Bootblack • 2017 • Time travel short story by Tade Thompson

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Synopsis: Linus Carter is an African resident of Cardiff, living as a shoeshine in 1919 just after the Great War. He’s a mentally retarded young man, depending on his parents. 

The story hears his police testimony, signed with his thumbprint on each page, of what he knows about “the fighting and the shining man”. 

The first refers to the mostly unknown but historical 1919 South Wales race riots, the second the fictional meeting with a time traveller. 

Review: I really liked the author’s novel “Rosewater” and looked forward reading this short story. 

The narrator’s voice felt quite authentic due to its simplistic language, the short sentences. Think of Forrest Gump, but as a PoC. 

The story played mostly with the historical background of the race riots in Cardiff. White men returning from the Great War, many with PTSD, find their jobs taken by foreign people living around the docks since the end of the 19th century. 

Riots broke out in June 1919, people were killed, injured, looted. The white aggressors were brought to court but went out far less punished than the non-white victims. 

The story itself didn’t do much for me, especially the time travel part. But the journey through wikipedia was a lot of fun. I never heard of those incidents, and it is very interesting to learn that such race riots against PoC not only happened in modern day U.S. but also in the aftermath of the Great War in the United Kingdom.  

Meta: isfdb. Available online at Expanded Horizons (though the page seems to be down). I’ve read it it in the anthology Best of World SF.

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4 Responses to Bootblack • 2017 • Time travel short story by Tade Thompson

  1. I just love it when a story compels me to learn something new: the process is just as fun as reading imaginary tales… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cathepsut says:

    Rosewater is on my TBR shelf…


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