Friday Black is the acclaimed first collection of short stories by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah – we wrote about an interview with the author here. Adjei-Brenyah, born in 1991, is of Ghanaian-American descent, and in this book he reveals a deft hand for bringing together horror and social critique. The latter includes acerbic satire on American consumerism, as well as multivarious experiences of racism and its possible dystopian consequences. Adjei-Brenyah has a knack for locating the horror already existing in the everyday and drawing it to chilling yet strangely logical conclusions.
The titular “Friday Black” is a visceral take on the desperation and violence of Black Friday shopping, with more than a slight touch of the zombie genre – except that the zombies are just your average shoppers, prepared to do anything to nab at sales prices the goods they can’t afford the rest of the year. The narrator’s wry voice relates with pride his skill in wrangling the shopper-zombies, as the corpses, casualties of Black Friday, pile up.
“Zimmer Land” is another conceptually strong story in the collection. It feels like an episode of Black Mirror, portraying a VR game that allows users to play out fantasies of racist violence, while feeling morally vindicated as the game is marketed as permitting them to mete out ‘justice’. “The Finkelstein 5”, arguably the collection’s strongest story, registers its critique in the same mode in that it astutely brings together genre horror with the everyday horrors of racism. In this way, for me it brough to mind Jordan Peele’s excellent film of 2017, Get Out. If you liked that movie, chances are you’ll enjoy Adjei-Brenyah’s collection. Though discomfiting in many ways – and maybe that’s precisely the point – the splicing of horror and different permutations of racism articulates how chilling much of what counts as normal in race relations in fact is.
As a whole, the collection might be critiqued for being a bit uneven: all its stories are not equally strong. But its best stories have a powerful bite and are very well-written. Anyone who enjoys the marriage of the horrifying aspects of everyday racism with gore and dystopian fiction is bound to be a fan
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