If you like ‘Humans’, you’ll like this
Nnedi Okorafor is an American African author and a professor of creative writing at the University of Buffalo, New York. The Book Of Phoenix is the stand-alone prequel to his novel ‘Who Fears Death’.
The Book Of Phoenix begins in the near future, with the world partially drowned by global warming, but human life continuing to develop despite this. Okorafor paints a picture of a high-tech culture in what’s left of Manhattan, which is home to Tower 7. This unique building houses a centre of human/cybernetic genetic experimentation, run by the pitiless Big Eye corporation.
Big Eye enslaves people and ruthlessly experiments on them, producing high-tech prosthetics and even nanotech methods of procuring eternal life, which it sells to the world’s elite for mega-billions. Our heroine Phoenix is a product of this technology. She’s only two years old, but has the body and mind of an adult; actually she’s a super-woman, with unimaginable powers. Once Phoenix attains full knowledge of her capabilities, she realises that Tower 7 isn’t her comfortable home, it’s a prison.
Along with her friends Saeed and Mmuo, Phoenix devises a destructive escape from Tower 7, the story takes off, and so does Phoenix herself, pursued by the dreaded Big Eye. Phoenix and her friends begin a war against Big Eye, and become terrorist outlaws, hunted around the world.
Nnedi Okorafor has a stripped-down style, she employs short sentences and chapters, and often addresses the reader personally. Her main characters are African and Arabian, and a large part of the story is set in Africa. Phoenix is the most original book I’ve read in 2016, (so far), and really defies categorization. Part sci-fi, part folk tale, part horror, part parable…this book will be interpreted differently by every reader. Personally, I found it a compulsive page-turner.
Reviewed by Keith Smith