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MIND MELD MAKEUP: Nnedi Okorafor on the Horror Novel That Kept Her Awake at Night

As a reminder, last week’s Mind Meld asked the following question:

Q: What was the last horror novel that kept you awake at night?

Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor’s novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel), Akata Witch (an Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her short story collection Kabu Kabu was released last month and her science fiction novel Lagoon is scheduled for release in 2014. Nnedi is a creative writing professor at Chicago State.

A month and a half ago, I read a horror novel for the first time in probably over two decades. I’m a big scaredy cat. Therefore, though I grew up loving scary novels, by the time I got to college, I no longer had the luxury of reading them and suffering the weeks of sleepless nights.

I stumbled across This Book Is Full of Spiders on Goodreads. I’m terrified of spiders, so the title caught my attention. Curious, I downloaded a sample onto my Kindle. It was written in a conversational, snarky first person with random nonsense and humor akin to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a novel that I absolutely love). By the time I finished the sample of This Book Is Full of Spider, I was hooked.

It’s a fun novel about two guys who live in a town (called “Undisclosed” in the book) known for its strange happenings—like a wormhole in a shopping mall closet that leads to a Mexican restaurant…sometimes, shadow men and zombies. John and Dave can see and experience these things because they’d taken some drug called “the sauce.” The plot begins when nasty spider creatures that only John and Dave can see start to zombify people. I hate zombies (I don’t like watching films with them, reading stories about them, or seeing them walk down my neighborhood street), so this book is as close to a zombie novel that I will read. Not surprisingly, though the book wasn’t exceptionally scary, I got scared…and grossed out. But it was fun and funny.

It turned out that This Book Is Full of Spiders was Part Two in a series called John Dies in the End (and there’s even a movie!) but I didn’t have to read Part One to understand Part Two. I’ve now read Part One and Part Two is far better written.

The only down side to both of these novels is that they are rife with unnecessary racial comments and I couldn’t tell if these comments were written into the plot intentionally or a result of the writer’s own issues with people of color (especially black people). Every time it happened, it pissed me off and I don’t see why I should be made to feel that way just because I’m reading while black. And, seriously, did Dave and John really have to originally obtain “the sauce” from some Magical “Rasta” Negro? Come on. If you don’t know what a Magical Negro is, see my essay on them here.

About James Aquilone (115 Articles)
James Aquilone is an editor and writer, mostly of the speculative ilk, from Staten Island, New York. His fiction has appeared in Nature’s Futures, Galaxy’s Edge, Flash Fiction Online, and Weird Tales Magazine, among many other publications. His nonfiction has appeared in SF Signal, Den of Geek, Shock Totem, and Hellnotes. He is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. Visit him at
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