During the last months, I have read these four novels by Nnedi Okorafor, and they are all simply amazing. I found recommendations for Nnedi Okorafor on my ongoing search for awesome and feminist science fiction. And I have to say she is one of the best authors I have read in a long time. I enjoyed every single part of all of those four novels I read, and I will continue reading what she wrote right away, after finishing “Lagoon” yesterday and already wanting more.
Okorafor is Nigerian-American, and grew up between the US and Nigeria. In all of the fours novels I read, black women are the main characters, and the setting is somehow related to Africa. In Binti and Binti Home, the main character Binti comes from a small village in the desert, where people are dark-skinned and very traditional. They put clay on their skin, but also great with maths and technology. The Binti-books draw a picture of a very colourful and special world where the desert, rigid traditions and deep and old mythology are combined with futuristic technology and mathematical trance. A truly enchanting mix.
The Book of Phoenix tells the story of a troubled woman, Phoenix, who is genetically engineered and only slowly discovered what she is made for - to be a weapon - and what she wants to make of her life. Phoenix is incredibly strong, but also torn between different worlds and emotions, and she is violent and dangerous. Politics are complicated in her world, and genetic engineering has done much damage. This novel reads more like a thriller, but it is still so diverse and creatively written, that it is hard to put it in a specific genre.
I remember Lagoon best, because I just read it. It is set in Lagos, Nigeria, and I really want to go there now. It is about a period of change, when aliens land in the ocean close to Lagos, and about three very different people from Lagos who interact first with the aliens - a marine biologist, a soldier, and a musician. Where fire is central for Phoenix, water is the central element in Lagoon, and for the main character Adaora.
What I really enjoy about all of these novels, is that they are so colorful. There is awesome technology, people with super-powers, super-cool blurring of boundaries between humans, animals, and technology, there are a lot of female characters, there is emotion, there is action, there is death and blood and violence, there is sadness and loss and politics, but it all ends on a good note. All of her stories end hopeful. So far. They draw very different pictures of how a future of living together in a weird and transforming world could look like, and it’s never easy. It could all go terribly wrong. But in these novels, all stories show that there is hope.