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Reading the Bones: Dark Matter    by Sheree R. Thomas order for
Reading the Bones
by Sheree R. Thomas
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, the follow-up to Thomas's award winning Dark Matter, showcases fantasy and SF short stories, as well as three essays by established and emerging black writers. It includes older tales that saw print as far back as the early 1900s. Contributors range from Tananarive Due and W. E. B. Du Bois to Charles Johnson and veteran SF author Samuel R. Delaney.

Here are a few that I truly enjoyed. Yahimba's Choice by Charles R. Saunders, set in an almost mystical past, introduces a terrified young girl trying to escape the female initiation rite of 'akpema' (or as the editor subtly puts it in her foreword, 'female modification'). Yahimba is championed by a female warrior (along with her loyal war bull), who helps her stand her ground and question an ancient ritual - unfortunately one that is still widely practiced today. Then there's Nalo Hopkinson's deliciously dark Glass Bottle Trick, a modern little tale that lulls you along to a shocking conclusion. Most memorable is The Quality of Sand by newcomer Cherene Sherrard. Hers is a beautifully told piece of speculative fiction that moves between a pirate ship and an island hideaway. There we meet a woman who rescues slaves bound for the Americas, and her captain Jamal, a centuries-old jinni who has become tired of his current existence.

These three are my personal choices. Anyone interested in a new collection of diverse speculative fiction that focuses on African American themes, fables and legends, will most certainly come away with favorites of their own. Dark Matter: Reading the Bones is a worthwhile investment of your time.

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