Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Publication date: November 16, 2021
Genre: Science Fiction
One Sentence Summary: AO is on the run after a bloody incident at the markets and DNA is the sole survivor of an incident everyone believes he was an instigator of as a terrorist, but the true enemy is all around them.
Noor is a story of identity and technology. It’s a lovely story of a growing relationship between the two main characters, which was one of my favorite parts of this novel. I did find it a little difficult to connect with this story as AO felt so angry and off-putting to me, but DNA was really wonderful. Mostly, though, there was a huge focus on the technology and how it has impacted the people. In some ways, it felt like a cautionary tale to me, which really made me stop and think. I wish it had been longer so more could be connected together, but it really was a fun African-inspired story even if I didn’t quite feel it was for me.
AO was born deformed. Over the years, she has acquired various artificial parts, making her an outcast as most believe her to be more machine than human. But she makes do, until provoked at the markets and is forced on the run into the desert of a Nigeria-inspired country. In the distance, a wind farm called the Red Eye whips madly.
DNA is one of the few remaining nomadic herdsmen. His people wander the desert, but the herdsmen, in particular, are targeted as most believe them to be terrorists. After he and a couple of other herdsmen attempt to steer their combined herd through a town, he’s the unfortunate sole surviving herdsman, and his people send him on the run.
Improbably running into each other, AO and DNA are on the run together, towards a greater purpose.
I’m not entirely sure of what I expected of Noor, but the author had been recommended to me, so I decided to give this a try. I thought it would be a fun African-inspired science fiction novel with lots of tech and an interesting story, but I spent most of it confused about what it was supposed to be about. I don’t think it was quite for me, but I really liked the relationship between AO and DNA and was bemused by Ultimate Tech, which kept making me think of Amazon.
For much of the story, I had a hard time figuring out what this was supposed to be about. It seemed to mostly be two people on the run, but with no direction, just a past that sort of haunts them. Otherwise, it came off as Ultimate Tech going after them for unknown reasons and them trying to dodge the drones and artificial soldiers coming for them. I think a good chunk of it was supposed to be focused on the characters themselves and what it meant to be who they were: one a nomadic herdsman who has lost everything and the other a woman who is half machine and half human. Unfortunately, AO came off as very angry, so I found it difficult to focus on the part where this novel is supposed to be about identity.
I did really like the relationship between AO and DNA, though. They had an interesting start, but the things they went through together just knit them together in wonderful ways. I, unfortunately, thought they were a little bland when taken on their own with one being very angry and the other very spiritual, but, together, they were wonderful. My favorite scenes were always when they were together. They fed off each other perfectly and friendship just bloomed so naturally between them.
Where Noor really shone, though, was in the world building. I could believe this was a futuristic Nigeria, but I could also rely on what I know of today’s Nigeria to help me paint the world in richer colors. Much of this story is set in the desert and revolved around the Red Eye brewing in one area. The history behind it was fascinating and how Africa operates regarding it was entirely believable. I really enjoyed how it made me feel like I was in the desert and how I could envision how this world arose from our own. The one thing that felt odd was that there was a single white man, who felt a lot like some weird, ethereal wise man, which disappointed me because I would have loved a black wise man. Overall, though, I found this to be a fantastic African-inspired story, but, not being African, I couldn’t speak to any authenticity.
It didn’t hit me until the end, when I felt all the action really happened, but Noor is kind of a scary story of how tech affects people and just how easily it can take over. I couldn’t not think of Ultimate Tech as an Amazon-like entity, which actually kind of scared me. In a world where tech is everywhere, Noor kind of felt like a cautionary tale. AO clearly depends on the tech in order to live her life, but maybe she took it too far. And with more tech after them, there’s really no place to hide. It literally felt like the tech and all the eyes were everywhere. While it came in incredibly handy, if a bit weird, it’s still scary just how present and prevalent it is. Though I did really enjoy how all the modern tech was woven into the fabric of the story and how people live. It somehow felt both modern and old-fashioned. But now I’m kind of afraid of large companies that ship everything everywhere.
In some ways, Noor did manage to impress me. In other ways, I felt a little lost as to what I was reading. It was a fun adventure with something of a scary story woven in, but I also felt how it started became a bit unimportant by the end. I really enjoyed the relationships between the main characters and just how all the tech impacted their lives. I did feel a little disconnected, but there was still a lot in it to make me stop and think and reconsider my own life.
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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Noor by Nnedi Okorafor”
From the same author I read “Binti” and I liked it. It was refreshing to find a SF world not definitely related with USA at all. It can be hard to find some reference point, though… the same happens to me when I read Japanese Fantasy or Chinese SF.
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I’ve heard so many good things about Binti. I wish that had been my first novel from her, but it is really nice to read African-inspired science fiction. I’ve read several African-inspired fantasies, but not science fiction, so it was quite interesting even if I wasn’t quite sure what it was supposed to be about.
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