DARK MATTER: Reading the Bones

Sheree R. Thomas, Editor . Warner $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-446-52860-3

After the spectacular Dark Matter (2000), Thomas offers something of a mixed bag in her second anthology of speculative fiction from the African diaspora. Of the stories set during the days of slavery, ihsan bracy's "ibo landing" proves that stylization of subject matter can be more powerful than historical fidelity. The shimmering, brutal outlines created by such simple sentences as "each in their own way understood the distance. they would never again be home" stay with the reader for a long time. By contrast, the weight of research muffles the emotional impact of a story like Cherene Sherrard's "The Quality of Sand." Similarly, Charles R. Sanders's "Yahimba's Choice" seems written by an anthropologist studying a distant culture, the story unable to move past surface ritual and wooden dialogue. The strongest entry is Kuni Ibura Salaam's "Desire," an experimental retelling of a folktale that's wonderfully fresh, with exquisite detail: "Quashe's back formed one gleaming stretch of reptile skin. Her torso, neck, and arms were honey-amber, human-soft skin moist with river dew." This story will probably appear in at least one year's best collection. Other stories of note include Pam Noles's "Whipping Boy" and Tananarive Due's "Aftermoon." Solid reprints from Samuel R. Delaney and W.E.B. Du Bois, among others, round out the volume, along with several essays of varying quality. Agent, Marie Dutton Brown. (Jan. 2)

Reviewed on: 12/08/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 448 pages - 978-0-446-52583-1
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