Saturday, February 12, 2011
"Who Fears Death" by Nnedi Okorafor
Musings: Although Who Fears Death appeared on a number of best of 2010 lists, I was nervous to read this book for awhile because of the graphic nature of the rape and violence in the book. Difficult as it is, that material is there, though it's integral to the plot of the story. Onyesonwu is a child of rape, and violence will be a part of her life, though she works hard to go beyond the expectations that Ewu children will be nothing but violent. Onyesonwu is a strong-willed and stubborn narrator who fiercely believes in equality of the sexes. Her companion Mwita is similarly determined, and I liked the way in which Onyesonwu and Mwita butt heads yet unconditionally support one another.
There's an element of magical realism in the sorcery that appears through the book. Onyesonwu's powers are revealed piece by piece, though occasionally I felt overwhelmed by the variety of magic and abilities introduced. The novel is also science-fiction in some ways, as the setting is a post-Apocalyptic (presumably future) Africa. However, the setting never felt quite right to me; the characters have access to computers, though they never use them, so I really had no idea how much technology played in their lives.
In the end, I'm somewhat ambivalent about the book. It's well-written with complex world building and compelling protagonists. At the same time, the story always felt "off" in some way to me, and I was often reluctant to pick up the book each day, even though I read rapidly and with interest when I did. However, I've been complaining about the dearth of POC fantasy and science fiction, so I'm thrilled to see Who Fears Death, which has the added benefit of being very much a feminist novel, receive so much attention and praise.
- Read as part of Presenting Lenore's Dystopian February.
***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.