Caged Ocean Dub

Caged Ocean Dub by Dare Segun Falowo

The Tartarus Press, Paperback £15.64

Reviewed by Catherine Berridge

Caged Ocean Dub is a collection of short stories set in Nigeria which combines African cultural themes with those of contemporary speculative fiction.  The collection is split into three sections, “Hunger”, “Hauntings”, and “Heralds”, and we are introduced to spaceships, evil mirrors, dragons, witches and spirits from the underworld.  These weird stores all have the quality of mixing everyday normality with another somehow more real, nightmarish reality, which tended to leave me as I read the stories with a very uneasy feeling.  They are quite unlike anything I have ever read before.

I did not find Caged Ocean Dub an easy read.  In fact, it took me several attempts to find my way into the book.  However, I am glad that I persisted.  My task became easier when I began to approach the stories as consisting of poetry and, rather than look for a precise meaning, decided to just enjoy the flow of the language and images. 

For example, in “LSD-1842”, a man tries to save his lover from an accidental death by making a deal with the spirits in order to turn back time to save her.  In this context, we are treated to the following poetic imagery, “they were flying with a swarm of titanic babies burning blue with sorrow”.

Of the whole collection, my favourite story by far is “Biscuit and Milk”.  This is the story of the spaceship “Biscuit”, which leaves planet Earth, bound for the newly discovered planet “Milk”.   On board, there may be found a cargo of foetuses kept in suspended animation, ready to colonise the new world.  Moreover, pairs of lovers have been selected for the crew, a crew overseen by a Captain Sade as described in this evocative scene:

“Captain Sade listened to the crew members share stories of how they fell in love.  She sipped on cool water and ate an apple, watching them laid out on the soft moss because of the fullness of their bellies”.

There are many more examples of fine writing in this collection.  I would recommend this short story collection to anyone who is looking for a combination of weirdness, horror and poetry!

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