Review: Okorafor’s Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death
Nnedi Okorafor

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for most of my life. I devoured William Gibson in my teens, got deep into new wave in my twenties, and learned the classics in my thirties. I’m not an expert in the genre, by any means, but I’m also reasonably well read.

Lately, something interesting has been happening, not only have we seen an explosion in the popularity of writers of color (and women of color specifically) but I think we’re seeing more and more books like this one, set an place uncommon in science fiction (Africa) and dealing with an uncommon set of genre tropes (here, both high tech gadgets and magic).

This a book about a girl with magical powers and a high tech gadget who uses both and more to fight a dictator in post-apocalyptic Africa. Is this SF? Is it Fantasy? Is it something in-between? Who cares. Its well written, its challenging in its ideas about the future, and it puts front and center voices too rarely heard in SF and its worth a read. But and still, this isn’t a perfect work. The writing is strong, and the plot moves, but I found some of it a the story a bit over done. This is often a criticism I have – I like my poetic touches very light—so other opinions might vary.

If current trends in science fiction is your thing, then this is worth a read. Something is happening here, its worth paying attention to.

Recommended for the enthusiast.