2 out of 4 stars
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Fear Me Now by Christopher Williams is a thriller set in the 1990s in downtown Atlanta. The story opens with Crenshaw Dimes (known as Dubb Sack to his friends) celebrating his twenty-first birthday by drinking beer in the Varsity parking lot with an older friend. They are discussing Crenshaw’s mother losing her job for being accused of stealing from the company when they see some young, white Georgia Tech students acting racist. This leads to a confrontation, and the students run away in fear of the two black men. In the next few weeks, Crenshaw feels like he gets one bad turn after another and begins to spiral into depression and madness. Through interactions with different religious organizations as well as with people in the world, he realizes that all of his troubles are caused by “the white devil” who brought his people to America and cut them off from their culture and themselves. After he snaps at work and attacks a customer, his downward spiral hits rock bottom, and he begins his personal eradication of the white devil from this earth.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but it certainly was outside of any expectation I could possibly have. As the author promises, it is dark and gritty, but, for me, this dark realism came more from Crenshaw’s description of the unfair world around him than from his spiral into madness. The book evoked more emotion through a couple paragraphs of flashbacks to racist experiences he had as a child than through the rest of the story put together. The reader doesn’t have time to connect to Crenshaw on any personal level (except shared anger over slavery and racism) before he begins the descent into violence and retribution.
Another issue I experienced was that the end of the book was rushed and didn’t quite make sense. The entire ending unfolds within a few pages, and it doesn’t leave any room for further character development for Crenshaw. He experiences an event that makes him question his actions so far, but then he ends up going right back down the same road. I was confused as to why the author included that event if he was just going to show that Crenshaw wouldn’t learn anything from it. For me, this was a letdown, as I had hoped that, even though the world around him hadn’t changed, he would be changed by something so drastic happening to him.
The last major problem I found with this book was the lack of professional editing. I understand that the characters generally speak in Ebonics, a linguistic vernacular that doesn’t follow traditional grammatical rules. However, the book had issues that went beyond grammar. There was inconsistent spacing between lines and paragraphs, often leaving half a page blank even though it wasn’t the end of a chapter or section. The font size changed multiple times in the first chapter for no apparent reason. Beyond this, there were punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors in the narration, which didn’t appear purposeful.
Given the considerations above, I would rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. I chose to give it two stars instead of one because it did accomplish the goal of evoking emotion and making me think about race relations in America, so I considered it successful in this area. However, I feel that I can’t give it more than two stars due to the numerous errors and the inability for the reader to connect to the protagonist and for the protagonist to develop in response to his experiences.
I would recommend this book only to adults, as it contains some (non-explicit) sexual material and a good amount of explicit language. This would be a good read for white Americans who want to understand the African American experience better and for African Americans who would like to see their frustrations with the system written into a narrative.
Fear Me Now
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