African Monsters Review Part 2

So we move into our second look at the anthology AFRICAN MONSTERS.  One of the things that I really love about this collection is that it doesn’t try to play the continent like this monolithic entity.  It acknowledges and embraces the many, many cultures and subcultures that exist there.  That is such a needed thing for those of us who suffer from a Western gaze which prompts us to make so many unfounded assumptions.  So while this anthology certainly entertained, it also educated.

Picking up where we left off, we start with “The Death of One” by Su Opperman.  Having a short graphic piece in the middle of this prose collections was a welcome change of pace.  And I think it’s a perfect complement to many of the stories that came before and after it.  There’s a grittiness to the work that is just primal.  There’s this raw intensity that travels effortlessly from one panel to the next.  You don’t need a lot of exposition because the essence of this conflict is depicted flawlessly.

“Chikwambo” by T.L. Huchu was a story that intertwined so much into such a short time.  You see the arrogance of patriarchy, the cruelty of loss and it all gets encapsulated with this terribly sad creature.  The Chikwambo is certainly scary, but there’s such a tragic aspect to it.  It’s heartbreaking to think of the origins and how much pain must exist behind such a legend.  The Tsikamutanda reminded me a bit of the teacher character from “Fullmetal Alchemist” in how he possessed great wisdom, but still made a fatal mistake in the end.  I think this is easily one of my favorite stories in the collection.

“Monwar” by Dilman Dila also manages to weave some different themes together in an interesting way.  The main character is a woman cop in a society that doesn’t make it easy for women to exist in such a profession.  So she takes no crap from anyone and does her job very well throughout the course of the story.  But thankfully, Dila avoids the mundane “unstoppable badass woman who feels nothing” cliché and infuses the character with a large yearning to fill a part of her life that has left her.  At first, I was prepared to not like that particular angle of the story but Dila delivers it with nuance and some comedy.  The main character’s yearning is mirrored in terrible fashion by the Monwar that is feasting throughout the city.  Overall, this story is just an excellent use of foil and symbolism.

The feminist work is carried onward in “That Woman” by S. Lotz.  When I talked earlier about this anthology educating, this is one of the stories I thought of.  It is a story that lays out the harmful repercussions of a witchcraft accusation and how damaging that can be to a woman.  The sinister details of these accusations and the economic destruction it causes reminds me in some ways of the Salem Witch Trails, but this phenomena runs far deeper and the scar of it seems longer lasting.  I didn’t walk away from this story feeling sorry for any of its losers and that’s how it should be.  None were deserving of sympathy and I think this story manages to relish in its vengeance in a way that doesn’t feel gratuitous.

“Sacrament of Tears” by Toby Bennett caught my attention immediately because of the tone.  The author manages to capture the language and flow of the time period they’re depicting so well that I almost wanted to check back to the first page to make sure Lord Byron’s name wasn’t there.  This is a story that you can tell work was put into to get every word just right and it elevated my appreciation the piece to another level.  There wasn’t a single moment in the story where I felt like it broke “character”.  There is a critique of colonialism hidden somewhere in the mix here, but it hides itself as well as the Mother in this story hides her pain.  A wonderful piece and one that will stick in my mind for quite some time.

Tomorrow will cover the remainder of the anthology and offer us some stories dealing with environmentalism, revolutions and politics all wrapped up with different seasonings of horror.

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