REVIEW – Who Fears Death (2010) By Nnedi Okorafor
THE ZONE have my review of Nnedi Okorafor’s debut non-Young Adult novel Who Fears Death.
Set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic and/or fantastical version of Sudan, the novel has attracted a good deal of praise in genre circles. In fact, its critical coverage has been so overwhelmingly positive that it has even started to attract the kind of hype and word-of-mouth buzz that frequently serves to foreshadow a serious run at the various awards offered by the genre community. The word on the street is that Who Fears Death is a serious and weighty novel by a serious and weighty writer with interesting and important things to say. However, as I try to explain in my review, I humbly disagree. In fact, Who Fears Death provided me with what was easily the most singularly unpleasant reading experience I had this year.
Some books are unpleasant to read because they are poorly written. Some books are unpleasant to read because they are entirely wrong-headed. These are relatively minor forms of unpleasantness that are easily negotiated thanks to a liberal sprinkling of cynicism and the knowledge that your horror at their awfulness will inspire you to write something interesting. Who Fears Death is not unpleasant because it is technically flawed or conceptually misguided (though I would suggest that it is both of those things at different points), it is unpleasant because it demands your attention whilst offering nothing in return.