Book reviews / Fantasy

The Book of Phoenix

This is the first book I’ve read by Nnedi Okorafor, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

On the surface, it looks like something I’d enjoy. Phoenix is essentially a scientifically created super being. She’s only 3 years old but has accelerated growth and maturity, so she’s like a 40 year old woman. She won’t grow any older.

However, I didn’t actually like Phoenix. I thought she occilated too quickly between being super naive to irrational to revolutionary at the change of the wind. There were a few lines at the end that annoyed me but kind of encapsulated the way I felt about Phoenix:

If she had been a male, she’d have controlled her anger, channelled it into righting the world’s wrongs, and probably not sprouted troublesome wings.

So for the obvious reasons, I don’t think you have to be male to channel anger or whatever into something more positive. It felt like the author gave Phoenix all these powers, except the ability to reason and control her emotions, which got really, really irritating after awhile. This also seemed to conflict with her ability to absorb information at an astounding rate, she just seemed a bit naive all the time (as mentioned). Also, there was another person with wings, who was a man, why were only her wings troublesome?

The other thing that annoyed me was her varying array of superpowers. I mean, come on. The fact that she was a Phoenix, but then she can encourage plants to grow, she also have massive wings and can retain anything she reads (and reads really fast) was just a bit ridiculous. Oh and she can travel through time and space by thinking about it. None of her other mates could do that (and they were all equally as genetically manipulated). As well, there was a bit at the end when she chooses not to slip through time to save her friends. She says that no matter how many times she did it, she would fail (but she didn’t actually try).

The final thing that annoyed me was the various stabs at science and the highlighting of things natural or magical. For example, one of the characters had basically shea butter that made you bullet proof. Uh-huh. And Phoenix was feeling terrible at one point, but some coconut water made everything better. It was just a bit too on the nose perhaps.

There was lots to think about in the book: scientific overreach, corporatism, slavery, capitalism, magic, environmental disaster etc. Despite that, I didn’t really get into it. I felt the characters were a bit too simplistic, none of them had any great depth, their motivations were transparent. Also, anytime something inconvenient in the plot happened, someone got some additional super powers. Or, as above, every time something bad had to happen, all the superpowers were forgotten. Another instance was another character who was immortal and somehow is killed when it’s convenient to move the plot on.

Perhaps that is my greatest criticism, the too obvious inconsistencies. Maybe read it?

One thought on “The Book of Phoenix

  1. Pingback: Book review: Binti | Blogendorff

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