The Book of Phoenix – By Nnedi Okorafor

Hey Jared,

Great to see you finally getting words on a page. Your reply on the Ranger’s Apprentice really points out that it needs a review of the entire series as a whole. We’ll need to figure out a good way to do that….I might have some ideas but I’ll need to get them sorted.

Anyway, I read this little book in a day. It was a good read and a pleasure to dig into.

The-Book-of-PhoenixTitle: The Book of Phoenix
Series: N/A (Prequel to “Who Fears Death”)
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Audience: Adult
ROTS Setting: CU/EU, Near Future, Apocalyptic
Synopsis: Phoenix is only 2 years old, but in the body of a 40 year old woman. If only that was the strangest thing about her or her fellow “projects.” When events begin to spin rapidly out of control, Phoenix must choose to remain as she is or spread her wings and fly. Her decision will either let the world march to inevitable destruction or set it on fire.
Recommendation: Late teens to adult. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.

The author describes her flavor of science fiction as “evenly Naijamerican (note: “Naija” is slang for Nigeria or Nigerian).” There is something about that combination that I found engaging and enjoyable. This book feels different, especially in it’s rhythm. I’m eager to see if the author’s other books also have this wonderful texture to the writing. (I’ve already put “Who Fears Death” on hold at the library.)

The setting is bleak and vaguely dystopian with global warming and peak oil being the most recognizable societal factors. Due to the main character’s limited access to the world much of the details are glossed over in favor of more pertinent information. To my delight I never felt cheated by not being given more information. It wasn’t important so it wasn’t on the page.

Phoenix, the main character, was very well done. She wasn’t annoying…..which is pretty big for me. As an “accelerated organism” she was designed to mature rapidly before maintaining her apparent physical age indefinitely.  Thus she’s only two years old in the body of a 40 year old and is expected to remain that way……forever. Which is the most normal thing about her. I could say more but…..spoilers. Her growth as a character organic and entirely fitting. In spite of her superhuman attributes she felt like a real person.

Her “boyfriend” is Saeed, who was altered so he could subsist on water, shattered glass, rust, chunks of concrete, and sand. He comes across as a little clingy, but she could have done worse. Her other friend, Mmuo, could phase through most matter. His skill set is pretty OP (overpowered) and the fact that the Big Eyes (bad guys) just let him hang around is probably the weakest aspect of the book. That’s even when compared to [SPOILERS], or [SPOILERS], or [SPOILERS] goes [SPOILERS]. However neither Saeed, nor Mmue were that developed as characters. I didn’t feel invested in their fate. They weren’t poorly written……maybe a little under written. Being a prequel, secondary characters tend to be overlooked, so it’s not surprising.

Something incredibly intriguing, is that the book could be read as science fiction or fantasy. In fact “Who Fears Death” (the original to this prequel) won awards in both genres. I personally read it as scifi with spiritual/supernatural elements, but the library labeled it fantasy.

I’ll have to let you know how “Who Fears Death” goes. Nnedi Okorafor has a couple of books in the local library system and, from her website, a plethora of short stories have been published everywhere. I think her newest book “Lagoon” sounds like my type of book. Sadly getting a copy will require some creativity as it’s not in the local library system…….I might need to get a library card for the neighboring system which does have it along with the Obsidian Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory……..yep my library system sucks.

Anyway, off to go see if I can catch the first episode of the new “Shannara Chonicles” that was supposed to air tonight.

Robert


 

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The Book of Phoenix – By Nnedi Okorafor

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