Category Archives: September 2014

‘Poison Makers’ by Jimmy Olsen (September 22nd, 2014)

Reposted from LiveJournal:

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I just finished reading Jimmy Olsen’s Poison Makers, a great novel set in the seventies, revolving around South and North American political conflict, and voodoo. There are ten years between Poison Makers and Olsen’s first novel,Things in Ditches. The years have been good to him. He has matured in his style and truly reached the heights of his potential in this novel. I enjoyed Things in Ditches, but Poison Makers actually taught me about a completely different way of life, a different time, and very different struggles than my own while still keeping the characters incredibly tangible and down to earth (I felt like EJ could be my next-door neighbour or someone walking the streets of my own city). Olsen manages to take voodoo (and specifically, zombies), topics that are often joked about or over-dramatized, and bring their realities to light, challenging misconceptions while still underlining the power of belief and the power of voodoo as something to respect and properly fear. After reading this book, I respect the combination of faith and drugs that is voodoo more than I ever did before, because the power of the human mind and will is something to be in awe of (and sometimes protect oneself from).

Mr. Olsen ties the zombie/voodoo drama into conflicts between the continents of North and South America, (specifically the countries of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the United States of America, even Cuba). This book has so many levels. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share one island (Hispaniola) and yet, as EJ (who is from the Dominican side of the island) states in the book about the people in Haiti,’Their poor are starving, ours are only hungry.’ Olsen makes a point of connecting that juxtaposition with the complications of life as a South American minority living in ’70s-era United States compared to the privileged life and condescension of the Caucasian majority. The general point is that we as people underestimate and abuse one another, for power, from bitterness, with hatred. My favourite part about this book is that Jimmy Olsen spent years living in the Dominican Republic and his opinions and observations are taken from first-hand experience, which lends a credence to this book that truly ups the ante.

All in all, even though I found the ending to be a little weaker than the rest of the book, there were a few spelling/grammar errors, and I think the cover of the book needs a different design to draw in more readers (the photograph really embodies the spirit of the book, but only after I had read it did that truly sink in, and I was a little put off by the cover at first), I give this book a 5 out of 5. Mr. Olsen, I love your books. Please keep writing more!

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