Geek Girls Rule! #466 – Review: Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death

I’m actually listening to this through Audible, because I got a deal through Amazon, and while I own the ebook, I wasn’t having a lot of luck finding time to just sit and read.  So I used one of my credits to get this and start listening to it on one of our 3 hour road trips to see the Geek Husband What Rules’s parents.

This may have been a tactical error.  I ugly cried three times during the first drive over the mountains.

Who Fears Death has won several awards, including the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, the Carl Brandon Kindred Award, and was nominated for the Nebula and Locus awards.

The novel takes place about 15 minutes into the future.  There are computers, scooters, and  other familiar technologies, though they are very unequally distributed.  The setting will be new and unfamiliar to most readers of western SF, as it takes place in a post-apocalyptic Sudan.

The main character Onyesonwu is a child of rape, her mother raped by her light skinned attackers the day they burned her village. Onyesowu’s light skin marks her as Ewu, and to many people in the book designates her as a sorcerer.

I don’t know how much of the plot I want to give away, because if you haven’t read it, you really should.  The plot tackles several hard topics like rape as a form of warfare, female genital mutilation, the treatment of rape survivors and their children.

This is not an easy book to read, largely because of the issues it tackles.

When I was sitting down to write this review, I purposely went to look for the “bad” reviews to see where my reading may have differed from theirs. Honestly, in a couple of the reviews, I have to wonder whether we actually read the same book.  I mean, I am a picky, picky reader when it comes to grammatical errors and sloppy writing, and I didn’t see any of that in Who Fears Death.  Also, many of those bad reviews cite things as problems that I’m reasonably sure they have no problem with in, say, Batman.  (The protagonist is too powerful, things work too well, they don’t get into the technical specifics of how the water capture stations work… ok that last one is a little weirdly specific.)

And at least one review, I don’t think the person actually read the book, because several of her complaints about plot points or mechanisms are, in fact, answered in the text.

So, racist or lazy reader?  Or, hey, it may just not have been some people’s cup of tea. However, when that’s the case why would you spend so much time picking it apart?

Anyway, I really enjoyed the book.  The voice actress reading the book did a good job.  Do I feel like maybe they should have gone with a Sudanese woman, or maybe at least of some African nationality, probably.  But she did do a good job with the accents to my uneducated ear.

This is definitely not a feel good book, though there are some funny moments, and some touching moments, but there’s a lot of grim in this book. Like I said, in the first three hours of listening to it, I ugly-cried three times.  It’s rough, but ultimately, I found it worth it.

If you like what you read here, please consider donating at the “Keep Us Geeking” link at the top right, or check out my Patreon.  Thank you.

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