Monday, May 1, 2017

Book Review: From Here to Timbuktu by Milton Davis

'Lo People,

I'm gonna school ya on why this book is important.
From Here to Timbuktu had me when I turned the page to the map of an alternate US where the original 13 colonies, NY, PA,part of VA,OH,IN,IL,MI and WI are all that's left of the United States. The southern belt with the exception of Florida and Louisiana has been amassed into a territory called Freedonia bordered another large territory called New Haiti. Texas and California and Florida have all remained in Spanish hands.
I'm saying to myself what's the story here?

I'm told it's from the sub-genre Steamfunk (Afro steampunk). What the hell is that, you say? It means there's no rayguns or automatic weapons. People still ride horses. Lots of airships are spanning continents. Long story short, this book takes place after the American Civil War and probably a decade before the 1920s. There are poisonings, bullets flying, killer mechanical cats, and ancient alien technology. By the way, all the sex happens between scenes in the minds of the readers who were looking for smut on the actual pages. (Yes, Her Tangh-i-ness was gonna go there.)

When I was a teen, I read Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H. Rider Haggard in hopes of reading about characters who looked like me doing cool stuff. If I could have gotten away with shoving Milton Davis into a wayback machine and hitting the button, I would. This. This is the stuff I should have been reading as a youngster. I was starving for it. The idea that Harriet Tubman or Fredrick Douglass could have ended up a president. The idea that ancient Black people had books at all might come as a shock to some. The idea that African peoples have had alien contact doesn't seem bandied about much either.

Best of all, as a woman, I soooo enjoy seeing women being just as badass as their male counterparts. Menna needs her own book. I figure the spirited sort of man could convince her to harness that formidable will of hers into more constructive uses. Just sayin'. Hint. Hint.

*Spoiler Alert*

Her Tangh-i-ness greatly appreciates pithy plot summaries. However, for those who must have a virgin reading experience, read no further, and eyeball elsewhere.

*Spoiler Alert End*

Remember these names:

Wagadu- a lost ancient city, a site of first contact
Famara Keita- a horro, an elite warrior
Zeke Culpepper- a church deacon, gunslinger, and bounty-hunter
Annette Bijoux- a machete-wielding singer from New Haiti
Menna- female Ihaggaren assassin, sister and rival of El Tellak for the leadership of the kel
El Tellak- the leader of the Ihaggaren Tuareg
Dolph Ericksson- Prussian Field Marshall and closet academic
Claus Reuters- the Prussian General determined to prove Dolph's obsession is a waste
Pierre LaRue- New Haitian expatriate and socialite

This novel could have been subtitled the book of the double-cross. Famara Keita has to pluck two highly coveted tomes from a Tuareg warlord and transplanted New Haitian socialite. Menna wants to wrestle the leadership of the kel from her brother El Tellak. Claus Reuters wants to prove that Dolph's obsession with the books is a waste of Prussian resources. The only character who engages in relatively little two-timing is Zeke Culpepper.

As an inveterate book hoarder, I totally get why having a plot revolve about missing ancient African books ought to be a Bestseller. Gimme my good reads!

Famara Keita strides onto the page deep in the Sahara to knife El Tellak and steal the book that El Tellak meant to turn over to Dolph Ericksson. The scene ends with Keita single-handedly taking down a Prussian airship with only a bullet to the shoulder to slow him. Calling all auteurs. Calling all auteurs. Can someone please shoot that opening action sequence like yesterday? I need t see it on a big screen. Zeke Culpepper enters next moving from passing the collection plate, to being enlisted by a Sheriff and Deputy to take down a wanted gang. Apparently, Keita and Culpepper's paths are meant to cross.

Field Marshall Dolph Ericksson fumes at the loss of the first book that the horro, Famara Keita, has stolen and plots to take the second book which had ended up in Zeke Culpepper's Freedonia. El Tellak recovers from his near death experience at Famara Keita's hands. These two men, and Menna, form the triumvirate of problems facing Famara Keita and Zeke Culpepper. Dolph Ericksson had already put the arcane knowledge found in the stolen books to work and he longs to complete the technological advantage their secrets have given. Already a scientist under his direction used the information to create clockwork cat sentries that hold a town in terror.

The second book in Freedonia brings Famara Keita in search of it. His mission is to bring it back to Timbuktu and to the oversight of the elders. Zeke Culpepper takes down his latest bounty unaware how much his own life will be changing. Menna travels Famara Keita's homeland in search of him and kiling as she goes. El Tellak concentrates on saving face amongst his own people and managing his murderous sister. Pierre LaRue hosts the bonne soirée that intended to celebrate his ownership of the Fredonian tome but nearly ends his wife's life and his own when Famara makes off with the book with Dolph and his Prussian agents hot on his heels. Zeke Culpepper answers an urgent summons from LaRue. Culpepper finds himself hired to go after the book. He's been promised a substantial for his efforts. So Zeke Culpepper joins the chase that will lead Famara Keita, Menna, Dolph Ericksson to Lorraine, France and Annette Bijoux, and then to Bavaria, and finally to Timbutku in Africa itself. Thirty gold pieces exchanged between Famara Keita and Zeke Culpepper outstrips the bounty Pierre LaRue offered. After all, LaRue made promises while Keita actually delivers solid evidence of Culpepper's best financial interest. In retrieving the Freedonian book and returning it to the African Elders, Zeke Culpepper faces a deeper calling. Somehow, I suppose we haven't seen the last of the gun-slinging church deacon.

Note: This copy of From Here to Timbuktu was an Amazon ebook purchased by the reviewer. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

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