How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by NK Jemisin (book review).

‘How Long ‘Til Black Future Month’ is a collection of 22 short stories written by NK Jemisin which show her ability to create magic in completely normal situations. There are stories here that would fit into the genre of epic fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism and steampunk.

In fact, anything that someone interested in the SF/fantasy genre in general will love. As with all short story collections, there are always going to be some that each reader enjoys more or less than the others. I’m not going to go into each story or we’ll be here all day, I’m simply going to point out some of the stories I particularly enjoyed.

The one story I think all fans of NK Jemisin will be interested in within these pages is the second story called ‘The City Born Great’. Now I read this prior to Jemisin’s newest book coming out and I must admit I’ve not managed to read ‘The City We Became’ but this short story feels like the first tentative steps towards this new book. Personally, I loved how Jemisin can look at something as ordinary as a city and wonder to herself whether it could be a living thing. Giving sentience to a thing is interesting but looking at how that sentience comes about is even more interesting and this is what Jemisin does in this short story. I loved it!

My other two favourite stories just happen to contain magic that is based on food and what can I say other than I love food magic. The first one is called ‘L’Alchimista’ and involves recipes being some kind of spell. I loved how Jemisin makes the mundane act of making food into something special and magical in this story. I really wanted to have more of this story to know exactly how everything works. This is the one thing that I found with this short story collection, I always found I needed more to get a full understanding of some of the stories. They seemed to stop just as I was getting into them.

The second story about food was called ‘Cuisine Des Memoires’ and, this time, the food was magical because in this restaurant you could request any meal you’ve ever had in your life and it will be prepared exactly the same way, the perfect recreation of that meal. You’re able to enjoy it once more along with the memories it invokes but you can never tell anyone about it. Even in this story, Jemisin manages to give us a lesson about memories.

Each of the stories in this collection has a strong message within it, whether that’s one relating to race, the environment gender, etc. But these messages are not forced upon the reader but quietly given a voice to show us as readers what Jemisin holds dear. I would highly recommend this book simply as a book of short stories but also for these messages.

Sarah Bruch

August 2020

(pub: Orbit, 2018. 400 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-35651-254-9)

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