How Long 'til Black Future Month

Speculative fiction anthologies and short story collections have a tendency to be tricky things. Indeed, more often than not they are padded with duds and filler material that can take something away from the overall reading experience.

Understandably, I was expecting the same from N. K. Jemisin's How Long 'til Black Future Month. That's just the way love goes, after all. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it wasn't the case. This short fiction collection is packed with quality pieces from start to finish. And while, as a matter of course, some stories stand out more than others, I'd still claim that it's pretty much all killer and no filler.

If you have yet to give Jemisin a shot, How Long 'til Black Future Month showcases the length and breadth of the author's imagination and gives you a good idea of the themes she likes to explore in her novels. And if you are an existing fan, then you'll find much to love about this collection.

Here's the blurb:

Three-time Hugo Award winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin sharply examines modern society in her first collection of short fiction.

N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed authors of our time. In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption.

Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story "The City Born Great," a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis's soul.

As N. K. Jemisin explains in her introduction, the tales comprising this collection chronicle her development as a writer. Some stories contain early forms of plot elements or characterization that were later refined in her novels. They all feature people of colors and different races. Many of these tales are about accepting differences and change. Many are thought-provoking and imbued with melancholy. All in all, How Long 'til Black Future Month is unlike any other SFF short story collection out there, and that's what makes it such a memorable read.

The author explains that this collection is a meditation on how hard it's been for her to love fantasy and science fiction as a black woman. And these stories are her answer to what she considered to be the stagnating speculative genres. Sure, each one contains a socio-political commentary to a certain extent. Which, in the greater scheme of things is important. But even more important is the fact that these quality pieces are the product of a gifted writer, and that SFF has evolved enough that the market is now ready for these to be unveiled.

How Long 'til Black Future Month is comprised of twenty-two tales that all have something special. "Red Dirt Witch" definitely was one of my favorites. Others include "The Effluent Engine", "The Trojan Girl", "The Evaluators", "Walking Awake", "Stone Hunger", "The Narcomancer", and "Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters".

Some of these short stories are abstract and experimental, others are powerful and touching. They are all quite different in style and tone, even though similar themes reappear in several of them. But all of them are good, which is what matters the most.

N. K. Jemisin's How Long 'til Black Future Month is a terrific read, one that should please the author's fans eagerly awaiting her next book and one that should win her some new readers who have yet to sample her novels.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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