Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Ring Shout, by P. Djèlí Clark

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250767011, October 2020

I really don't read horror, honest.

Except, as I've said before, quite recently I think, when I do. P. Djèlí Clark seems to be getting almost a permanent pass for his horror. I don't look at it and say, no, it's horror; I look at it and say, oh, it's Clark.

It's the 1920s, with Prohibition, Jim Crow, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. But this is an alternate America. D. W. Griffith is a sorcerer, and the movie Birth of a Nation is a spell.

Not all the Klansmen are humans. Monsters are coming through from somewhere else, and they have their onw agenda, for which the KKK is useful.

Three young black women are friends and part of a resistance force against the monsters, which they call Ku Kluxes--Cordelia Lawrence, Sadie Watkins, and Maryse Boudreaux. 

Maryse is our viewpoint character, with a book of African-American folktales, and a magic sword that comes to her when she needs it. Sadie has her rifle, a Winchester 1895, which she calls Winnie. Cordelia is called Chef by everyone, but she doesn't cook food. She served in WWI, disguised as a man, and is an explosives expert.

This little team is, in between running illegal liquor, hunting the monsters they call Ku Kluxes. Chef can set bombs that include silver shot as well as conventional shot; Sadie is a very good shot with Winnie, and if that fails, Maryse can cut the monsters down with her sword. But then they find they're fighting something worse, a new kind of monster, Butcher Clyde, with another, the Grand Cyclops, due to emerge at Stone Mountain, during a grand showing of Birth of a Nation.

Battling these monsters means Maryse's group, the black moonshiners they do delivery runs for, Gullah who dance traditional "ring shouts," socialist organizers, and a whole different kind of monsters with a different and more useful agenda working together. Along the way, we learn about Maryse's painful past, the source of the sword and its strengths and weaknesses, something about Gullah tradition. 

We see Maryse grow painfully, confronting her own greatest fears and at risk of being destroyed by them.

This is a really excellent story, revealing and enlightening about the conflicts that existed in our own timeline in the 1920s, and the history behind it.

Highly recommended.

I got this novella as part of the 2021 Hugo Voters Packet, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

No comments:

Post a Comment