Saturday, July 19, 2014

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2) - Balogun Ojetade

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2)
by Balogun Ojetade
Roaring Lions Productions 2012

Harriet Tubman is martial arts expert government agent who rescues the child of Secretary War Edwin Stanton at the request of John Wilkes Booth.  We start with alternative history and from there we get the whole kitchen sink added one element at a time: super powers, anachronistic technology, clockwork tree creatures, zombies (ghuls, but yeah, zombies), a serial killer, were-coyotes, mythical heroes, and magic curses.

At first this seemed like world building, but soon it becomes clear it's ADD.  This is the best and worst thing about the book depending on your point of view.  Things are light and fast paced, but the story jumps from one set piece to the next regardless of whether the last bit got resolved.  By the end we barely even see Harriet, and I lost track of what happened with the main conflict.

There's science fiction set in the 19th century and there is steampunk.  This is steampunk, and you could make a drinking game out of the words steam, brass, chrome, and goggles.  Despite having black characters and being set during the Civil War, slavery and racism are far from the worst things they encounter.  They are acknowledged but Ojetade doesn't let it get in the way of the fun.

This has nothing to do with Ojetade's book, but I imagined how this kind of thing would have gone down in the early 90s.  Most of the book would have been a heavy handed account of the horrors of slavery and racism, but with some sympathetic white folk shoehorned in so it didn't seem too militant.  And white readers would pat themselves on the back for being progressive enough to read it, all the while feeling a bit guilty and unsettled.

I'm not going to lie and say we're in a post-racial society, but I'm glad that we're at a point where we can get black genre fiction without having the characters and stories be defined by white racism.

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