Sunday, January 15, 2017

Book Review: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

Paperback, 149 pages

Published February 16th 2016 by

This is a short book but it is packed genius and invention. Pretty audacious of the author to use 1920's Brooklyn to explore racism in a Lovecraftian novella. Horror author HP Lovecraft has been the source of controversy in recent years when black authors objected to the use of his face on the world fantasy award. You see if you didn't know HP Lovecraft beloved for his genre expanding horror fiction was also a flaming racist.

While many authors write in a lovecraftian style or universe what makes the Ballad of Black Tom such an impressive book is that it explores the issue of racism of Lovecraft's time. If you are not a serious fan of Lovecraft you may not understand the levels here. Indeed I am not exactly a scholar of Lovecraft so I sure much of it goes over my head. People who think it was just his letters often forget the Horror of Red Hook and this book is like photo negative of that work.

You see Lovecraft lived in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn during this period, which he considered the worst of his life. It is my understanding that a great of his racism was expressed with most venom during this era. So here we have a novella that tells a Lovecraftian style story exploring these themes and even includes some cool noir settings and happening jazz environments.

The story of a street hustler named Charles Tester who is hired to deliver a magic tome. For a short book alot happens, and I think the only flaw is that to really get the strength of this book you have know Lovecraft. That said it is written with skill, and the voice is powerful. Second Tor novella I read this year and they were both great. I am glad they are doing these.

This novella is is but the best thing I can say about it is that it is important.

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