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review 2017-09-30 07:31
Binti is 16 and running off to university
Binti - Nnedi Okorafor

Not my cup of tea. Reading this for Diverse Voices square for Halloween Bingo.

 

This is a short book. 

 

First quarter of the book is Binti internal dialogue on leving home for the firat time.

 

The only way the readers know it is a sci-fi book is that he run away in a flying shuttle and landed in a spaceship.

 

Then things moved quickly. There is an attack on the ship. Everyone died except for Binti and the pilot. 

 

Things got more interesting after that.

 

Things that bugged me about this book.

 

Binti prayed. If humans could travel and then moved to another planet and still has this nasty habit of praying to an imagery god, I would be very disappointed. 

 

Also, the negotiating peace just need translation is a bit strange. No one asked why so many students were killed. 

 

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review 2017-09-22 20:47
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death) - Nnedi Okorafor

This short, futuristic novel is essentially a power/revenge fantasy focused on the exploitation of people of African descent, especially in medical research. (Calling it a power fantasy isn’t necessarily a criticism; much of sci-fi and fantasy consists of power fantasies for white male nerds, so it seems only fair for others to get a cut of the action.) Despite a compelling start and socially relevant themes, however, this one flopped for me.

Phoenix lives in a future America in which powerful corporations perform medical experimentation on people, mostly black, who live locked up in mysterious Towers. She knows nothing else and is content until something awful happens to her best friend and love interest, at which point she starts to rebel and discovers the powers with which she was endowed. This is a prequel to a post-apocalyptic fantasy tale and has a frame story, so it’s no secret that somewhere along the way the world as we know it is destroyed, and most readers will guess how; nevertheless, this is your warning that this review will contain SPOILERS.

Okorafor sets the stage well, with an oppressive dystopian setting and a young protagonist struggling to make sense of it and survive. The first third of the book makes for compelling reading, with a fast-paced story full of danger set in a believable world. But as in the companion book, Who Fears Death, the protagonist becomes too powerful, leaching the story of dramatic tension. Once Phoenix learns that she can fly for days on end, die and regenerate as many times as necessary, and move through time and space in an instant and apparently without limit, the story no longer presents obstacles that really challenge her. She attacks one of the Towers alone and without planning and succeeds, so the long stretch toward the end spent preparing to attack another with a group seems unnecessary and anticlimactic (though from a narrative perspective, it allows some down time and for Phoenix to bond more with other characters).

The end also proved unsatisfying. Phoenix suddenly decides the world is irredeemable and that the goddess Ani – who, mind you, does not appear in the book – wants her to destroy it. This decision made little sense to me: after all, her lover is alive and needs rescuing, and while she did just discover that several powerful and corrupt men have used the Towers’ research to extend their lives indefinitely, there’s nothing stopping her from hunting them down individually. The connection to the writing of the Great Book and the world of Who Fears Death also seems strained, though I enjoyed the chapters of the frame story as an independent short story.

Meanwhile, the characterization is fairly simplistic; reviewers who have interpreted this as intentional due to Phoenix’s chronological age may well be correct, but I have my doubts, as the book portrays Phoenix as an adult woman in her intellectual capacity and ability to form relationships. Likewise, the writing style is simple and sometimes staccato, which suits the dystopian setting fine. The world has texture and is a conceivable outgrowth of our world, an important but often-overlooked element of a good dystopia. On the other hand, some details seem under-researched: the bizarre chapter in which, despite the secrecy in which these projects are shrouded, the only records of ongoing medical experiments turn out to be catalogued and housed in hard copy in the Library of Congress (which apparently will switch to Dewey Decimal in the future?) available for browsing by anyone with ID, has been thoroughly dissected in other reviews.

Overall, while this book has some interesting ideas, their execution proved to be a letdown. Not having thought much of Who Fears Death either, I’m ready to conclude that Okorafor’s work is not for me.

