92. WHO FEARS DEATH, BY NNEDI OKORAFOR
Recommended by Nina. Not my first Nnedi Okorafor book, I’ve previously read Zahrah the Windseeker. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this one as much... I do appreciate the recommendation, though.
Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the dominant religion follows the Great Book. It says the Okeke are a decrepit and evil race, and the Nuru are the chosen people; they have a divine duty to enslave and exterminate all the Okeke. Onyesonwu is the result of a Nuru man raping her Okeke mother, and her sand-colored eyes and skin proclaim it for anyone who looks at her. Soon she discovers she has powers beyond her understanding, and a fate that will change the whole world.
Overall enjoyment: I can’t even say what, exactly, was it that I didn’t like about it. I’m tending towards saying it was her writing style, but I know it wasn’t that. Or, it wasn’t just that. The whole book felt very rushed and poorly developed, as if she was making it up as she went along. Things are very sudden and disconnected. And the writing style didn’t help, either...
Plot: There is a very clear plot: Onye wants to be accepted, kind of manages it, discovers she has powers, wants to be trained, succeeds, discovers she has a destiny, goes out on a quest to fulfill it. It is not a bad plot, it’s better than many, but, like I said, it’s a bit disconnected. There isn’t a fluid transition from one objective to the next, it’s almost like episodes happening one after the other.
Characters: They are well-developed enough, I suppose. I really didn’t like Mwita, but that wasn’t because we was a badly-written character.
World/setting: I did like it. Maybe a map would have made things clearer, but I’m still very attracted to the idea of a post-apocalyptic Africa. I believe, from what she says, that it’s more specifically a post-apocalyptic Congo, she doesn’t roam the entire African continent. Still, I didn’t really get the idea that it was that much post-apocalyptic... I admit my ignorance, I don’t know what Congo is supposed to look like right now, but Onye is very rarely confronted with signs of civilization after it’s been destructed. Except for one scene or two, the story could have been set in a more ancient Africa (or Congo), when there weren’t cities.
Writing style: This was the other thing that bothered me. It doesn’t flow. It doesn’t feel like a text, it feels like a bunch of phrases put together. It’s not always like this, there are parts that flow together, but they end up feeling like separate episodes instead of parts of a bigger story.
Representation: It is a metaphor for racial oppression, so this representation is very adequate.
Political correctness: It’s hard to say. I think another problem I had with this book is that it tries to do too much and ends up getting lost in the middle. Onye is supposed to be strong and liberated, but the way Mwita treats her is disgusting, and she sees nothing wrong with that. The girls are castrated, but then Onye magically makes their clitorises grow back (while being horrified with the very idea of touching their vulvae). She tries to discuss race, skin color, and oppression based on it, but apparently her solution to it is to kill everyone on both sides. (Well, all the men. And make all the women pregnant. As if those women wouldn’t teach their children the same values they were taught before. Go figure.) It’s very messy and confusing, and a bit preachy.
Up next: The Salt Roads, by Nalo Hopkinson