When Fortune N’tobe Fell from the Stars

If you glance over to the sidebar – that’s it; near the top, just after the recent posts section – you’ll notice that something has changed (aside from finally updating the icons for Apple Books).

Yes, it’s finally here: book number four. A novella (only 40,000 words or thereabouts).

I took a writing break after The Quisling Orchid and just focussed on short stories and reviews. Book 3 was an expensive effort in terms of time, brain space and money, so I thought I’d dial it back a bit.

Fortune started out as a collection of short stories about life in Soweto, something I could read to my mum while she was in hospital. Unfortunately, my mum didn’t recover away, so I didn’t want to carry on with the book.

A few people who’d read the unfinished version said they’d like to see how it ended, and hoped that I’d pick it up again, eventually. ‘Time’s a great healer, Dom.’

Well, they say that, but it doesn’t apply to everyone, so the book stayed in the drawer (metaphorically speaking; it actually stayed halfway down the tree in Ulysses) for a couple more years.

I think it was a combination of things that finally got me to dust it off (metaphorically speaking; I actually just opened the folder in Ulysses and started typing):

  1. Last July (2019) there was an incident in which a body fell from the undercarriage of a plane approaching Heathrow, so I sort of thought it was a story that needed to be told.
  2. I’d like to think my mother didn’t raise a son who didn’t finish something he’d started.

Besides, good writing is supposed to hurt, isn’t it?

War of the Worlds should have been better

Just finished watching the BBC’s new adaptation of the HG Wells classic, and I have to say I was left a little bit cold. When I heard that it was shot in just three parts, I was worried. Three parts didn’t sound like enough, but on the other other hand, I’ve seen two movie adaptations that managed to do a half decent job (Mmm. Just realised that I never reviewed the Tom Cruise outing) with less time to play with, so thinking about it, three parts, an hour each, should’ve been plenty.

When you’ve got only a few hours to tell a story of global devastation, then the best tack is to focus on a small group of people and see how the destruction of everything around them makes the stronger or breaks them apart. This worked very well for Tom Cruise, it didn’t work that well for the BBC. I think the main problem was that the group of people they chose to focus on just wasn’t that interesting.

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The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book made big waves across the pond: it was a choice read for Ophrah Winfrey’s Book Club (I’ll be honest; I have no idea what that is), which pretty much guarantees a ready-made audience. And it deserves it. The Water Dancer is a very good book.

The story is set in Virginia during the decline of the plantations that brought untold misery to so many people. Hiram Walker is the son of a slave and the plantation owner. Though his mother is sold away when he is very young, Hiram thrives, after a fashion, due to the kindness of his fellow slaves, his photographic memory and the superhuman ability to transport himself and others across great distances. It’s the teleportation that draws interest from an underground group that has dedicated itself to rescuing slaves.

I’d heard a lot about this book, but when I started reading it, it wasn’t really what I expected. It’s very much a slow-burner, focussing on the literary, almost poetic prose, to bring an unusual fantasy novel to life. Coates has steered away from the physical suffering of the plantation slaves to bring a different perspective: the emotional suffering of separation. The slaves are property, so when the plantations began to fail, the slaves were sold off, with no regard for the wives, husbands or children left behind. For me, this was the most harrowing part of the whole story.

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