Friday, May 11, 2018

The Examination Cloth, by Jonathan Edelstein

★★★★☆ Interesting character in a cool setting

(African Alternate Historical Fantasy) In an alternate 19th-century Nigeria, Ukeme aspires to pass the examination that might be the first step to lifting him from his humble village to a job in the capital. Assuming he doesn’t get disqualified first. (2,235 words; Time: 07m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 251, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Ukeme faces a test of his character when he accidentally releases the answers hidden in the exam tapestry. Through his answer to the last question and the way he weaves it back into the tapestry, he reveals to the wise women who grade the exams that he was able to unlock the tapestry, that he has a mastery of weaving most men do not (plus the story he chooses is itself a strong hint).

We never know if his strategy worked or not, but he was true to himself and finished the exam with his honor intact, and that’s what really mattered.

The story seems to take place in a fantasy version of the Oyo Empire, a Yoruba empire in what’s now Nigeria. From bits of info in the story (the story is full of Yoruba terms), this seems to be taking place around 1800 AD in a world where magic works and where the Empire (calling itself “Osun” not “Oyo”) won its war with Benin in 1600. It’s not clear if this is meant to be the Nigerian equivalent of Steampunk, but it would fit in the same time frame.

All in all, a very cool setting. Hopefully there will be more stories in this universe.

Con: It gives us just a little taste of this character and this world, leaving us hungry for more. Due to its extremely tight focus, there is no dialogue (for there are no other characters).

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 251)
Jonathan Edelstein Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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