Nnedi Okorafor proudly wears the Africanfuturist tag in her latest stand-alone novel Noor. At one point going so far as to provide some exposition using the transcript of a podcast called The Africanfuturist. In Noor, Okarafor, plays with a bunch of cyberpunk traditions – cybernetic body parts, enhanced mental connection to technology, rampant corporations more powerful than governments – and drops them into an future African, more specifically Nigerian, context.
AO Oju lives in the Nigerian city of Abuja, having moved there from Lagos to live with her boyfriend Olaniyi. But Olaniyi has now left her and, on her own, AO falls prey to growing prejudice against her. That prejudice is due to the cybernetic enhancements that she has received while growing up – one arm and both legs having been replaced by cybernetic limbs. Following some hostility in the markets, she lashes out, killing five men and has to go on the run. On her journey she finds a kindred spirit in Dangtoe Nuhu Adamu (or “DNA”), a traditional herdsman also wanted for a murder that he was pushed into. The two go on the run together, pushing deep into the deadly, constant sandstorm known as the Red Eye to find both an oracle and a secret refuge city. Along the way discovering both the extent of AO’s powers and the depth to which they and the community had been deceived by the faceless villain of the piece – Ultimate Corp.
As noted above, much of the plot of Noor feels like an update of the some classic cyberpunk tropes. But Okorafor deploys these in a new way to consider some particularly African issues including the corruption of farmers by corporations selling genetically modified crops, the demonisation of those who are trying to hold on to a traditional way of life, and the converse use of religion to create fear of technology. She does this all within a propulsive story, a roadtrip and romance with a resilient heroine at its core.
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