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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Black Cell by Wendy Shaia is a work of speculative literary fiction set in the very near future and against an urban backdrop of a US presidential election. The Republican candidate, Reginald Sumter, and his band of devoted followers called The Alt are on the rise. They are no longer even pretending that their motives and agenda aren't rooted in white supremacy and the further subjugation of people of color. A Black president sits in the Oval Office and The Alt is having none of that. Meanwhile, an underground wave of serious, committed resistance is swelling in numbers, training, and dedication. Among these numbers are Shaia's main characters, and the separate paths of each that converge with the journey to a single cause: Black liberation, without compromise, once and for all.
The Black Cell is an extraordinary piece of work that deftly balances the storylines of its characters, which are fleshed out with a depth that makes them feel wholly authentic, and a plot that intrigues, with just the right amount of tension to keep the pages turning. Wendy Shaia has all the bases covered with the precise structure of the Black liberation movements. Their reach is highlighted through a carefully constructed group of cells that are further broken down in multiple ways. From the infiltration and integration of “Toms” or “Thomasina's”, to Invisibles, surveillance, intelligence, and financial networks, to the mobilizing of counter combatants to tear down Alt militias. The writing itself is brilliant and Shaia's skilled hand as an author and storyteller is on powerful display. I am enamored by the work, the message, and the book overall and would give it a whole bucket full of stars if I could. Very, very highly recommended.