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review 2017-09-18 17:07
Akata Witch / Nnedi Okorafor
Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

 

Read to fill the “Diverse Voices” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

The Nigerian version of Harry Potter, with an albino Nigerian-American girl as the star. Sunny really only wants to be able to play football and attend school without being bullied, but her family has a legacy of magic that no one talks about and which is going to take her life in unexpected direction. Her talent is recognized by the friend of a friend and soon Sunny is being coached in juju, taken to the magical city of the Leopard People, and dealing with some very serious magical situations. Fortunately, she has her own coven of friends to aid and abet her in her adventures.

Here, there are leopards and lambs, rather than magicians and muggles, there is football rather than quidditch, but there is also a whole window into West African life and mythology that will be unfamiliar to many North American readers. Nnedi Okorafor is in the perfect position to open this window for us, being born in the United States with Nigerian immigrant parents. With feet in both worlds, she is able to weave a tale understandable to both sides of the divide.

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text 2017-09-15 21:35
Weekend Reading
Grendel - John Gardner
Misery - Stephen King
Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor
Nine Coaches Waiting (Rediscovered Classics) - Sandra Brown,Mary Stewart

The weather has cooled down here in Calgary considerably.  I haven't any big plans for the weekend, so I hope to do some baking and read some Halloween Bingo books.

 

I've read part of both Grendel and Misery, so I just want to finish them up.  Akata Witch is the next book due at the library (with holds so I can't renew).  And I think that Nine Coaches Waiting will be an excellent Friday evening book.

 

Happy weekend, everyone!!

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text 2017-07-17 16:49
George R.R. Martin talks about the pilot - and I talk about Readercon in general
Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor

And touches upon Song of Ice and Fire.

 

More to the point: he clarifies his part, that he won't be writing scripts for the foreseeable future, and as a side, he posts a picture of the author, Nnedi Okofaror. 

 

 

Nnedi, by the way, is beautiful according to one poster.   And I just want to say, she's stunning inside and out: generous with her time, appreciative of all her fans, and to top it off, we got to chat about Transformers a bit while she signed my books. 

 

Confident, outspoken about issues important to her (victims telling their own stories and hearing it from their voice came back a couple times, and is obviously something she cares deeply about), intelligent, funny, kind.   I could go on and on.   I know I always say it, but Readercon gets the best authors on their panels and as their guests of honor.   I was talking to Neil Clarke when I bought some of his back issues and he agreed when I said how much I love everyone there: there's just something special about this con. 

 

And because I can't pretend it's perfect: I am aware it's had its problems, and I'm unhappy with how they originally dealt with one specific issue.   I am happy with how it was dealt with eventually, and that ever since they've been very, very careful about being safe.  I have not had, or seen, problems myself, but I hate when people use this as 'well, it didn't happen then, right?'   I believe the victims, I hate what happened, I hate the first result, and I respect their choice to stay away.   (I probably wouldn't be comfortable coming back either.  I have the luxury of being comfortable because I wasn't there when it happened.)

 

I hope Readercon keeps that specialness for me, and for enough people, that we can continue to make it better.   Readercon, by the way, has been trying to get more diverse stories in.   They had at least one all woman and LGBTQ press - Steve Berman, who I love runs the latter, Lethe Press.   I know about Broad Universe because I fell in love with LJ Cohen's AI series after buying a book or two at her signing.   

 

They've had at least two black guests of honor - Halo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor, both women, too - and two women guest of honor this year.   They've had more panels about race, sexuality, and Otherness, including some specifically on disabilities - I went to one where there was a writer who was both blind and deaf, and she had an hour long block to talk about how she wrote and how her disabilities played into that, although I had a conflict that hour so didn't go.  (They try, as far as I can see, to have women on panels that deal with gender issues, LGBTQ authors on panels that deal with sexuality, and writers of different races on panels that deal with race.)

 

I have more to say about Nnedi herself, but that deserves a post of it's own.  I'll just say this: I own this book signed.   Aw, yeah.

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