I was excited for Slay from the moment I heard about it, and it did not disappoint.
Kiera is a high school student dreaming of life at university and her further with boyfriend Malcolm. Kiera lives with her strong, politically aware younger sister who doesn’t mind a verbal joust. Kiera’s parents are very successful at work and run a tight ship at home, with her mother in particular not allowing slang like “ain’t” in her house.
While Kiera loves her family, her boyfriend and her best friend Harper (who is white and asks Kiera in the opening scene if it is “okay” for her to get dreadlocks) Kiera needs a place where she can just relax and be herself.
Which she has. Because she built it. Kiera is also the programmer of the virtual reality game Slay, and she also maintains the online community with the assistance of her fellow moderator, Cicada.
Slay is a Black only space, giving Kiera and her half a million players s a place to be themselves without being subjected to the white gaze and othering behaviours that they receive in real life every day.
Everything is perfect until there is a murder in the real world associated with Slay. Kiera is devastated and doesn’t know what to do or who to turn to. No one in her life knows her secret and she feels that her parents and Malcolm would react badly, for very different reasons. Kiera has to figure out how to protect her community from people who want to tear it -and her – down.
I really enjoyed the celebration of Black cultures in Slay and the discussion of problems between the Black and white communities. Kiera is such a great humble character, she hasn’t recognised that the thing she has built is incredibly diverse – celebrating Black culture the world over and welcoming for all the people excluded and demoralised by the white colonisers.
I also loved Kiera’s sister Steph. She is such a kick arse character, she takes no nonsense from anyone, including her parents or Malcolm.
The VR world in Slay sounds absolutely amazing with great gameplay and rich visuals. I loved the gaming cards celebrating many and varied aspects of Black culture, from Satchmo to That One Auntie’s Potato Salad.
Morris really shows how difficult it is to be a Black person in a white space all of the time, as well as the pressures from parts of the Black community to represent yourself in particular ways. Slay is also just a good ripping yarn – I definitely stayed up past my bedtime to finish it.
Do yourself a favour and get your hands on it.