Setting: Lagos, Nigeria
Summary: A scientist, a soldier, and a rapper lead this multi-character exploration of Lagos in the midst of first contact with aliens.
Actual summary: A social peephole into Nigerian society.
Synopsis quote/Commentary about Western politics: We can work with you people, the alien tells the people of Nigeria.
How it feels: Hyper and lampooning. Primarily dialogue-driven, with some confusing head-hopping in scenes. Might disappoint critical readers with its initial pedestrian style, but the second half of the novel drives home Okorafor’s dark and funny observations about Nigerian social sectors, civil unrest, and mob mentality.
Characters you’ll meet: Shapeshifters and crossdressers, profiteering preachers and machete-wielding youths, a crazy Christian church lady and some level-headed Muslims. Oh, and a highway that eats people. (Nigeria and Texas have a lot in common.)
Best enjoyed: The audio format is supreme, and available in the U.S. (The book will be released in the U.S. in July.) The Nigerian performers are brilliant and wonderful and SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED FOR THIS YEAR’S AUDIE AWARDS AND WERE NOT.
Unanswered question: So why do all of the main characters’ names begin with ‘A’? They ask, but did I miss the alien’s answer?
Should you read this? Yes. Yes, you should read this.
Irrelevant observation: I get excited when giant story-weaving spiders show up in books. What’s that about?
This review is part of an 8-part review series on the 2014 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel Shortlist. The winner will be announced at the BSFA ceremony at Eastercon on Sunday, April 5.
Upcoming BSFA Shortlist Review:
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Wolves by Simon Ings