The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
I struggled with what to say about this book, not because I had bad things to say or nothing to say, but because there is a lot packed into this book that I could drive off into the sunset about any number of topics. A lot of time with prequels it is hard for me to get excited because it feels like reading books out of order – VERBOTEN. I already know what the outcome is and I can’t seem to get motivated to care, but not for this book.
Speaking of driving – I wanted to give you a metaphor to help you get how I feel about this book because I am not Dr. Okorafor and I can’t write with the depth and feeling of prose to give this book justice I will sum up.
This book is like buying new tires. This may be a strange comparison, but stick with me. You think you’ve been reading good things until you get your new tires and then you realize all the swerving wasn’t the rain or the wind; it was that you had terrible tires. Good writing has traction and texture and doesn’t just move you; it grips you and pulls you over a lot of different terrains. This book is a great ride, not always smooth because it isn’t a soft read, but Okorafor’s writing draws you through.
Phoenix is a great character to develop with and take you on this story. She starts out as an adult and yet she is only 2 years old. The science of Tower 7 has made her an accelerated woman. As Phoenix struggles to understand who she is and how she feels about these very personal violations Tower 7 has wrought on her body and those of her friends. She isn’t alone on this journey, finding and losing love and friendships large and small as we travel to Africa and back again.
What’s ironic to me is a lot of the topic that are central to the book – the uneven cost of ‘progress’ on developing nations and their people, people’s willingness to sell each other out for personal gain in the short-term that goes against long-term interests, and the desire to burn it all down. All these topics were in the Avengers movie I saw this weekend. In the Avengers movie you see people of color and developing nation countries bear the cost for American exceptionalism and scientific discovery, but. Whedon failed to take part in the conversation. We saw the Hulk roll over a South African city and his punishment is – he feels bad? Also, why does everyone speak English? Why do Tony Stark’s robots speak English? He can’t program other languages? Not really the forum for my problems with this movie, but if you want to see something action packed that is full of heroes and villains this book is a better choice.
Life isn’t simple. If you’ve read Who Fears Death, you know that the outcome of the choices made here shape a world very different from our own and it isn’t all flowers, peace, and love. What would you do faced with the same violations?