Arts/ Literature, Book Review.

We Won’t Fade Into Darkness by TJ Benson: Can You Feel It? The 9ja Spirit.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We Won’t Fade Into Darkness.
Author: TJ Benson
Year: 2018
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Publisher: Parressia Books
ISBN: 978-978-55583-2-2

This book is beautiful. Yass. I know beautiful sounds cliché but not when it comes to literature. Beautiful is the word that comes to my head when I read a good book that tickles my spirit and like many great short stories, this book created a hunger in me that wants more.

We Won’t fade into darkness is a collection of a dozen + 1 speculative short stories, all set in a fictional Nigeria, where there’s a poisonous gas called Nigerium, yielded after indiscriminate exploitation of petroleum, where oxygen is a scarce commodity, where gas mask is used while having sex, where the male gender is going extinct, where African mythology meets technology, where witches and scientists exist, where the sun goes off leaving Nigeria in darkness.

In Alarinka, dead Nigerians (Ogbanjes) that lived in the past are summoned to inhabit living bodies (usually bodies of rebellious children) with the hope that the country could be salvaged through information they get from the past lives . In Life on Earth, Scientists meet Witches, Witches are used (against their will) as lab rats in the hope of an advancement in technology. Just after the earth went black, a witch and a scientist fell in love and she must do something to save their love from the hands of the government even if it meant wiping off the memories that bound them together, in Abundance of Yellow Papers, poets and poems are wiped from the country, forcing some to seek sanctuary underground where it is impossible to write poetry.

“Poets were hunted down everywhere; a menance to the society with the rebellion they inspired. Courts never listened to their pleas for mercy, their cries of innocence, or their complaints that words of love had been misunderstood for lust while the individuality they inspired people to find for themselves had been misunderstood as summons to war” .

And Bi di bang bang, my favourite story, Passion Fruit is a story set in a Nigeria where the British took over the country again after they came to interfere in the civil war that broke out in 1967, they created a state where ethnicity and tribes through some set of rules would go extinct forever. In this story was Edward, 13, a British who was born in Nigeria. In his home where he lived with his father are several Nigerians of different ethnicity forced to live with his father to be raised without a DNA of their ethnicity or history in their blood, Edward fell in love with one of the Nigerians, Ekaette which would later lead to her death. Ekaette’s brother— Hassan found one of the rebellious books that had been banned in the fields, Things Fall Apart. The Nigerians read it secretly, (Edward joined them) leaving them with a great awareness of self. This would lead to a rare type of friendship between the British son- Edward and Hassan.

“Hassan, black, concentrating on the scalp as he allowed razor blade graze up and down the auburn vegetation, Edward, white , concentrating on the mirror, amazed at how utterly similar and how utterly different they were.

I really loved this particular story, I read it twice and I plan on reading the whole book again, to fully understand the stories and relish the ones I really loved all over again. I could feel the 9ja spirit rubbed all over the stories just waiting for me and many others to breathe it in, to connect with a world that is fictional and real at the same time. Whether you are a lover of speculative fiction or not, this book has some stories that would leave you staring at the wall, marvelled at the way the pure imagination of the writer birthed a Nigeria so utterly fictional and utterly real at the same time.
If you know TJ Benson, Dakun, Help me tell him we need a novel soon, I’m speaking for all of us o because stories like Passion Fruit would make a terrific novel.

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Azeeza Adeowu

Azeeza Adeowu is the curator of The Zyzah.
She's a Blogger, Storyteller and a Ranter.
If you don't catch her reading, writing, seeing movies or listening to a podcast, you will definitely catch her fangirling or stalking beautiful people on Instagram.

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