satisfying and yet definitely left me wanting more.

Martin Stokes’ “Claws and Savages” is a delightful little story of what happens to a man who makes bank off of poaching alien monsters to sell them for parts.

Clifton Gachagua’s “To Gaze at the Sun” is a fascinating look at children created solely for war and “raised” by couples desperate for children. It has a lot of nuance to it.

Another favorite is Efe Okogu’s “Proposition 23.” Our three rotating point-of-view characters are a lawman (Lugard), a programmer (Sayoma), and a terrorist (Nakaya). Citizens have everything they need, but they can have citizenship ripped away from them at any time, without even being told what rule they violated. The “undead,” as those without citizenship are called, often wind up dead.

The TL;DR is this: There was only one story that totally stumped me, and the rest are of uniformly high quality. The characters, the tidbits of worldbuilding–it’s all so intriguing. I’d love to read more by almost any of these authors.

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