Guest Review: Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu Kabu by Nnedi OkoraforFormat read: paperback
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: speculative fiction
Length: 241 pages
Publisher: Prime Books
Date Released: September 29, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Kabu kabu—unregistered illegal Nigerian taxis—generally get you where you need to go. Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabu, however, takes the reader to exciting, fantastic, magical, occasionally dangerous, and always imaginative locations you didn’t know you needed. This debut short story collection by an award-winning author includes notable previously published material, a new novella co-written with New York Times-bestselling author Alan Dean Foster, six additional original stories, and a brief foreword by Whoopi Goldberg.

Review by Galen:

Picture a spider made of metal on an oil pipeline, standing attentively as it is serenaded by a woman. This is but one of the fantastical images that await the reader of Nnedi Okorafor’s short story collection Kabu Kabu.

One takes a taxi to get from one place to another, to make a transition of place. Kabu Kabu is full of transitions. The title story, written with Alan Dean Foster, tells the tale of a trip that a lawyer, Ngozi, takes from Chicago to a village in Nigeria to attend a family wedding. This would be an ordinary enough trip, save that Ngozi finds the one kabu kabu in Chicago and misses her flight, but ends up making a more fundamental trip through the byways of legends to her other home.

Some of the tales occupy the intersection of Nigeria, its colonizers, and those who are stripping it of oil. “The Magical Negro” is a little confection that turns the trope of that name on its head and answers the question of what would happen if a Magical Negro decides to stop putting up with being a secondary character in the tales of other, paler, folk. “Spider the Artist” is a science fiction tale that posits oil companies dealing with theft from the pipelines by installing killer, spider-like robots to patrol them. These monsters, created without regard for the people driven by desperation, make transitions of their own: becoming so smart that they take up agency on their own account (and declare war) — but also, at least in one case, becoming able to make connections with people through music. “The Popular Mechanic” explores another response to the pipelines snaking their way through the land, while “Moom!” takes a news account of a swordfish attacking a pipeline and… expands on it.

Several stories follow transitions of women from traditional roles to owners of their own tales. One set of stories (“How Inyang Got Her Wings”, “The Winds of Harmattan”, “Windseekers”, and “Biafra”) tell part of the tale of Arro-yo, a windseeker. “The Palm Tree Bandit” is an origin story for a super-heroine who defies norms by climbing palm trees… and then grows into a legend.

Other tales take incidents from the lives of the author, her sister, and her mother and recast them in a fantastic light. Once, Okorafor and her sister visited a house that had been built for their father… but whose contents had been stripped by relatives. They decided to nonetheless stay in the house for three days. “The Carpet” takes that incident and gives magical life to the noises in the night during their stay. “The Baboon War” takes her mother’s story of fighting of baboons on her way to school and adds a deeper layer: what if the baboons were protecting something along the path?

Escape Rating B+: This collection is a great introduction to Okorafor’s range as a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism. There is also a horror story (“On The Road”) that, while being really creepy, also portrays a woman’s transition from city cop to… someone new.

I recommend this collection to anybody who enjoys science fiction and fantasy, but who also is tired of some of the genres’ hoary tropes.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-17-13

Sunday PostIt’s official. Galen is a sorcerer. Make that Sourcerer. Let me explain.

Galen Charlton Library Journal Movers and Shakers 2013Every March 15, Library Journal names 50 people in the library community as “Movers and Shakers” in a very splashy issue of the magazine. It’s a pretty big deal. I’m very proud to say that this year my husband Galen was one of those 50. He’s listed as one of the “Tech Leaders” of course. The official title of his article is “Open ‘Sourcerer'” for his work with open source library automation software. The picture at right is shamelessly scanned from the print copy a friend at LJ sent us. The online version of Galen’s profile will be posted on March 19.

(If you’re wondering about the penguin, he’s Tux, the mascot for Linux, the giant open source Unix project. It’s a geek thing.)

And now I’ll float down from Cloud 9 and get back to my usual blog recap.

Lucky in Love Blog HopThere are a few hours left to get in on the Lucky in Love Blog Hop. Just a few rapidly disappearing hours. The prize here at Reading Reality is a $10 Amazon Gift Card, but there are over 300 blogs participating in this hop. Surely there must be a few, or a few dozen, books and gifts cards you would like to take a chance on before it’s too late?

Speaking of giveaways, the Lauren Clark giveaway has another week to go, so you have plenty of time left to put your hat into that particular ring. Lauren is giving away a signed copy of her very funny and excellent women’s fiction/romance Dancing Naked in Dixie as well as five $10 Gift Cards to the winner’s choice of either Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Let’s do a rundown of all of last week’s events, just so we can see everything at a glance:

Stardust Summer by Lauren ClarkB Review: The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
B+ Review: Merry Ex-Mas by Sheila Roberts
B+ Review: Cards & Caravans by Cindy Spencer Pape
B+ Review: Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark
Guest Post: Author Lauren Clark is All Shook Up + Giveaway
Lucky in Love Blog Hop
Stacking the Shelves (38)

There are three events going on this week. Wow!

Tomorrow, Reading Reality will be part of Entangled Publishing’s Launch Party for Lisa Kessler’s Night Demon. Lisa’s Night series has been a blast so far (I reviewed both Night Walker and Night Thief), so I’m pretty happy to celebrate the release of Night Demon.  (That sounds like we’re letting a demon out of the Rift, doesn’t it?) There are giveaways involved, so some lucky readers will be able to find out just how much fun this series has been so far.

Take What You Want by Jeanette GreyOn Tuesday, Jeanette Grey will be back to talk about her latest book, Take What You Want. This is a very hot contemporary romance (I finished my review and will be posting it on Tuesday, too) Jeanette will be giving away a copy of Take What You Want to one lucky commenter, and this is definitely a book worth wanting.

Speaking of books worth wanting, Nina Croft is going to be here on Thursday to talk about things she wants. Nina will have Top Ten list for us, and she will also be giving away a copy of her new paranormal romance, Bittersweet Blood.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. I hope you have a very lucky day. If you must drink something green, better the green beer than this particular green liquid. It’s the Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day, an annual tradition. It looks awesome but I wouldn’t drink it.

Chicago River dyed green St Patricks Day