Thursday, November 18, 2021

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

Noor means light, and in Nnedi Okorafor’s africanfuturist novel, Noor, it is the name of huge wind turbines that fill the deserts of Africa, generating enough power that electricity can be exported to Europe.

The book is set in near-future Nigeria, which has grown wealthy thanks to the huge energy business. It and pretty much everything else in life is in the hands of Ultimate Corporation, which provides for the poor too. The society is similar to ours, except even more connected by electronic devices and under constant surveillance by drones, the feed of which can be followed by anyone. To be off the grid requires special measures.

AOArtificial Organism, like she prefers to be calledis a beneficiary of the corporation’s charity. Born without legs and one arm, she’s welcomed the artificial limbs and other improvements they’ve offered, even implants to her brain to stop weird hallucinations. But the society sees her as a demon, and her life is constant balancing between being useful and not drawing attention to herself.

She thinks she’s found a safe haven for herself in a small town, with most of her digital footprint erased. Then one day at the marketplace, a group of men attack her. Something snaps in her brain, literally, and she kills the men. Now she has to flee to the desert.

There she meets DNA, a traditional Fulani herdsman who’s also fleeing. His traditional way of life of grazing his cattle freely has angered the farmers who have attacked his people, killing everyone except him. He’s also had to kill to save his life, but like with AO, the news feed only shows the part where he is the aggressor.

Together they flee to the only place where they can’t be found, inside Red Eye, a huge sand tornado in the middle of the desert which hides many fugitives. There they uncover the truth about AO’s implants and the attacks against the herdsmen, and learn, that to save themselves, they have to go against the one thing that controls everything, the Ultimate Corporation.

The book was told in AO’s point of view, and it suited the narrative well. She was an interesting character, an outsider who both wanted to belong and had embraced her differences. Her growing abilities with technology weren’t entirely well explainedwas it magical, or intentional by the maker of the implants?but she embraced her role as a saviour/destroyer with all the anger she’d bottled. There was romance too, more on the background, but raising the stakes for both her and DNA.

This was a deceptively small novel that grew to have a global impact. From start to finish, it was impossible to see where it would lead, and if a happy ending was even possible. Stakes kept getting higher, with both technology and the desert against AO and DNA. The author knows the traditional Nigerian ways well, and everything felt authentic. All in all, an interesting read that will linger with me for a long time.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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