Books

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor: Richer than books three times as long

The blend of African myth and legend with high-tech elements is seamlessly done, and all of that works perfectly as a backdrop for the emotional journey of Sankofa

Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor is one of the leading lights of fantasy and science-fiction for both adults and children, most famous for her superb Binti trilogy.

Her new book, Remote Control, is a standalone novel but shares some DNA with that trilogy, featuring a teenage girl protagonist with special powers, and demonstrating Okorafor’s knack for complex world-building with the lightest of touches.

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It’s a testament to the author’s skill that she can create a nuanced and profound science-fiction story in just 160 pages, one that is as rich as books three times as long, and both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant at the same time.

Fatima discovers a glowing green seed in her back garden in rural Ghana after a meteor shower, and soon realises it gives her the power to kill.

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After a horrible tragedy she leaves home and changes her name to Sankofa, the Angel of Death’s adopted daughter.

Her reputation precedes her as she walks the country alone, with just a fox for company, in a near-future Ghana where high-tech surveillance sits awkwardly alongside old religious beliefs and traditions.

Despite her supernatural abilities, Sankofa is a wonderfully down-to-earth central character, initially confused and disturbed by her situation, gradually coming to terms with her life as she goes on a quest to find the glowing seed that has been separated from her.

Like all of Okorafor’s work, Remote Control is written with such authorial confidence and deftness of touch that you barely notice you’ve stepped into a fantastical and alternative reality.

The blend of African myth and legend with high-tech elements is seamlessly done, and all of that works perfectly as a backdrop for the emotional journey of Sankofa, as she tries to find a way forward in her life. Full of emotional depth and resonance, this is beautiful stuff.

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor is out now (Tordotcom, £14.71)

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