Edited by Nalo Hopkinson
Noted author Nalo Hopkinson has turned her considerable skills to anthology editing in this balanced and satisfying collection. Mojo: Conjure Stories brings together a bountiful, diverse and impressive array of story tellers to spin tales of mojo magic or as editor Nalo Hopkinson puts it, "the ‘personal magic,’ … that originated in West Africa and was brought over with the slaves." Many of the authors have won or have been nominated for various genre awards and have appeared in varied magazines and anthologies. The mojo in these 19 stories deal with people at a crossroads, people seeking revenge, or respite and people seeking answers. They take place in the 1800s in the 1900s and current day and times undeclared. The places range from Mississippi to New Orleans to New York to the African Bush. What keeps these stories connected, aside from the already mentioned mojo, is the overall quality sustained from story to story. Each voice is unique and tells a story that may awe the reader, that may resonate with the reader or that will make reader look at things in a different light than before.
The first story by World Fantasy Award Winner Andy Duncan starts the anthology off on the right foot and sets the tone for the anthology. Daddy Mention and the Monday Skull tells the tale of a prisoner who attempts to conjure his way out of the prison walls. Steven Barnes weaves a tale of a broken relationship between father and son and how mojo can bring things together in Heartspace. In Rosamojo, Kiini Ibura Salaam weaves the tale of a frightened, troubled girl torn between love and fear of her father as she tries to mojo herself away from his dark desires. Cross-dressing and cabaret blend seamlessly with mojo as a performer attempts a promised homage to the mentor who saved her from the crossroads in Barth Anderson’s fun and entertaining Lark till Dawn, Princess. Tannarive Due tells the heartening story of a young girl’s attempts at convincing her Father to try save her imprisoned half-brother in Trial Day. One of the strongest most mythic tales is Tobias S. Buckell’s Death’s Dreadlocks, which reads like a folk-tale handed down through the generations. This mythic story tells of a group of brothers fighting the giant, Death. Nisi Shawl’s, The Tawny Bitch, recounts the letters of a mixed-race southern heiress kept trapped and drugged by greedy white relatives. Neil Gaiman turns his storytelling skills on the tale of a traveler, changing guises and how "people come into your life for a reason," in the resonating Bitter Grounds. This story takes place in New Orleans on one of the more lively and conversely, one of the cities entrenched in hinted dark magics and urban myth.
All told, these 19 stories offer glimpses and hints at the mojo that has been with us for many, many years. These tales bring to light mythic stories and magical narratives from many unique perspectives. While the voices are varied, the binding connection of mojo magic is successful and a pleasure to read. Open the book, and let the mojo take hold!
Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford
© 2003 Rob Bedford
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