Saturday, May 26, 2018

Book Review: After the Flare (Nigerians in Space #2) by Deji Bryce Olukotun

After the Flare (Nigerians in Space #2) by Deji Bryce Olukotun

Paperback, 301 pages

Published September 2017 by The Unnamed Press

Philip K. Dick Award Nominee (2017)

I picked this book up after it won a special mention in this year's PKD awards of which it was nominated for.

This is a strange book that apparently is a sequel to the author's first novel Nigerians in Space. Well it is marketed that way although I read that the author intended for this book to stand alone. I don't know if I missing something but it worked for me as a singular reading experience. Had I know it was book two I would not have started here but it ended up in my TBR so here we are. Combining a few plot elements and a strange sci-fi mystery this is a really great example of afrocentric genre even if personally I did not connect to it as much as some other books in this subgenre.

The premise sets up nicely for a post Apocalypse novel, but strangely enough that is not what we are talking about here. The book starts in orbit when a space station gets a front row seat for solar flare that wipes out power/technology for much of the globe. There is a small zone along the equator that is unaffected, and this is the reason why Kwesi Brackett our main point of view character has to go Nigeria. As a engineer he is needed to join the effort to rescue the lone astronaut who didn't escape the space station and has been stranded in orbit for a year while quickly losing her life support and sanity. Once in Africa the story weaves a couple plot strands that involve terrorist groups like Boko Haram, ancient artifacts and the discovery of an advanced civilization buried in Nigeria's past.

Brackett is in charge of the water tanks where the future astronauts practice space walks. He is overseeing the final stages of building this massive pool with a artifact is found and quickly stolen. In the process of trying to track down the stolen items Brackett is witness to a separatist terrorist attack. These elements were some of the books most interesting moments. The glimpse into the near future Nigeria was not the focus, but to me it was the most compelling part.

The various plot threads seem very different but they weave together really through the the story. Deji Bryce Olukotun's writing is well thought out, he has excellent command of plot, structure and characters. For me the biggest weakness of the book was found in it's subplot about the origins of the artifact. I am sorry for most readers this will be the most interesting part, but how Nigeria reacts to it's suddenly important global role intrigued me more that was not Olukotun's focus.

I respect this book, even if I didn't totally love it. Olukotun is a good writer and I will read more of his work in the future. This is good thoughtful science fiction and in a time when we are trying to find more diverse voices this is a good one.

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