The Ballad of Black Tom


I have a confession. I'm one of those people who browses the shelves at the bookstore, snaps photos of books that look interesting, then goes home and buys them on Amazon. Can you blame me? I read almost 100% on a Kindle. Bookstores don't sell e-books and online discovery sucks! (Hence my reason for writing these honest reviews -- in my experience, the best recommendations are from your friends.)

But what am I to do? Well, I made a suggestion (Medium). Hopefully some bookstores will pick up on this trend and get on board.

At any rate, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle jumped out at me as I perused the shelves. I saw the title, and I saw the cover, and I knew I had to read it. So I snapped a photo and went home and ordered it on Amazon. (Get with the times, bookstores.)

I read it in 2 days. It's not a long book, but neither is it short. It's just right. The tone of the story is very matter of fact, very much like the author is telling me the story himself. I didn't need to look in the cover to realize this was by an author of color. Tommy is a Negro, and the perspective was authentic enough that I just knew.

The story is weird and strange, but in a fantastical way. I'm still working through it all in my head. That's one reason why I love reading books by authors of color. They bring a whole new perspective to the words "fantasy" and "sci-fi" than I do. It's a completely different kind of fantasy than I'm used to. They recognize racism in elements that I've never noticed. LaValle, for example, recognizes the racism present in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu stories. This is his answer.

I'm rambling now, and I don't want to ruin the story, so I'll end this here. But let me be clear: this is a fantastic book. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy.

Pick it up. Read it. Tell your friends. Black Tom has some interesting things to tell you.