This week, I’m immersing myself in near-future speculative fiction. One tells the story of a future war between the Nigerians and the Igbos people of Biafra. The other is set in a future America, dominated by Church and State and an old man quietly resisting his government while trying not to lose himself to his war nightmares.
I’m hoping for strong characters, challenging ideas and powerful writing.
‘War Girls’ by Tochi Onyebuchi (2019)
I picked up ‘War Girls’ partly because I was impressed by the power and passion of Tochi Onyebuci’s ‘Riot Baby’, partly because African Science Fiction has produced some stunning books in recent years and partly because I was interested in what appeared to be a re-imagining of the brutal Nigerian civil war.
I was only ten when Nigeria started its ‘police action’ to ‘reclaim’ secessionist Biafra. The politics passed me by but I remember seeing the pictures on the news of skeletal Biafrans starving to death in their thousands. When I asked my father why they had no food, I expected to hear about a famine caused by storms or crop failures. My father was a man of strong views. He told me that the Nigerians were using starvation as a weapon of war and that when I saw the pictures on the television I should understand what men are willing to do to gain control of oil. It was probably more complicated than that but, the million deaths, the programs against minorities and the use of child soldiers are undeniable.
I’m expecting Tochi Onyebuchi to give me an insider view of a future version of this war with the same hate and scarier weaponry.
‘The Sound Of Distant Engine’ by Robert E Dunn (2020)
I picked up ‘The Sound Of Distant Engines’ because it was mentioned in Robert E Dunn’s obituary. He died of cancer on 20th October. As I read about his books I got a strong feeling that I’d missed the work of someone whose view of the world I would have enjoyed.
His books are still here. Although I was tempted by the Katrina Williams series, I decided to start with his latest book, ‘The Sound Of Distant Engines’. It’s a short book, 156 pages, and I thought it would give me a feel for his writing.
I’ve already started it and I’m hooked. It’s not just that ideas seem ominously plausible or that story of an old man at odds with where his country is going resonates with me, it’s that his writing is crisp and clean and powerful.
RIP Robert E Dunn. I’m glad your books are still here.