Wole Talabi, Incomplete Solutions, Luna Press Publishing, 2019.
Incomplete Solutions is a collection of short stories and one novella from acclaimed writer Wole Talabi. This review will mostly examine the novella, "Incompleteness Theories", but will also briefly talk about the splendid short stories in this volume.
In "Incompleteness Theories", Professor Wale Adedeji is recruited by a rich investor, Diego Salazar, to lead a team. They are to research living matter displacement and Adedeji is keen on proving that Dr Roark, another specialist on the subject, was wrong in arguing against it. But things aren't going as well as planned.
The novella "Incompleteness Theories" explores an old theme in literature: the division, if any, of body and mind, and what makes us alive. Talabi approaches this with a very straightforward, sometimes sparse prose. But what he adds is a complex web of relationships, between the scientists in Adedeji's team, or their relationships with people outside of the team. Furthermore, like a Frankenstein, Prof. Adedeji has to deal with his own shortcomings and to face the consequences of his aspirations.
This is where the real strength of the novella lies: the answer to what the story deals with isn't as straightforward as the last words offer. It is to be read in every single page of the novella, by the examination of each choice, each interaction the characters have. The title of the novella is particularly revealing when it comes to that with the plural of "Theories".
At the same time, you can't help but wonder: is our humanity defined by something intangible that we would only understand as crucial when it is taken from us? Or is our humanity the fact that we are always missing something, always feeling incomplete, with something to prove or something to obtain?
In the end, "Incompleteness Theories" offers a lot when it comes to themes: science and profit, what makes us humans, the difficulties of interactions and relationships. Its deceptive simple prose hides a real gem.
Incomplete Solutions also boasts 19 speculative fiction short stories, well worth the price you'll pay for it. They go from a three pages story, the incredibly striking "Eye", to longer tales.
Among those, I've particularly enjoyed "The Regression Test", a Nommo award-winning story (and rightly so), that explores the theme of AIs with a twist; "The Last Lagosian" and its striking descriptions of a post-apocalyptic Lagos; "Wednesday's Story" that takes tales and story-telling and runs with them to do something entirely unexpected; "The Harmonic Resonance of Ejiro Anaborhi" that examines the ideals of unity and harmony without a naive answer.
The themes are varied but every short story has amazing prose, extremely different from the very sparse one in "Incompleteness Theories". And, in the end, all come down to the exploration of humanity, love and identity.
Incomplete Solutions is a brilliant collection that offers a feast of elegant writing and striking stories. If you're yearning for some shorter fiction at the moment, this is a must-read.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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