Friday, April 25, 2008

Future X by Kent Smith

At NoirCon, I was lucky enough to see Gary Phillips discuss the works of Donald Goines, author of Dopefiend, Whoreson, et cetera. At one point there was discussion about the publisher that carried Goines's work, Holloway House Publishing Company. They also were famous for carrying the prose of Iceberg Slim (Pimp, Trick Baby, etc). Phillips discussed some of the other Holloway titles and mentioned Kent Smith's Future X. When he described the story, I knew I'd have to find this book and quick.

Future XThe year is 2073. The United States has been divided with parcels of land given to African Americans. These are institutionalized ghettos, surrounded by walls, guarded, and monitored heavily by police (called "Bruisers" for their love of inflicting pain). The story follows two men living in New Watts: Ashford and Zeke. Ashford is a radical actor who presents street plays based on outlawed books such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X (his great, great grandfather). Zeke works for The Man by day (for which he gets a pass outside of the city) while running a cell of Black Radicals by night.

It's only a matter of time until the two men's paths cross. As it is, the whole book becomes "a matter of time." From the opening scene which sets up a device used by law enforcement to reverse time after a crime has occurred (where the criminal would be arrested for something they intend to do), author Kent Smith introduces a science fiction element which sounds like it might rival the "pre-crime" scenario of Philip K. Dick's "Minority Report." When Ashford and Zeke team up, they decide to hijack the time travel device and use it for resetting history, going back to 1964 and encouraging Malcolm X to initiate a Black Revolution.

When Ashford finally sees his ancestor, it's the moment when Malcolm X is stabbed in an airport bathroom. Scared out of his wits, Ashleigh pulls off the greatest performance of his life, taking over the life of X. Black Power meets the Space Time Continuum in this insightful take which draws upon Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. Future X also strongly recalls Michael Moorcock's sci-fi classic, Behold the Man, in which a time traveler assumes the life of Jesus of Nazareth, bowing to a fate which seems predestined.

Holloway was a notoriously cheap publisher. It's obvious that they didn't spend much (if anything) on proofreading Smith's work. It's dotted with typos, occasional homonym abuse (perfectly understandable), and an occasional misspelling ("looser" rather than "loser"). Luckily, these are easy to overlook due to the story being so compelling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Peace and I am trying to find
Kent Smith.
We need to write another book
like fast.
My email is

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