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review 2018-10-14 23:22
"The Ballad Of Black Tom" by Victor LaValle
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle

"The Ballad Of Black Tom" is a powerful novella which appropriates H, P, Lovecraft's occult lore and ancient gods and places a young black man at the centre of the story. 

 

I'm not a Lovecraft fan but I was fascinated by the way Victor LaValle took possession and Lovecraft's world and used it to explore a black man's rage at how he and his father are treated by the white men.

 

In less than 150 pages, we follow Charles Thomas Tester's transformation from a savvy twenty-year-old hustler with a passing knowledge of the occult and a flair for dissembling to Black Tom, a bringer of death and a herald of doom. The means for this transformation comes from occult knowledge provided acquired from the rich power-hungry white people who buy his time. The motive for the transformation comes from the contempt and violence he receives from the white men around him.

 

The text is vivid and full of energy. LaValle perfectly captures the sense of threat a lone black man experiences when venturing outside of Harlem. The scene where Tester learns of the brutal act of violence by a white private detective is chilling and makes a perfect trigger for his transformation into Black Tom.

 

Towards the end of the novella, Tester reflects on his own transformation into a monster by the way in which white people saw him, saying of white people:

“Every time I was around them, they acted like I was a monster. So I said goddamnit, I’ll be the worst monster you ever saw!”

He also recognises that his rage has cost him his connection with his own community and stripped him of his humanity.

 

H. P. Lovecraft's racism is well known so it interested me that the racist white private detective's surname is Howard, which was Lovecraft's first name.

 

Diverse Voices Mike Finn Halloween Bingo Card-002I read "The Ballad Of Black Tom" for the Diverse Voices square for Halloween Bingo

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text 2018-10-13 23:15
Reading progress update: I've read 38%.
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle

Debbie of Debbie's Spurts put me on to this book yesterday and I couldn't resist starting it.

 

Published in 2016 this novella calls on Lovecraftian lore but has a black man as the main character and is set in 1920's New York City.

 

The text is full of energy. It does a great job of showing how alien and alone a black man could feel outside of Harlem and it builds a strong main character. I'm enjoying it more than I ever enjoyed Lovecraft.

 

I'm thinking of using this for the Diverse Voices square.

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url 2018-10-12 15:28
New freebie in TOR's eBook of the Month Club
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle   is currently free on publisher TOR's (Macmillan) site at https://ebookclub.tor.com. Only free October 9 through midnight October 12.  

 

They tout it as "H.P. Lovecraft’s legacy has been the subject of intense debate. And this book has its finger on the pulse of that discussion."

 

Yeah, I'm late posting this but once again I did not get my email notice and only spotted it in today's emailed newsletter.

 

Publisher page for book details is https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780765386618 

Source: ebookclub.tor.com
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review 2018-03-28 22:48
Review: Victor LaValle's Destroyer
The Sundial - Shirley Jackson,Victor LaValle

I don't seen the omnibus edition cataloged here, so be warned that this review covers the six issue run, not just issue #1.

 

I don't think there is anything not good about this. The art is great, the characters are compelling. The introductory essay is a thing of beauty. I loved the novella LaValle had on last year's Hugo ballot and I love this even more.

 

This is Frankenstein revisited with an eye towards modern times and inescapable pasts. The protagonist inspired more by Shelley than V. Frankenstein, but entirely her own character with her own driving desire. Grief turned inside out and revenge inevitable, every page a masterpiece. 

 

This is just great.

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text 2018-01-20 19:19
2017 Year in Review: Stats
Shadowhouse Fall - Daniel José Older
Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee
A Conspiracy in Belgravia (The Lady Sherlock Series) - Sherry Thomas
Food of the Gods: A Rupert Wong Novel - Cassandra Khaw
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle
The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley
The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan
An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole
The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) - N.K. Jemisin
Clean Room Vol. 3: Waiting for the Stars to Fall - Gail Simone,Jon Davis-Hunt
Did anyone else end up with a broken counter on the Goodreads stats page? I know they had an issue with the date read field earlier in the year. While that eventually worked itself out, my total for 2017 is way off. The states page claims over 100, but the list is really only 79.
 
My breakdown of the 79 "books" I finished in 2017:

anthologies: 0
collections: 0
Adult novels: 50
YA novels: 8
MG novels: 0
graphic novels: 1
art book: 0
comic omnibus: 15
magazine issues: 0
children's books: 2
nonfiction: 3
 
I make a demographics list every year as a way of giving myself the opportunity to think about who I've read and how I can do better.
 
Across all categories:
  Written by Women: 53 (67%, down from 72% in 2016)
  Written by POC: 29 (37%, up from 17% in 2016)
  Written by Transgender authors: 5 (6%, up from 1% in 2016) 
  Written by Non-binary authors: 2 (3%, up from 1% in 2016)
 
While this looks like a large improvement from last year, I should note that this is not unique authors, but total across all my reading. I went on Cassandra Khaw and Daniel José Older benders this fall that account for a lot of my non-white reading. I also went on a Courtney Milan bender in January that is helping inflate the written by women category. 
 
My favorite book from 2017 were really hard to select! It was a great reading year, but I narrowed it down to 10. Please don't ask me to order them as that's clearly an impossible task. They should all appear in the banner at the top, but here's a list, alphabetically:
 
 
I reviewed all 79 titles read in 2017, which is really more than I expected. Not all those reviews are great, but in terms of quantity, I beat my expectations. 
 
My favorite new-to-me author of 2017 is Cassandra Khaw. She's talented and her range includes (nay, celebrates!) splatterpunk. 
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