Azanian Bridges is a novel by Nick Wood.
[I got this book from a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give-Away. I am not early with my review, but honest.]
Finished on: 21.9.2018
In a South Africa where Apartheid is still in full swing, Martin is a white psychologist who developed a machine that can deeply connect two people with each other. He is ready to proceed to human testing wiht his Empathy Enhancer and finds an ideal subject in black Sibusiso who was traumatized at a political rally. Sibusiso agrees and when it turns out that the machine actually works, more than one party is interested in the machine, leading to both Martin and Sibusiso finding themselves thrown into politics much deeper than they ever thought possible.
Azanian Bridges has an interesting setting and set-up but in the end, the execution was very flawed and didn’t manage to convince.
I really did like the idea of the novel – a South Africa where Apartheid is still a thing, and how this affects the various people in South Africa. The political stuff was pretty well done, but a lot of the other stuff just didn’t work the way it should have.
There were smaller things that really annoyed me. There were two formalities that I would have wished differently: one, I would have liked more translations of the Afrikaans terms used throughout. And two, I don’t know if it was a mistake with the formatting of the e-book or if it was done on purpose, but there were several times that the story takes pretty big jumps from paragraph to paragraph and it really confused me. If there had been a blank line between those paragraphs, everything would have been fine, but since the text moved seamlessly from paragraph to paragraph, those jumps really started getting on my nerves.
On a less formal note, it had been a while that I had read a book by a male author in the first place and then in this one, it was very obvious that it was written by a man with the way Wood keeps commenting on how women fill out their blouses and so on. It had me rolling my eyes. Especially since there is barely a female character who gets to say anything.
And then on a more conceptual level, I do wonder whether more or better empathy is really the way to work against racism. I mean, yeah, a part of racism is certainly that white people don’t see black people (or people of color in general) as fully human – but that’s only a very minor part of racism. Reducing things to that ignores questions of power, institutionalization and I don’t know what else. Racism is more than just a bunch of misguided individuals, it’s a systemic and systematic issue. So that conclusion to the story felt very weird to me. (But then again, in the end, the EmPods are practically inconsequential, so that was weird anyway.)
All of that meant that I couldn’t enjoy the novel as much as the premise would have promised. I wish it would have been different.
Summarizing: didn’t work for me.