Here is the end of our look at AFRICAN MONSTERS. In short, this anthology is just such a powerful representation of what you can do with a mindful, purposeful approach to diversity and trying to make sure everyone’s story is put out there. The last batch of stories continues in the vein of using horror as the vehicle to make wider statements about societal ills.
“Bush Baby” by Chikodili Emelumadu provided some powerful, haunting images. It struck me as a story of the unfortunate truth that family can sometimes pull you into their bad decisions like gravity. The main character had done everything right and didn’t really deserve to have to confront what she did. But the indisputable bond between siblings drove her to it and I like how there isn’t really an end to the confrontation. It was a lesson in some things having to simply be endured and not necessarily coming to a neat ending.
“After the Rain” by Joe Vaz is one of those stories that really worked the horror angle. It taught me a bit about South Africa and some of its politics along the way, but I have to say I felt the creeping horror the entire time. Vaz knew what to focus on to build the horror (the baying, the carcasses, the darkness) and each of those elements carried out the story to its proper crescendo. The ending brought all the simmering politics of the story to a head. It was a well-constructed story that hit all the notes along the way.
“Taraab and Terror in Zanzibar” by Dave-Brendon de Burgh is political in more of a Jason Bourne sort of way. It has all the feeling of an old school pulp story and the hero of it put me in the mind of Doc Savage. It’s almost pulp horror in how it’s handled. I wish we could have seen the actual final fight, but I can understand why we didn’t. While it might have been a spectacle, it wouldn’t have ultimately added anything of substance to the story.
“A Whisper in the Reeds” by Nerine Dorman offered up the first LGBT protagonist in the anthology and I was glad for it as I was afraid that bit of representation might be missed out on. It was refreshing to see a gay couple that wasn’t mired by tragedy and wasn’t insanely happy either. They were just a normal couple. I found that thread of the story the most interesting. While the creatures in the lake were the way the story was brought together, I found the more grounded events to be profoundly more intriguing.
Some of those themes of sexuality get carried over into “Acid Test” by Vianne Venter. There’s a strong component of environmentalism in the mix of this story and it offered up something of a warning in that regard. But it wasn’t necessarily dystopic in its handling. It felt more capitalistic in approach and the main characters seem to feed right into that which sort of makes the environmental message a bit fatalist, which sadly is probably the most realistic approach.
“Thandiwe’s Tokoloshe” by Nick Wood is a twisted children’s story that lovingly throws the middle finger up at Narnia. I loved it and the sassiness of the young child is such a refreshingly real take. Not all children come wrapped in manners and innocence. Frankly, they shouldn’t for a number of reasons and I think this story makes a strong case for it.
AFRICAN MONSTERS delivered on its promises and then some. We got stories from a unique perspective that I can only hope continues to grow in the publishing industry.