Published by Tor.com on February 16th 2016
People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there.
Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.
A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?
I read The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle was one of the books I read during the Ready Player Read(athon) for the horror prompt. I don’t read a lot of horror but I had this one on my digital shelf and it was pretty short, so I gave it a go. And I’m glad I did.
I’m not well-versed in the world of horror so my knowledge of all the creepy creatures, the tropes, the ideas, I’m not familiar with any of them. Most of them. I know the big names and Cthulhu is also something I heard about before. Cosmic horror, the subgenre for all things Cthulhu related, is completely new to me. But I love it. Most of the horror-ish stuff that I’ve read are more paranormal/occult, so this was a nice side step.
Black Tom is an interesting character and I enjoyed his character arc. It’s hard being a black man in 1920s New York and the author doesn’t shy away from the social issues. I love how it neatly weaves into the darker story that draws Tom in.
I give The Ballad of Black Tom four stars. It’s an enjoyable short horror book that’ll keep you turning the page. The only thing I missed was the feeling of dread that I’ve experienced while reading other books. Maybe it was my mood at the time of reading. I’m not sure. But I’d still recommend it to anyone who likes cosmic horror but doesn’t want to read Lovecraft.