Pro: Vastly interesting and hard to put down
Con: Strangely abrupt ending
The Bottom Line: A very cool book with a ton of science fiction elements, but without the usual science fiction feel. I only wish the end were little better...
A long time ago I read Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death for a completely different reading challenge, if I remember. When I saw (at work, as usual) a brand new book with Okorafor's name on it, I got all exited and immediately picked it up.
Before the story of Who Fears Death, there was Phoenix. She was grown and raised in New York's Tower 7. Only two, but with the mind and body of an adult, she doesn't fully grasp what's around her and what might be outside the tower walls. She does, however, love another human in the group of strange creations within the tower - a man named Saeed. But when he sees something so terrible he takes his own life, Phoenix questions everything - and ultimately breaks out of Tower 7. What she discovers during the descruction is only the beginning of her journey.
There's a lot of cool stuff going on in this book. Frankly, I'd love to talk about every bit of it, but I don't want to spoil anything for you. From what else lives in Tower 7 to what happens even just right after her escape and then beyond. I love all the ideas Okorafor puts forth. All the different Towers, all the different experiments that are contained within them, Phoenix's ability, and all the places she does throughout the book and the people she meets. Okorafor is able to fill even the smallest of roles with such life it's amazing. They may be on the page for only a few moments, but you can visualize everything perfectly, grasp the emotions fully, and are constantly on the edge of your seat as you wish for Phoenix to escape the massive group that controls the Towers and maybe find some measure of peace somewhere.
The creativity here, people, is just sparkling.
Given all that, I was disappointed with the ending. Or maybe not disappointed so much as going, "...Aw," in deflated fashion and sitting back in my seat for once. I understand how Phoenix could finally snap, yet people she knew and loved were still on the ground when she performed her (final? still not even sure of that) act which eventually led to the kind of Earth that the people of the world of Who Fears Death live in. And whenever I think of massive effects of what she did, I also think, "You just killed a lot of people who were in no way involved with any of that." Still, I will grant that the idea was pretty cool anyway - given my penchant for post-apocalyptic settings.
If you're looking for something a little different in terms of science fiction, I highly recommend giving this a look. From all kinds of varying elements involved to a story that spans the globe, it's well worth it.