Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Losers Win

"The Damnificados,” by JJ Amaworo Wilson, 2016

The damned have come to life.  Led by an imp cripple who speaks five languages and his daring brother who speaks one.  2000 squatters in the sky, scraping 60 stories.  Occupying an abandoned tower, so-called 'private property.'  Guarded by the Chinaman, a Japanese sumo son.  All standing against the Torres terrorists who breathe all the sins of capital – military, political and economic.  Living in a land of many languages and cultures, not just one. Our world.  To hell with your ‘sense of place.’
The Real Tower of David in Caracas
Sky above them, garbage below.  Rottweiler Avenue or Boondoggle Street.  Humor in the street names of ghettos and shanty-towns and favelas and garbage villas, bursting full of peddlers and children.  The working poor in a ruined world – dystopic broken factories, empty zoos, toxic buildings.  Surrounded by wastelands of emptiness riven by train tracks and road warrior ruts. 

A pack of heroic wolves, warning rats and a giant sinkhole save the day.  Assassination fails.  Nature results in dead soldiers - a rare result.  The people’s utopia survives in a way.  It is the end of this trash war. 

Dostoevsky’s damned, Babel’s Tower, the Two-Headed gorgon, Slum-Dog Millionaire, the stone heads of Easter Island, David & Goliath, The Flood and the tall Ark, Gilgamesh, Golgotha  – all resonate.  Magical realism, but better than magic, better than Marquez.  An abandoned skyscraper, maybe in Caracas, Venezuela, but perhaps in every other city in the world.  The homeless make this their home. 

A great book, with flaws.  It reflects the outlook of a world citizen.  Wilson was born in Germany, having a Nigerian mother, an English father, grew up in the UK.  Lived in Egypt, Columbia, Lesotho, Italy and the U.S.

The damnificados are useless as a military force.  Civilians with brooms and outdated weapons, afraid and untrained.  No match for real killers.  They have not been brain-washed that way. Would nature or animals really come to their aid, like the trees or eagles from ‘Lord of the Rings?’     Does this kind of thing really happen?  Only in magic.

Why does the cripple get healed after being dunked in the waters of the dirty (maybe Ganges) river in a miracle of religious baptism?  The religious hovers in the background, certainly.

Why do progressives write fantasies or science fiction or magic reality?  Why the remove from the present?  It is obvious that their books really relate to present society.    Do they have to aestheticize their angle?  Or make it more presently consumable.  Relatedly readable.  More lyrical and more literary.  More distant, less blunt?

After all, the real Tower of David in Caracas was partly made possible by a social movement of millions strong.

Nevertheless, a great read.  Pick it up.

Other progressive fantasy/science fiction reviewed below:  Bisson: “Fire on the Mountain,” Atwood: “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Le Guin:“The Dispossessed,”  Dick:  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Spinrad:  Raising Hell”, "Cloud Atlas," and Abbey: “Good News.”   

P.S. - the author responded to the review here: Thanks!

And I bought it at Mayday Books!
Red Frog
January 16, 2016

No comments: