In Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has written a powerful and important and strange and beautiful collection of stories meant to be read right now ... Friday Black is an unbelievable debut, one that announces a new and necessary American voice. This is a dystopian story collection as full of violence as it is of heart. To achieve such an honest pairing of gore with tenderness is no small feat ... In Friday Black, the dystopian future Adjei-Brenyah depicts — like all great dystopian fiction — is bleakly futuristic only on its surface. At its center, each story — sharp as a knife — points to right now.
No comparison can convey a book's intellectual heft, and Friday Black is as intellectually hefty as fiction can get ... Adjei-Brenyah has some serious powers himself. The energy in his fiction is wild, barely controllable yet perfectly controlled ... Adjei-Brenyah fits big emotion, big action, and big thought into each story.
Adjei-Brenyah possesses a dark wit, the ability to take a fanciful notion and make it comically, nightmarishly literal ... The stories generally succeed in their fantastical set-ups. They sometimes fail in their details ... Despite the occasional stylistic hiccup, this high-concept and morally rich collection is discomfiting and moving, savage in its social critique yet generous towards its characters. It ends with a lovely, tempered note of hope... The stories that Adjei-Brenyah tells are terrifying. But, in our reading them, at least we’re not alone.
... a surreal, startling debut collection of short stories ... Throughout, these uncanny tales – recognisable but unsettling, like nightmares or secrets you dare not share – draw on real events, such as the mass murder of children. They are rooted in soil where reality is already dialled up to 11: this is America, after all ... Composed with brio and rare imaginative power, Friday Black recaptures the strange fear and excitement we first feel as child readers, when we begin to learn that Grimms’ fairytales are approximations of the real world.
These stories magnify what it means to be black in America—wherein your very presence can be deemed threatening, and therefore worthy of capital punishment—through a satirical, uncanny lens, reflecting back just how absurd and dehumanizing our reality is. They force us to reckon with our country’s toxic racism and consumerism while being compulsively readable and somehow even funny. Adjei-Brenyah pulls this off partly through his characters ... Adjei-Brenyah’s sharp prose keeps [one short story] sinewy and darkly humorous while simultaneously allowing for flashes of tenderness ... America might be dehumanizing, Adjei-Brenyah seems to say, but we can still be human.
But while Friday Black is unforgiving in its depictions of a racist country, a rigged economy, and the eerily recognizable dystopias that might replace them, it is equally unwavering in its moral optimism ... Adjei-Brenyah’s stories tell the truth ... Adjei-Brenyah is such a virtuoso at curating telling details; those powers are on display the most in these stories ... Friday Black is written with force, Ajdei-Brenyah’s language sharpened into tiny blades that cut deep and fast, down to the soft insides that, he urges us to remember, are still there.
With Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah draws a connective thread through a collection of bleak and absurd short stories set in a satirical reality based on a socially and economically collapsing America ... Each of Adjei-Brenya’s characters deals with the numbness that comes after the shock of death wears off—and the pain that arises when that shock doesn’t fade. This is a difficult read and a twisting meditation on a world where love’s gone missing.
Adjei-Brenyah’s dozen stories are disturbingly spectacular, made even more so for what he does with magnifying and exposing the truth. At first read, the collection might register as speculative fiction, but current headlines unmasking racism, injustice, consumerism, and senseless violence prove to be clear inspirations ... Ominous and threatening, Adjei-Brenyah’s debut is a resonating wake-up call to redefine and reclaim what remains of our humanity.
In 'Zimmer Land,' a core story in this edgy, much-anticipated debut...patrons at a specially designed theme park can get the visceral thrill of standing up to perceived bad guys and often pretending to kill them...but the park is clearly a racist, consumerist venture exploiting white fears and desire for predominance, and reading it cuts to the bone. Adjei-Brenyah's stories are like that, often using scenarios stepping just beyond reality to make us understand how ugly reality is, especially as experienced by those of color ... Powerful work for a wide range of readers.
Adjei-Brenyah... executes his premises with an elegant Black Mirror-like realism, though his world-building is a bit uneven. The book drops recognizable faces — a teen drawn to activism, a retail worker drained by Black Friday’s spectacle — into worlds so strange, they couldn’t possibly resemble reality. And yet in their gnarly intensity, their polemical potency, they hit us where we live, here and now. Sometimes it takes a wild mind to speak the plainest truth.
...caustically inventive and audaciously topical ... There is anger in this collection, but also nuance, grace and a probing empathy with the breaking hearts and bemused emotions of men, women and children struggling to deal with the jolting maelstrom of postmillennial American racism ... His mordant wit, dystopian visions and keen sense of injustice aren’t just intended to shock the reader but also to provide space to contemplate myriad social traumas and their close-to-the-bone effects on people’s lives.
With his exceptional debut story collection, Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has unleashed a ferociously indignant howl against America's worst impulses ... it is the perversion of the familiar that shocks the most, because while these stories are exaggerated, they are frighteningly recognizable.
The collection is cutting from start to finish, a deep stare into the sociocultural abyss shot through with bleak humor ... Adjei-Brenyah prods at tropes and expectations to create affective and moving stories exploring, above all, the 'violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country.' It’s a haunting, unforgiving debut that pushes at genre boundaries in the service of art and criticism ... His willingness to explore ethical and emotional complexity, offering incisive portrayals and few simple answers, gives Friday Black the kind of heft I don’t see often in short fiction debuts.
Edgy humor and fierce imagery coexist in these stories with shrewd characterization and humane intelligence, inspired by volatile material sliced off the front pages. The state of race relations in post-millennial America haunts most of the stories in this debut collection. Yet Adjei-Brenyah brings to what pundits label our 'ongoing racial dialogue' a deadpan style, an acerbic perspective, and a wicked imagination that collectively upend readers’ expectations ... As alternately gaudy and bleak as such visions are, there’s more in Adjei-Brenyah’s quiver besides tough-minded satire, as exhibited in 'The Lion & the Spider,' a tender coming-of-age story cleverly framed in the context of an African fable. Corrosive dispatches from the divided heart of America.
Adjei-Brenyah dissects the dehumanizing effects of capitalism and racism in this debut collection of stingingly satirical stories ... Adjei-Brenyah has put readers on notice: his remarkable range, ingenious premises, and unflagging, momentous voice make this a first-rate collection.