David Mogo, Godhunter – Review

David Mogo, Godhunter

David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Review of a free Netgalley Review Copy.

David Mogo is a hunter of godlings, a cleaner of messes made by the minor deities running loose in Lagos, Nigeria after an event called the Fall, when Gods and Goddesses of Africa’s pantheon(s) come to earth and start raising havoc. He himself is a demigod, the son of an unknown goddess who possesses strength, stamina, and an attitude to match.
His mentor, Papa Udi, is a wizard and a man of few words, and together they begin to take on stronger gods who plan to take over…The world! (Or maybe just Lagos. Or Nigeria? Plans change).

This was a very fun read. The action is meaty and fast, the overall story engaging, and the characters unique and convincing. But for me, and I think for a lot of readers like me (American fantasy fans) the novelty of the setting, and the richness of the language involved, is what is most appealing.

The story and pacing are not incredibly unusual for this kind of urban fantasy–a damaged protagonist possesses extraordinary powers and uses them to battle beings with even more extraordinary powers in a modern setting in a real place. But the details are so much more inviting in this book.

For one thing, despite being an actual demigod, David is immensely human. He is unsure and hesitant at times, but driven by compassion and a desire to do good. He is not your usual urban fantasy banterer, either. He is sincere, if emotionally conflicted, and it’s refreshing.

The people around him are also complex and involved in their own stories, and things happen around the protagonist without him knowing, making the world seem that much more three-dimensional. And what a world!

I know almost nothing about Lagos, but this book brings the city to life in a way that only someone who truly loves it could. It is flawed (there is a shocking amount of feces mentioned) but vibrant, despite its fallen state in the book. I want to know so much more about the city and its people now.

The god characters are also a fun take. They appear to come from the Yoruba pantheon, based on the names, and their natures are both familiar (gods of war and birth are not uncommon in many pantheons) and new (their characters and expressions are unlike the more familiar European pantheons in many ways). I genuinely felt like I was experiencing something new every few pages, which has gotten to be a rare experience as I get older.

And then there are the languages!

This is where the book really shines. David, the protagonist and POV, uses fairly standard English. However, the characters around him use a variety of languages that you would actually encounter in Lagos. Papa Udi speaks Pidgin, which I imagine many American or European readers will find challenging. Some characters speak Yoruba, which David does not–so the words are left untranslated and an enigma. There are names of clothing and cars and places I have never heard of, and I find it almost thrilling to have that kind of linguistic adventurism in a book like this.

This is not a high-brow work of literature. This is not an essay about African culture. It’s an urban fantasy, a fun afternoon-snack book, that still doesn’t handhold its readers through linguistic challenge. I love it.

For those worried about that challenge, though, it’s OK. The book is clear enough that you can get through it fine without puzzling over the Pidgin or translating the Yoruba. You can just sit back and enjoy the ride as David battle gods, gets to know his roots, and becomes an even bigger bad-ass.

Thank you to the publisher and to Suyi Davies Okungbowa for the chance to read this book!



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The Violent Century – Review

The Violent Century

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar. Tachyon edition ARC reviewed for Netgalley.

Let’s say there really were super heroes. That some event created people with powers far beyond any of the rest of us, all over the world. And then the world went to war. What would that be like? What would change? Would the men and women with these powers be human, like the rest of us?

This is the central idea of The Violent Century, the exploration of that great “what if”. It asks the questions, explicitly, what makes a hero? What makes a man? I am not sure that it answers them, but it goes deep. It digs and gouges, searching for something. For meaning.

This book is more than another take on the “man behind the mask” trope. It is a paean and an elegy, a love letter to heroes, and a lament at the painful need for them, especially in this last century-the violent century.

Lavie Tidhar is Jewish. This is important. This is important because many of our greatest heroes were born of the Second World War, and were born of Jewish artists, some of whom themselves fought in this war. Stan Lee. Jack Kirby. Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster. Jewish men in America who created heroes to fight enemies that seemed unstoppable. Some of these men actually appear in the novel, and speak of the need for heroes. This is not subtext. It is text. Europe needed Heroes. It got men and women, who might have been heroes of a sort. And millions died.

The heroes in this story are also men and women. They drink, they weep, they cry and fail and die. They have extraordinary power and extraordinary responsibility and still mess it up sometimes. But they try. And they go on, and sometimes they get to find a thing that might make a man. They find some love, perhaps. This might be an answer.

Then there is the structure. The Violent Century is not written like a Novel. It is a comic book with no pictures. The sentences are short. Broken. Sections are cut into scenes rather than chapters. Descriptions are vivid and dynamic. There are no quotation marks. The dialog runs into the narration because there are no speech balloons to mark it. Again, this is not subtext. It is text, explicit in the story. Eventually.

It is effective.

This book is haunting, and challenging, and exciting. I read it and I will read it again. I am grateful for the chance to review it for Netgalley, but I will buy the book and I will try to see if answers are to be found within, because I think I would like to know what makes a hero and what makes a man.



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Mindscape – Review

Mindscape

Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This surreal, intricately woven book deals with an earth that is fundamentally changed by the appearance of a phenomenon called the Barrier, a web of mysterious energy that divides the land into regions that can only be left via seasonal corridors through the Barrier, or under the guidance of mystics who can commune with the Barrier to open pathways through.

The zones thus divided have grown independently, with divergent cultures and technologies, and more than anything, values. And these values lead to conflict.

It is beyond me to summarize this book. It is a fever dream, a mesh of languages ranging from German to Igbo to variations of English and more, a refusal of mere plot, arc or story. It shifts in perception and reality and detail until it becomes less about what is happening, and more about the language itself. There is a beginning, and there is an end. There is a journey here, but the value is in each individual footstep along the way, rather than the destination.

It is a challenging read, and confusion is to be expected, but the value in engaging with the challenge cannot be denied.



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