Review of my book from a totally biased source (my brother!)
BOOK REVIEW of Ancient, Ancient from a totally biased source—my brother.
Last night, after the Heats/Celtics game, I put my daughter to bed, took the plastic off of Kiini’s book (do books really need to be shrink-wrapped in plastic...and if so, why?) and started reading. I’ve read Kiini’s stories before—I’ve even edited a few of them. I was still surprised. The characters are more 3-D, more real, more alive when read in print than when read via an email screen.
In the first story, a petty-minded and fantastically vain little deity uses an innocent bystander to get out of scrape. Everything goes fine until dude finds out that accidental goddesses aren’t always willing to give up their powers as easily as they’ve acquired them. The world these people (are they people? it’s hard to tell...but ultimately irrelevant) occupy is as lush as Pangea (or whatever planet it was where the Avatar people lived), but as gritty and palpable as your favorite big city’s skid row. It’s the kind of thing you finish reading and kind of blink and look around, like, “Where am I? Oh, right. At home on the sofa.”
I had only intended to read the first story then hit the sack (most Friday nights, I'm tired), but I turned the page anyway. One more. This one features a girl with honey-colored skin and some kind of mystical-sexy way of dancing who hits the club not to get her groove on, but to pick up a man. But she’s not trying to take him home—not right away, at least—she actually wants something else from him. I won’t give away the details, but last night while I was sleeping, it occurred to me that the whole thing could actually work as a metaphor for those females (and males too, of course) you meet who want you only for what they can get from you (money, a drink, sex, their NOPSI bill marked ‘paid’, someone to listen to the details of their boring-ass personal life even though they have no intention of ever listening to your boring stories...this is all hypothetical, of course). At the end of the story, ol’ girl borrows 1,000 pairs of wings and flies away. Not figuratively, literally. I'm a man, so I guess I was supposed to be relating to the dude she leaves standing their mired to the asphalt, like, “Damn, she flies too?” but I was actually relating to her. Sometimes I fly too—only when I’m dreaming though.
And that’s what I really like about Kiini’s stories so far...reading them is like dreaming while you’re awake. Things don’t make 100% sense the way tables and chairs and apples and dress shoes hurting your feet makes sense. But the point of the story makes sense: if you have some uniquely good shit, don’t go around teasing other people with it. Or, if you meet a girl and think she’s The One, don’t be surprised if one fine day you look over at her and she’s just...gone.
Just finished “MalKai’s Last Seduction.” Fascinating, riveting work. Perhaps the best of the three so far. Particularly surprising to me given that I’m not gay and don’t really identify with the sexuality of the character in the story.
Hey, by the way, I finished the book. I really enjoyed it, Kiini. There’s lots of good stuff in there. The nectar harvesters are a novel waiting to happen...you have to know that already, right? Those were my favorite stories of the bunch. Not only that, they could easily turn into a series—not sure if that’s even something you want. The whole thing was quite cinematic and rich with metaphor and implications that reach beyond the literal.
Other than those, I really enjoyed the NYC story where the young Creole lady traded her baby for piece of mind. I like how you said she lost the baby in the first sentence. It immediately let the reader know you were going for an archetype—the suspense, after all, was over before it’d begun. I was reminded of the Gil Scott-Heron remake of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil” mixed with “NY is Killing Me.” Also, the description of the city was almost breathtaking in its elegance and simplicity. In those passages, you distilled your writing to the essence of what must be said to get the point across.
It reminded me of that dude who wrote Arrow of God and Things Fall Apart. Individual sentences neither sparkle nor command attention, but the paragraphs and pages have such a weighty, communicative effect, that you can’t imagine a single word being either added or taken away. I was reminded of a perfect piece of architecture. Or a table crafted by an old, artisan furniture-maker. You look at the thing and can’t imagine that that particular piece of wood was ever intended for anything other than ‘table’.
Also, I can’t release you from my rambling without mention of your overly fertile imagination. I can’t conceive of where or how you came up with bitter old men who punish their grandkids by sending them spiraling through time or space colonies guided by the mammalian divination of ferrets, but, more power to you. The concepts alone were enough to have me shaking my head.
*** BOOK REPORT: Tracking the Process of Ancient, Ancient ***
So last week my publisher sent 39 books to Amazon because they were out of stock, again. And now it looks like there are two books left. Has Amazon ordered more? Will I be getting the dreaded "Out of Stock" posting on my Amazon page again?
I'm planning a trip home to New Orleans and will do at least one reading there at Community Book Center, though I hope to do a reading at one of the uptown bookstores as well as a radio show.
And don’t forget, if you're in NYC/Brooklyn, Tuesday night, please come to the launch of the Kindred Reading Series. I'll be reading from Ancient, Ancient, and Jennifer Marie Brissett will be reading from her work. This will be a monthly series of spec fic writers of color. Join us if you're free!
When: Tuesday, June 19 • 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Where: Nova Bar, 884 Pacific Street (between Washington and Underhill)
C-train to Clinton-Washington. Walk up Washington two blocks to Pacific Street and you have arrived!