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The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
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The Book of Phoenix

by Nnedi Okorafor

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» See also 26 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I keep wanting to like Okorafor's writing more than I do. I mean, I don't hate it, but for some reason it keeps not clicking for me even though it has all the elements I like in fiction and postapocalyptic fiction. IDK. It is one of those, "pretty good, but not for me" books. If you have liked her other work, don't let my random opinion change your mind and do give it a try - it's a quick read and it fills in the backstory for Who Fears Death without being too explanatory. ( )
  jeninmotion | Sep 24, 2018 |
Nnedi Okorafor's The Book of Phoenix takes place in the not-too-distant future where government-backed multinational corporations exploit people from developing nations in Africa in order to improve the lives of the wealthy. Outside of a framing device set centuries in the future, Okorafor tells her story from the perspective of Phoenix Okore, a genetically-enhanced individual called a speciMEN. These individuals, created by LifeGen Technologies (the speciMEN nicknamed the company the Big Eye due to the way it observes them), exist to test ideas that may benefit the world's wealthiest individuals.
This theme of class-based exploitation runs throughout the novel, with many of the Big Eye workers taking positions in order to reduce the time on their academic indenture, a student loan program taken to the extreme. As for the speciMEN themselves, Okorafor explains how most of them are from Africa or members of the African diaspora. Much as companies exploit developing nations while Euro-Americans turn a blind eye so long as the exploited are from impoverished countries in our own time, the Big Eye can get away with it by targeting those least likely to attract much international condemnation from powerful countries. Okorafor writes, "They saw me as they saw the Africans made slaves during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade hundreds of years ago" (pg. 136). She also draws upon historic examples of the scientific exploitation of those of African descent, specifically Henrietta Lacks, whose HeLa cells continue to serve as tools in medical experimentation and raise questions about privacy rights and ethics (pgs. 148, 186). She also comments upon the effects of industrialization and ecological change upon relatively isolated groups like the Jarawa (pg. 188), who will suffer most from climate change while the West marginalizes their voices so that they cannot advocate on behalf of their needs. In these commentaries, Okorafor's work belongs alongside other works of environmental science fiction, such as Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy.
In some of the more introspective prose, it is easy to see Phoenix as an avatar for Okorafor, especially when she muses, "I love books. I adore everything about them. I love the feel of the pages on my fingertips. They are light enough to carry, yet so heavy with worlds and ideas" (pg. 135). Further, her condemnation of the exploitation of the natural world evokes a theme present in much of this type of speculative science-fiction, "Human beings make terrible gods" (pg. 162). Okorafor also makes some fun references amid her social commentary. For example, the character Mmuo had a friend at university named Success T (pg. 119). This character also appears in Okorafor's Nigerian noir short story "Showlogo." In addition to this, among the records Phoenix finds in the Library of Congress are references to "Project X" and "Experiment 626" (pg. 148), the former likely alluding to the 1987 film about government experiments and the latter to Disney's Lilo and Stitch.
I did not know at the time of reading that this book is a prequel to Okorafor's 2010 novel, Who Fears Death, but the work is able to stand on its own and, with the exception of a brief reference at the end to the protagonist of the earlier novel, it requires no foreknowledge of that work. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Jun 12, 2018 |
OK, it's December 2017, and I don't remember a thing about this book I read in November of 2015. My partial note from the time of reading hints at me not being impressed. Since I can't remember what I wasn't impressed about, I guess that says it all.
  quondame | Dec 27, 2017 |
Okorafor combines genres in this moving novel of an apocalypse, dealing with colonialism, racism and greed through a lens of science fiction, super heroes and catastrophe. She's written a page-turner that grips the heart and mind as well as our attention. ( )
  nmele | Dec 26, 2017 |
Nearly perfect. Science fiction and magical realism blend until they're one seamless, wholly believable dystopian future (global warming, overuse of technology), coupled with a scathing yet never preachy commentary on race, slavery, colonization, throw in Star Wars and references to the "New Mythology" (Superman, The Incredible Hulk) -- brilliant!

More thoughts to come.

4.5 stars

(Had there been less repetition of information (what Phoenix Okore could do, what was happening in the Tower, what other speciMen could do, etc.) and had there been more resolution between Saeed and Phoenix, it would've been easily 5 stars. So, yeah, nearly perfect.) ( )
  flying_monkeys | Nov 25, 2017 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nnedi Okoraforprimary authorall editionscalculated
Battle, EricIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
G-Force DesignCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glover, ElizabethDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kern, ClaudiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruth, GregCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Voyage through death, to life upon these shores."

-- Robery Hayden, poet (Middle Passage)
Dedication
To the stolen girls of Chibok, Nigeria. May you awaken with the heart of Phoenix Okore and may your powerful flames illuminate your swift journey home.
First words
Nobody really knows who wrote the Great Book.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the 2015 novel that expands on the novella, African Sunrise (Subterranean), that expanded on the novelette published in Clarkesworld.
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"Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York's Tower 7. She is an 'accelerated woman'--only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix's abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7. Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7's refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape. But Phoenix's escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity's future"--… (more)

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