Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

The year is 2070, and the world has been forever changed by nuclear war. The doorways between the worlds have been opened and humanity is touched by magic. Fourteen year old Ejii Ugabe is one of the new metahumans to emerge in this world; she is a shadow speaker, just learning to use her abilities, unsure of her place in the world. She is haunted by memories of her father's cruel misogyny and her violent memories of his murder. When the shadows tell her that only she can prevent war from breaking out between earth and the other worlds, she embarks on a journey with her talking camel across the Sahara. She soon joins forces with Dikeogu, a runaway slave who cannot accept that he,too, is a metahuman. As her journey progresses, her power develops, and she learns that she must find a way to reconcile the warring aspects of herself just as she must reconcile the leaders who see destruction of the other as the only way to remain safe.
"You and I are both cursed and gifted," Ejii said.
"More cursed, maybe," he said with a chuckle.
"Maybe," Ejii said. "Dikeogu, make me a promise. Let's both make a promise."
"Of what?"
"That above all things, we do what has to be done to make things better," she said. "That we leave this earth having made it better than when we came to it."
I loved this book. I loved that it was set in Africa (it made so much sense, I find myself wondering why more fantasy/sci-fi novels are not set in Africa). I loved that the post-apocalyptic world was one of magic and growth (random forests spring up overnight) as opposed to one of decay and death. I loved how Ejii had to learn to accept not only her shadow speaking abilities, but also her value as a female. I was disheartened by the idea (and yes, I know it is a work of fiction) that 61 years from now, there may still be men who insist that women are inferior and their only talent is to serve men. I loved how idealistic Ejii was and how she helps to heal Dikeogu, how he comes to adopt her world view.

You should read this book. It is classified as Young Adult, I suspect because the main character is fourteen and none of the themes are exclusively adult ones; I thought about nuclear war all the time when I was in junior high and saving the world is theme which knows no age limits.

In case you are wondering why I am writing about books: I have been reading a lot lately. While this is a good thing, I find I am not blogging as much and suspect that my skills are getting rusty. So it finally dawned on me that I could tell you about some of the books I have read which I liked. We will see if this catches on (and by "catches on" I mean if I feel inspired to write about more books, now that I have lost my book review/recommendation virginity).

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