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Okay I admit it. I’m obsessed with speculative sub-genres. We have new weird, steampunk, silk punk, grimdark and afrofuturistic literature. (And that’s far from all to list them all.) For me, this is a fascinating way to break the larger, ever-changing category of science fiction fantasy into more digestible parts. In addition, sub-genres are essential to navigating the enormous amount of speculative works that are published each year. When I came across a book with a blurb describing it as godpunk, I fell into a rabbit hole.
David Mogo, Godhunter of Suyi Davies Okungbowa
This is the book that Godpunk is featured on its blurb: “This urban fantasy godpunk novel from Nigeria continues a growing tradition of bringing the finest parts of the African fantasy to life.” I was immediately fascinated by the blurb and the outstanding construction of the world of Okungbowa’s other work, Son of the Storm, and immersed. In David Mogo, Godhunter, the title character works freelance to rid Lagos of pesky gods who have fallen from the sky. Of course, dealing with deities is always dangerous, and soon David falls into an agenda that goes way over his head. As I read it, I realized that I know a number of others who also fit into the bill, if this is godpunk – books in which mythical gods intervene directly in modern human affairs.
I have to give credit to the author James Lovegrove, a pioneer of the term who defined the genre as “books” [that give] old gods a science fiction / urban fantasy twist ”. With that in mind, here is a list of truly divine (* wink * * wink *) godpunk fiction.
The Drums of the Black God by Fr Djèlí Clark
The African Orisha and their stories of deities have traveled across oceans and through centuries. Clark sincerely and powerfully appeals to The Black God’s Drums, a novella centered around a young girl nicknamed Creeper from 1884 in New Orleans. The Orïsha Oya, a goddess who rules the wind and storms, lives in it. Creeper lives on the streets looking for meaning and greatness as the land mends itself after the civil war. Then a smuggler ship and a huge opportunity arise.
Tradition from Alexandra Bracken
This sounds like a much more intense version of Rick Riordan’s famous Percy Jackson series, a fabulous godpunk staple for kids. In this novel, the Greek gods must walk the earth every nine years as punishment for a past rebellion. And as you know, if you’ve read Greek myths, Greek gods who come to earth are never good. The protagonist Lore wants nothing to do with them but someone who left the brutal world of the gods and their problems a long time ago. But now, with Athena (yes, that Athena) by her side, there might only be one chance for revenge.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms of NK Jemisin
This one is a bit of an outlier. So this novel does not take place on earth, but contains gods who interfere in the processes of mortals. And just in this case, mortals mingle back. Yeine von Darr arrives in the floating city of Sky to regain her rightful place as heir to the throne, but finds that the people in power are playing a dangerous game there. You have enslaved several of the gods, and the gods are not happy. But they see hope in Yeine – and maybe something more?
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Storyteller Neil Gaiman brings all kinds of gods into this classic fantasy novel. There are Odin, Anansi, Anubis – a whole series of “old” gods with ancient ways but modern looks. Then there are the new gods, whom I am sure you heard about but did not exactly know were gods: media deities, conspiracy theories, and globalization. In the center is a shadow, a man who mourns the death of his wife and is persuaded to become a bodyguard for the mysterious Mr. Wednesday.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mayan gods were never the ones I got to know in school; I never understood how completely metal they are. In this novel, allow Silvia Moreno-Garcia to introduce (or reintroduce) you to Hun-Kamé. He is the Mayan god of death, and in this novel he really is passed out. After our main character Casiopea accidentally restored Hun-Kamé’s bones to a semi-living state, he asks her for help in finding the rest of his body parts. Unfortunately, his brother has ruled the underworld in Hun-Kamé’s place and does not want to give up his power. Sometimes intense and sometimes gentle, this is a true godpunk novel.