The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus. ★★★1/2
In these stories, Maurice Broaddus speaks with the voices of martyrs – past, present, and future. The anthology is divided accordingly into these sections. All or almost all of these stories involve some fantasy or science fiction element. Personally, I found I liked the future stories the best.
The collection begins with “Warrior of the Sunrise Rite of Passage,” the tale of a woman warrior in a long ago Africa, battling strange and ferocious monsters. From there, the collection moves to areas of the past that are more easily pinpointed in history books. “Rite of Passage” tells of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In “Ah Been Buked,” a young woman survives slavery in the American South. “A Solider’s Story” is narrated by a vampire who witnesses the unspeakable destruction of a town’s black community. And in “Shadow Boxing” an up and coming boxer fights against segregation. I’m not one hundred percent sure if “Rite of Passage” and “Shadow Boxing” had speculative elements, but they’re the outliers in that regard.
Some of the present stories also deal with racial justice, such as the prison industrial complex in “The Ave.” But this section also offers tales with many other focuses, such as a disintegrating marriage and a family curse in “Read Me Up.” “Cerulean Memories” deals with moving on from the deaths of loved ones. “The Volunteer” was perhaps the most confusing story in this collection – it’s clearly some form of alternate history but it took a while for me to understand the vampire elements. It didn’t help that part of it randomly appeared during another story, although this was likely a formatting error with my ARC. My favorite of this section was “Family Business,” where an American man travels to visit family in Jamaica and uncovers his own magical lineage.
As I’ve already said, the future section contained most of my favorite stories. “The Electric Spanking of War Babies” is perhaps the strangest story in the collection, and it’s delightful in its weirdness. I loved the creativity of the dystopic steampunk setting of “Pimp My Airship” and would definitely read any other stories set in this alternate history. I wish there were more! Likewise, I would totally read a novel set in the future of the last two stories, “The Valkyrie” and “The Voices of Martyrs.” These stories both center on The Order of Service, a cult like form of Christianity that is focused on dominating Earth and the planets beyond. “The Valkyrie” focuses on one of their soldiers, in the never ending battles waged on Earth’s surface. In “The Voices of Martyrs,” Broaddus explores colonialism and first contact stories.
The chronological ordering of the stories was interesting, but I think it led to the strongest stories coming near the end of the book instead of being more regularly spaced out. Oh, well. I’m just glad I stuck around for the end!
I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.