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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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review 2018-10-13 18:36
The Tournament by Matthew Reilly
The Tournament - Matthew Reilly

This was a definite departure from the authors usual writing, but I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it.


Set in the time of Sultan Suleiman's reign in the Ottoman Empire, this was a great mystery that takes place in a secret chess tournament set up by the Sultan to crown the best chess player of all, with players representing 15 countries. A murder takes place and the Sultan asks for help from the great teacher, Mr. Roger Ascham, and his student/protege, a then 13 year old Elizabeth Tudor, (future queen of England), to solve it.


This time period continues to fascinate me and this book was very entertaining. I would have given it 5 stars, but for the explicit sexual escapades of the character, Elsie, in the book. I felt it graphic and unnecessary to the story. I skipped those parts. I'm surprised that the author went into such detail. He could have left it out, or just implied it, and that would have been enough. I docked a star for that reason. Otherwise, it was a great tale.

 

 

 

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text 2018-10-08 15:56
Reading progress update: I've read 81%.
The Mermaid's Madness - Jim C. Hines

Perhaps current events are shaping my reaction to this book but I'm struck by the vein of sadness that runs through the book whenever we get to how these women have been treated by the powerful, especially powerful men. The book is filled with strong women but almost all of them have been damaged or at least wounded by their encounters with people who fail to see them as fully human.

 

I admire JIm C. Hines' ability to write a rollicking tale with mermaids and selkies and sea battles that has a fast pace and is lubricated with humour and yet still bring the reader back time and again to realistic sources of pain.

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text 2018-10-05 00:33
Reading progress update: I've read 28%.
The Rules of Magic: A Novel - Alice Hoffman

Perhaps it's that I'm listening to this while driving or because I haven't read "Practical Magic" but the storytelling seems to be at arms-length from the characters.

 

It's as if there's a good plot and a great cast but lousy camera work.

 

I hope it becomes more personal as it moves along.

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