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Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor-MbachuDr. Nnedi Okorafor holds a PhD in literature/creative writing and is an associate professor at the University at Buffalo, New York (SUNY). She splits her time between Buffalo and Chicago with her daughter Anyaugo and family. Read excerpts from her novels at Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s website.
Click here for more stories by Nnedi Okorafor.

Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death — (2010-2015) Publisher: In a far-future, post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, genocide plagues one region. When the only surviving member of a slain village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand, and instinctively knows her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue. Reared under the tutelege of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers she possesses a remarkable and unique magic. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to confront nature, tradition, history, the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and eventually to learn why she was given the unusual name she bears: Who Fears Death?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Book of Phoenix

Who Fears Death: A book I will never forget

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Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

To be something abnormal meant that you were to serve the normal. And if you refused, they hated you... and often the normal hated you even when you did serve them.

In Nnedi Okorafor’s post-apocalyptic Sudan, there are two predominant ethnic factions: the light-skinned Nuru and the dark-skinned Okeke. Who Fears Death takes place amid a genocide that the Nuru commit against the Okeke, a campaign that (like genocides in our own time) includes both murder and rape. The mixed-race offspring of a Nuru and an Okeke is called an Ewu and treated as an outcast.

Onyesonwu, whose name means “Who fears death?”, is Ewu, the result of her mother’s rape. As a child she develops magical powers, which further set her apart from others. In her girlhood she clashes with the local s... Read More

Binti: Remarkable coming-of-age set in space

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Editor's update: Binti won the 2016 Hugo Award.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

In Binti, published by Tor.com, Nnedi Okorafor tells the story of Binti, a brave adolescent girl who is the only person from her tribe, the Himba, to ever be invited to attend Oomza Uni, the most prestigious university in the galaxy. She is a harmonizer, a skilled creator of advanced technology, but despite her tribe’s affinity for technology and innovation, they rarely leave their tribal lands. Binti sets off on her journey to Oomza Uni, knowing that her departure likely means she will be a pariah to her family and friends. What’s more, because of the Himba tradition of covering skin and hair with otjize, or red earth, she knows that she’ll likely be an outs... Read More

Binti: Home: Adds complexity to a wonderful character

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Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

In Binti: Home (2017), the follow-up novella to her very successful novella Binti, Nnedi Okorafor takes us back to Earth, to show us Binti’s reunion with family and discovery of hidden aspects of her heritage.

After the massacre that preceded her arrival at Oomza University, Binti is struggling to relate to other students at university or even focus on the advanced mathematics coursework she was so excited about. Although she remains close to Okwu, the Meduse she befriended and vouched for after the massacre in Binti, Binti finds herself angry with the Meduse — and with life — at times. These mood swings vi... Read More

Lagoon: I loved it as soon as I saw the swordfish

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Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

I thought I was going to love Nnedi Okorafor’s novel Lagoon (2014) when I read the first chapter, from the point of view of a swordfish. She is not just any swordfish; she is an eco-warrior. Through her eyes, we see the arrival of extra-terrestrials into the lagoon of Lagos, the Nigerian capital. And from that point on I was never disappointed.

Lagoon does not spend too much time with the swordfish, although we do see her again a few times. The main characters are three people who end up at the Bar Beach shortly after the beings from another place have landed, and these three become the spokes-humans for the visitors. They are Adaora, a marine biologist, mother of two and wife to a troubled husband; Agu, a soldier who has recently been in trouble with his command; and Anthony Dey Craze, a successful rapper... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Fall 2012 and Winter 2013

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Welcome news: Subterranean Magazine, a quarterly publication, has announced that it will be available for free download from here on out. The announcement was accompanied by the free editions of the Fall 2012 and the Winter 2013 issues, each of which contains a number of excellent novellas — a length for which Subterranean Press, as well as the magazine, are known. Many, including me, consider the novella to be the ideal length for science fiction, fantasy and horror: it provides the author with enough space for world building, but not more space than many stories need. The novellas in these two issues illustrate this opinion nicely.

“African Sunrise” by Nned... Read More

Magazine Monday: The Dark, Issue 1

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The internet has been a tremendous boon to short fiction readers. Many excellent web-based publications, from Subterranean Magazine to Clarkesworld to Beyond Ceaseless Skies to Lightspeed are thriving. Now there’s a new kid on the block: The Dark. Issue 1, dated October 2013, describes itself this way:
In the pages of The Dark, you will find a different kind of dark fiction. Just that -- different. And dark. Not necessarily horror, per se, with blood and guts and serial killers, but fiction that is weird and offbeat; magic realism; the fantastic; dark science fiction (and not your ordinary "robots and aliens" science fiction). No variation is off limits, and we will be encouraging our writers to take chances with their fic... Read More

Magic City: Recent Spells: A solid urban fantasy anthology

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Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran

Things you should know:
1. This is a reprint anthology. If you read a lot of anthologies in the field, you will probably have read some of these before. I had read three, though two of them were among the best ones, and I enjoyed reading them again.
2. It still has some worthwhile stuff in it, especially if you're a fan of the big names in urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs) and haven't read these stories before.
3. It isn't just "urban fantasy" by the usual definition (our contemporary world plus the supernatural). There's a sword-and-sorcery story from Read More

More books by Nnedi Okorafor

book review Zahrah the Windseeker Nnedi Okorafor-MbachuZahrah the Windseeker — (2005) Young adult. Publisher: In the Ooni Kingdom, children born dada with vines growing in their hair are rumored to have special powers. Zahrah Tsami doesn’t know anything about that. She feels normal. Others think she’s different. They fear her. Only Dari, her best friend, isn’t afraid of her. But then something begins to happen — something that definitely marks Zahrah as different — and the only person she can tell is Dari. He pushes her to investigate, edging them both closer and closer to danger. Until Dari’s life is on the line. Only Zahrah can save him, but to do so she’ll have to face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different.

book review Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu Zahrah the Windseeker, The Shadow Speaker


The Shadow Speaker — (2007) Young adult. Publisher: Driven by vengeance. Destined for peace. Niger, West Africa, 2070: After fifteen-year old Ejii witnesses her father’s beheading, her world shatters. In an era of mind-blowing technology and seductive magic, Ejii embarks on a mystical journey to track down her father’s killer. With a newfound friend by her side, Ejii comes face to face with an earth turned inside out — and with her own magical powers. But Ejii soon discovers that her travels across the sands of the Sahara have a greater purpose. Her people need to be protected from a force seeking to annihilate them. And Ejii may be just the hero to do it.


Akata Witch Nnedi OkoraforAkata Witch — (2011) Young adult. Publisher: Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing — she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?fantasy and science fiction book reviews


Kabu-Kabu — (2013) Publisher: Kabu Kabu – unregistered, illegal Nigerian taxis – generally get you where you need to go, but Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabu takes the reader to exciting, fantastic, magical, occasionally dangerous, and always imaginative locations. This debut short story collection by award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor includes notable previously-published short work, a new novella co-written with New York Times bestselling author Alan Dean Foster, and a brief forward by Whoopi Goldberg.


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