“Noor” by Nnedi Okorafor: Transformational

Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt…natural, and that’s putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was “wrong”. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.

Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the “reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist” and the “saga of the wicked woman and mad man” unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn’t so predictable. Expect the unaccepted.

I’ll preface this review with the information that this is the first book by Nnedi Okorafor that I’ve read. I’ve heard that her work was thoughtful and engaging, dynamic and none of those even gave a full hint of what to expect with this novel. The characters are unique and dynamic, the plot is thoughtful and the concepts transformational in what we expect from a science fiction novel. 

Why do I say it’s transformational? Because for the first time, this is a character that is disabled, who deals with those differences in unique ways. In the novel “Noor” AO has reconfigured her body but that does not change her essential humanity not even when she begins to develop new skills in her journey across the deserts of Nigeria. While AO’s understanding of who she is slowly changes, she still remains human as does DNA in his full acceptance of AO, despite her differences. These characters don’t just transform themselves but they change the landscape of their world, impacting it spiritually as well as technologically. 

Beyond the ideas and thoughtfulness of the plot, the action and pacing will keep you engaged and turning the page, wanting to read more and more. Even when I reached the end, I wanted more words, the plot and characters were that dynamic. Nnedi Okonafor engages every sense with her words, to immerse the reader fully in her novel. The book deals with a world far separated from the typical city dweller and yet, I found myself empathizing with every action of both AO and DNA and I loved delving into their world. 

If you love intriguing and thoughtful science fiction and a story set in Africa that teaches about transformation in all its meanings, this novel is for you. I loved every minute of the book and can’t wait to read more novels by Nnedi Okonafor. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 winds. 

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