The Tuesday List: Parallelisms

What if you could step out of this world, the “real” world, and into another?  All the books on this list imagine just that, in their own way.

1. Roses and Rot, Kat Howard


At a retreat for artists, where other worlds are explored through visual art, music, writing, Imogen discovers that there is another world waiting just beyond the borders of the property, and is confronted by the question of what she would do, when offered the chance at not only a glimpse of this world, but success beyond her dreams.

2. A Daughter of No Nation, A.M. Dellamonica


This one is actually the second in a series, but somehow managed to slip past my orderly reading practices.  Sophie returns to the world of Stormwrack, made up of brief archipelagos of land among the wilds of the oceans.  Magic is involved, and a lot of nautical journeying.

3. A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E.Schwab


Follow Kell and his magical coat as he moves between red, gray, and white London, smuggling magical items between worlds, until he meets with Lila in grey London and is confronted by true darkness.

4. A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki


This isn’t really a novel about slipping between parallel worlds, but about the parallelisms that happen when artifacts of one life bleed into another’s, when life in one’s personal world becomes more than they can bear and only slipping into someone else’s life offers and succor.

5. Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho


Cho moves the faery story into the 21st century with this novel of magic and sorcery in early empire Great Britain, in which a new Sorcerer Royal, former African slave Zacharias Wythe, is tasked with finding the reason for the decline of magic in Britain who runs head on into a young woman, Prunella Gentleman, determined to make her way in the world and learn the true story of her parentage and magical inheritance.

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

In a future northeastern Africa two groups of people live,
waiting for the last sigh that will bring them to all-out war.  They have existed in the same space for
centuries, the lighter skinned group having dominion over the darker, with
occasional rebellions and reprisals. 
Some outlying villages of Okeke—the darker skinned group—manage to live
in relative peace and prosperity away from the rule of the Nuru.  Some have even managed to forget the
depravities and terrorism wrought against their people in the East.

Onyesonwu can never forget.  Being
a child of rape—a Nuru man brutally attacking her mother—Onyesonwu is marked
because she is different, both in appearance and in other ways.  While Who Fears Death is the story of Onyesonwu, the novel has the impact
that it does because it encompasses many stories, and grows in complexity the
further in the reader goes, rather than simply wrapping everything up in a
pretty bow at the end. 

writes in the first person—Onyesonwu telling her own story.  Onyesonwu’s voice comes through
strongly, and from her narration the reader gets even more a sense of who she
is and what she’s like.  She speaks
plainly and sincerely, with no apology for her moments of extreme emotion and
occasional violent outbursts.  One
of the refreshing points of the novel, in fact, is that there are often three
or four female characters featured who have a range of personalities and
viewpoints.  The reader doesn’t
experience the tunnel vision often created by a female narrative in an all-male
world.  Onyesonwu has a sounding
board for her opinions and experiences, and her friends are not afraid to
disagree with her.  Though Who Fears Death takes place in a fantasy
setting, it therefore feels much more real from a human perspective than a
great many “realistic” or non-fantasy novels.

Who Fears Death is evenly paced,
encompassing a relatively large amount of time by sharing events in short
bursts throughout Onyesonwu’s journey from her home to the land of her
father.  Readers who enjoy vividly
realized scenes should find Okorafor’s sorcery-filled encounters to their
liking, as she writes unselfconsciously about fantasy subjects in a way that
allows the reader to step seamlessly from page to story.  Readers looking for non-Western
(American or Western European) fantasy settings will enjoy Okorafor’s detailed
desert settings and cultures.  This
novel will appeal to readers who enjoy dystopia and ecological (climate change)
science fiction.  Readers of
Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler will find much to love in Who Fears Death, and indeed in all of
Okorafor’s canon.