Review: A Killing in the Sun by Dilman Dila

Short version: 4/5 stars. I recommend that you read it.

 A Killing in the Sun is a speculative fiction collection by Dilman Dila, published by Black Letter Media. The titular story was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

This anthology includes ten short stories and I read them in sequence. I found the copyrights page confusing because it refers to a story that is not actually in the collection (Fragments of Canvas). As in most collections the quality is uneven. To my mind the first six stories were enjoyable, but I struggled through the last four.

sun_001

The best story appears to be A Killing in the Sun. It is the most consistent and the most polished. It opens on the day of an execution by firing squad. The condemned man, Mande, appears to have been convicted for something he did not do, but finds his salvation to be almost as bitter as his previous fate. It also touches on one of the themes that run through the whole collection: being taken by authorities and somehow harmed. The other theme that runs through is that of the protagonist somehow changing state. The Leafy Man is an imaginative science fiction tale about artificially mutated mosquitoes nicknamed Miss Doe and is Promethean, with unintended consequences of innovation. The Healer is a fantasy story with magic and themes of loss. Itanda Bridge is a science fiction piece about extraterrestrials and while Diba does not show as much control of the material as he did in other stories it is creepy and enjoyable.

With The Doctor’s Truck flaws begin to show. This story is reminiscent of Christine by King in some parts. The explanation is satisfactory enough, however I found the motivation of the doctor difficult to accept in some parts. The ending appears too pat, slightly rushed and perhaps is a revenge fantasy. Lights over Water has an interesting premise, but as in most of the rest of the stories appears to need more work. A Wife and a Slave for example, builds up well, but the ending is again too neat. Things go too well for the protagonist and there is easy wish fulfilment.

The Yellow People had genuinely macabre moments and is a first class sci-fi horror story. It uses the image of the moving of a stone slab away from a cave, which has Biblical resonance for resurrection. The removal of thumbs makes one think of dehumanization since opposable thumbs are essentially what makes us human. The problem here is that the protagonists appear to be moving like chess pieces. It’s a story of alien contact and a serial killer. This story has great potential, but all the explanation seems rushed towards the end, which is disappointing.

Reading this anthology was frustrating, and not because Dila can’t write elegant prose. He can. Generally, I found the book poorly edited. The mistakes were annoying tense problems, syntax problems, unintentional repetitions etc. All avoidable if more care was taken. Apart from the copy editing issues, many of the later stories could benefit from continuity and story editing. Dila has good material and can clearly write brilliant speculative fiction. I just do not understand what the editors at Black Letter Media were thinking.

That said, I did enjoy reading the book. As speculative fiction and as a snapshot of life in sub-Saharan Africa it succeeds. I expect great things from Mr Dila.

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One Paragraph Review: The Maze Runner

Saw ‘The Maze Runner’ today. It’s really…well, it’s superficially nice, a bit by-the-numbers YA adaptation. It’s all ‘Hunger Games’ Lite and ‘Lord of the Flies’ knock-offy. I had a good time, though. Didn’t think too hard. It’s very clearly the first in a series. The whole thing seemed like a set up for the sequels. The ending made like zero sense and seemed rushed. Everything was passable: acting, action etc. I’ve never read the book so I don’t know how well it’s adapted, but the movie lacked depth. There is a solitary female lead that seems tacked on. 2.5 out of 5.

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Still Here, But Unseen

see

I’m not gone. I’m just busy with rewrites and talks and family stuff.

I should be doing finishing touches on “Rosewater” by mid-November. Right now I’m so close to the coal face that I can only see one word at a time. I have to trust that the me who planned the book knew what he was doing and had a reasonable plot. Ditto characters.

I’ll leave you with this:

“Make your work the counterargument to the work you don’t like.”
Ron Wimberly

(who blogs here)

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Sketchiness: Eyesac

Study for new painting India Ink Water colour

Study for new painting
India Ink
Water colour

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Call for Submissions: Speculative Fiction e-magazine

tt17:

Have a look at this. if you know anyone who might be interested let em know.

Originally posted on 7venhillsmedia:

Biomek 2 by Tade Thompson

Biomek 2 by Tade Thompson

Omenana, a monthly speculative fiction e-magazine, is open to submissions from writers from Africa and the African Diaspora. Stories and art must be speculative fiction (Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror or Magical Realism) and must involve characters, settings or themes directly related to the African continent. Stories and art should challenge normative ideas about gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religious belief. All stories and art must be in English (translations welcome), must be original works (no fan fiction, sorry) and previously unpublished.

We are very much interested in works that explore alternative futures for Africa and people of African descent – with a preference for positive iterations (though dystopias are welcome too). We would also like to see explorations of the past as well as new interpretations of myths, folklore and magic. We do not accept graphic violent or sexual content.

Above all…

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Some news: World Fantasy Convention

So…my story ‘SLIP ROAD’ will be part of the anthology “Unconventional Fantasy, A Celebration of Forty Years of the World Fantasy Convention.”

I’m pleased.

Meanwhile, stuck in rewrites, but I will be in and out of this place.

Tip your waitresses!

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Initial Thoughts on the ‘Gotham’ TV show

Seen two episodes of the series.

I have mixed feelings.

It’s cool in many aspects. Jim Gordon’s idealism and toughness combined with naivete. I think they got Bullock down. I also like the kid playing Bruce Wayne who has the right kind of intensity. Alfred seems a bit off compared to what we know of him. He’s a Cockney and is nowhere near as unflappable as the guy we know and love.

My biggest problem is with the homeless people and Selina. On the one hand, good casting with Selina. They are channeling Michelle Pfeiffer (which is good). My problem is that it’s clear none of these writers or producers have ever seen homeless people. Their skin is too clean, their clothes too good, their teeth too white and regular. Selina is completely unbelievable as a homeless person. Also, for the villains, they appear to have gone for medium camp which sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.

I still want to watch, but the next episode could be my last.

 

 

 

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