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Formats
Open Ebook Ebook Details
  • 10/2019
  • 9781911143963
  • 216 pages
  • $6.99
Paperback Book Details
  • 10/2019
  • 9781911143956
  • 218 pages
  • $11.99
Nick Wood
Author
Learning Monkey and Crocodile
Nick Wood, author

Short stories and essays on shaping better futures for all, on our diverse homeworld - and, eventually, beyond! 

Reviews
In this uplifting and personal sci-fi collection, set in the author’s native South Africa and on fictional planetary colonies, Wood (Azanian Bridges) examines some of modern society’s most pressing issues through the lens of speculative fiction. Themes of empathy, personal growth, and environmental conservation unite the stories, which frequently center on non-white, female, and disabled characters. In one, a group of colonists escape a barren earth, only to experience growing pains when adjusting to their new planet. In another, a psychologist attempts to connect with a young black patient in a reality in which Apartheid never ended. But even as he takes on weighty subject matter, Wood remains a profound optimist. His writing provides a welcome respite from more dystopian works in the genre.

Many of the stories hinge on similar themes, which makes for a satisfying, cohesive collection. But the similarities occasionally move beyond the thematic into the repetitive: names, settings, and professions recur without . The dialogue surrounding identity can be heavy-handed, and, although Wood takes inclusion seriously (he includes an addendum, which carefully outlines his approach to tackling identities other than his own), in practice his characters often announce their race and gender in clunky exposition.

The standout stories feel most complete and uniquely their own. The opening “Of Hearts and Monkeys,” following a clairvoyant older woman who finds a family in the midst of a viral pandemic, shines, as does “God in the Box,” the story of a psychologist reconnecting with her son after an encounter with “God.” The quick and devastating “Five Hundred Photons,” one of the bleakest pieces in an otherwise hopeful selection, offers a welcome change of pace. Some of the less grounded sci-fi pieces (“The Paragon of Knowledge” or “Thirstlands”) tackle too much for their length; as a result their worlds feel under-explored. But overall, Wood deftly combines African lore, futuristic technology, and societal critique in a poignant and moving collection.

Takeaway: Examining South Africa and society at large, these speculative short stories is perfect for fans of inclusive sci-fi with emotional urgency.

Great for fans of: Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City, Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A

Strange Horizons

He certainly writes science fiction well: as I hopefully made clear in the opening to this review, these stories evoked an emotional response in me; they made me want to turn the page, to understand more about the worlds they are set in, to care about the characters I discovered. And that means this middle aged white guy identified with all the variety in the volume. Wood’s stories are clearly founded in the canon of western SF; but they are just as clearly influenced by his personal story, and by his desire to show that all of the world can be part of the future. Strongly recommended.

Formats
Open Ebook Ebook Details
  • 10/2019
  • 9781911143963
  • 216 pages
  • $6.99
Paperback Book Details
  • 10/2019
  • 9781911143956
  • 218 pages
  • $11.99

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