Want to Try Afrofuturism? Start With the “War Girls” Series

Thanks to Penguin Teen for providing me with an advance reader’s copy of Rebel Sisters, which I review in this post.

As a somewhat new reader of Afrofuturism, I’m always excited to discover new-to-me authors and approaches to the genre. I guess my introduction to Afrofuturism was technically Nancy Farmer’s middle grade novel The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm, when I was nine years old. But though Farmer by most accounts did her due diligence and research when crafting her futuristic Zimbabwe-set story, I think there is something to be said for reading Afrofuturism written by Black and African authors.

I’ve written here before about my love for the works of N.K. Jemisin (whose Broken Earth trilogy was my adult introduction to the genre) and Nnedi Okorafor. And now I’m excited to add another author to my personal “read” list: Tochi Onyebuchi, with his YA science fiction novel War Girls. The second book in the series, Rebel Sisters, is out November 17.

War Girls hooked me from the first sentence:

The first thing Onyii does every morning is take off her arm.

Onyii is an Augment with a bionic arm, having lost her human arm in battle as a child soldier in a civil war in this futuristic Nigeria that mirrors the real 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War. Onyii oversees a refugee camp made up of all-female former child soldiers like herself, including her adoptive sister Ify. The story explores the issues of climate change, colonization and the injustice of war through Onyii and Ify’s relationship.

The sequel to War Girls is Rebel Sisters and picks up Ify’s story five years after the first book. From the publisher:

It’s been five years since the Biafran War ended. Ify is now nineteen and living where she’s always dreamed–the Space Colonies. She is a respected, high-ranking medical officer and has dedicated her life to helping refugees like herself rebuild in the Colonies.

Back in the still devastated Nigeria, Uzo, a young synth, is helping an aid worker, Xifeng, recover images and details of the war held in the technology of destroyed androids. Uzo, Xifeng, and the rest of their team are working to preserve memories of the many lives lost, despite the government’s best efforts to eradicate any signs that the war ever happened.

Though they are working toward common goals of helping those who suffered, Ify and Uzo are worlds apart. But when a mysterious virus breaks out among the children in the Space Colonies, their paths collide. Ify makes it her mission to figure out what’s causing the deadly disease. And doing so means going back to the homeland she thought she’d left behind forever.

I was excited to get to explore more of Onyebuchi’s worldbuilding, which is just as fantastic here as in book 1. This time, we get to experience some space travel, which I have always loved in my science fiction.

Rebel Sisters also asks really interesting and important questions about how we remember the past and honor those who are gone, how we recover from trauma, and how we connect with our personal pasts and the places we’d prefer to forget. Like all great science fiction, Onyebuchi’s writing makes us think about the nature of humanity.

If you are curious about Afrofuturism and are looking for an entry point, I can not recommend the War Girls series highly enough.

Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi is out November 17.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Buy both books from my Bookshop.org store.

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