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Dark Matter : Reading the Bones by Sheree R. Thomas
Review by Barry Newton
Aspect Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0446693774
Date: 01 February, 2005 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

How can you get people to read black authors? The answer, in this case, is to gather together some outstanding work and put it in front of them. Some, at least, will look.

A collection of provocative stories by African American writers, Reading The Bones has an astonishing breadth of concept and subject matter. Some of the stories have a decidedly religious bent: ?Jesus Christ In Texas? by W.E.B. DuBois considers what might transpire when a black Jesus visits the South. ?Recovery From A Fall? by David Findlay takes a decidedly different tack on creation?warning: avoid this story if you?re easily offended. Nalo Hopkinson?s ?The Glass Bottle Trick? sneaks up on the reader, beginning as a study of a young woman in an indeterminate Caribbean culture, and moving into horror flavored with voudon. ?Yahimba?s Choice? by Charles R. Saunders echoes the title of ?Sophie?s Choice?, and is almost as wrenching. These stories, and a score of others, cover the gamut from fantastic to science-fictional, with some very strange stops in between. There are also three essays, including one on the race (and gender) inclusiveness of Andre Norton?s work.

This book is a follow-on to the award winning Dark Matter anthology by the same editor in 2000. In her introduction, Thomas compares the act of producing speculative fiction to divination, attempting to determine the future by study of the present environment - not a bad analogy. She provides literary analysis and academic grouping of the stories in a manner suggesting that the book might be intended as a college text. But it clearly deserves a wider readership than that. Casual readers can find challenge and enjoyment here, if they?re not put off by the implication that they?re expected to learn something.

The reader may have uncomfortable moments with some of these tales. Written by and about black people, the viewpoint was often not what I expected, though I invariably found it enlightening, and after all, that?s what we read SF and Fantasy for?isn?t it? Highly recommended.

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