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Noor

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Nnedi Okorafor - Noor
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Published: 02 May 2022
Nnedi Okorafor is a US-born writer with roots in Nigeria; she writes both fantasy and sf, with her writing reflecting both the country and society she lives in, but frequently, especially in topic and setting, her African roots. Besides being a successful writer she also is a professor at the Chicago State University. She has been nominated for, and has won, a number of awards, most notably the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature for her first book (Zahrah the Windseeker), the Hugo and Nebula awards, and the World Fantasy Award for best Novel with Who Fears Death. Noor is her 14th novel, with yet another one (Akata Witch 3 – Akata Woman) scheduled for publication in January 2022.

Nnedi emphatically considers most of her output to be Africanfuturism (ie to concern itself with the future of Africa and its people) and not Afrofuturism (which concerns itself with the future of the African diaspora in the USA), and Noor clearly falls under that definition.

I also feel I have to include a disclaimer here – I am totally utterly caucasian in background and upbringing. Not African, not of African descent, and not even American. This means that my knowledge of the cultural background of this story is minimal, so there will be, by definition, loads that I misread, or plainly miss due to this. So take this review as what it is – a read by somebody not familiar with the setting, and thus really only valid for other readers approaching this story from a similarly alien angle. All errors, by omission or commission, are by default mine.

But what is the story about, I hear you ask? Well, it is set in Nigeria, in a Nigeria of the near future, clearly recognisable by its technology, surveillance proliferation, and Corporatocracy as a direct descendant of our times. It also is a Nigeria of an incredible natural disaster, with a sandstorm (known as the Red Eye, in reference to the permanent storm on Jupiter) which has been circling for 30 years now. It is being tapped for energy using wind turbines, known as Noor.
In this world we meet a woman, calling herself AO (for Autobionic Organism) who was born crippled, and who has been substantially cybernetically enhanced with bionic legs and an arm, plus memory implants – all from Ultimate Corp, the dominant mega-corporation.
Generally, in this world, mega-corporations are more powerful than governments, are distorting news for their own ends, and are driving societal developments and changes to their aims.
And so we watch AO go out into the market, the day after splitting from her fiancee – and get attacked, on religious/anti-machine grounds. We see her kill 5 of her assailants, and run. Her normality, her reality shattered and lost, she flees to the desert, where she meets DNA.
DNA is a traditional herdsman, one of the few left. And, only a day before, he walked into an ambush which cost him his friends, and most of his animals. And the ambush, either directly or indirectly, was most likely set up by Ultimate Corp which is trying to stir up conflict between farmers and the traditional herders, to their own benefit.
For the rest of the story – it is neither very long, nor in plot terribly complex – we follow AO and DNA as they run from their pursuers, affecting everything they touch on their trip into the Red Eye, and learn more about what being AO, and being enhanced as she is actually means.
The world is watching, through myriad cameras and drones... just as we are watching through the eyes of AO.
I'm not going to spill more of the story – it is worth your time and money to follow it yourself!

What fascinated me about it, besides following the thread of the developments as they spiral toward the final denouement, was how differently the story can be read, and how this kept changing in my mind (and in turn changed the story as I read it).
Besides the classic Hero's Journey view, which brings disruption, change, and resistance to it all the way to birth pains of the new self this can also be seen as a commentary on society and its changes as time moves on, or as an environmental elegy, given the nature of the catastrophe that AO and DNA move into. Some of it reads as anti-corporate warning (very valid, given where we are already, never mind where this has moved to in the story), and the value (or not) of some of the changes that are taking place.
But at the very core, as with lots of SF, the question is asked what it means to be human, and what this could mean in changing times, and especially when we start changing ourselves more and more.

The ending leaves a lot of avenues open for follow-on work; from that perspective Noor is quite a lot like some earlier versions of the Book of Phoenix by the same author, which has been fleshed out and pulled together since. Me, for one, would be looking forward to hear more about AO, and about the world she lives in.

More Nnedi Okorafor

Title: Noor
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: DAW Books
Publisher URL: http://www.dawbooks.com
Publication Date: Nov 2021
Review Date: 220209
ISBN: 978
Price: UKP
Pages: 175
Format: ePub
Topic: Africanfuturism
Topic: Science Fiction

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
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I enjoyed this. I did feel that this one was rather rushed and I would really have wanted more, because Noor was such an interesting cyborg/humanoid character to read from. I really enjoy Okorafor's approach to sci-fi and this is perfect for fans new and old.
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Typical of Nnedi Okorafor, this book was intense but engaging. An amazing book that I would highly recommend to anyone else who has read her work.
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It was a little slow to start for me, even as a novella, but the ending was very satisfying. Another interesting tale from Nnedi Okorafor.
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In recent years, I've been afflicted with a case of Nnedi Okorafor mania. Excellent tales from around the world, each one brimming with viewpoints and details that are new to me. When I read, I made sure to take my time and enjoy every word. Noor enriches her previous works with fresh ideas and viewpoints. Thank you for enlightening me to the richness of the world's different civilizations and the stories they tell.
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Anwuli Okwudili was born with a disability and later experienced a terrible car crash. As a result, she lives with a variety of biotechnological enhancements. After being attacked in a market, she finds herself villainized by the public and goes on the run, where she meets a man with a similar story who joins her on her search for a safe place.

I know I can always count on Nnedi Okorafor for thought-provoking sci-fi that gives me a new perspective on real world issues. Noor is a fast-paced story with fascinating themes of class, ability, the future of technology, and more.
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Okorafor’s work invites us into a world of the future, but one in which the foundational culture is not derived from Western Europe but situated in Africa. Her underlying premise is that the Africans of the future, in this case Nigerians, have developed their own rich technologies. Two stand out for me in this novel: harvesting solar and wind energy in the deserts of northern Nigeria; and the heroine herself, whose cyborg body has been extensively augmented. At the same time, herdsmen follow ages-old traditions. In Okorafor’s skillful hands, high tech and ancient ways of life blend into a seamless whole.
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A delightful book full of adventure, action, and thrills. Fun to read, engrossing world building, and very descriptive imagery made it feel like it was cinematic. It's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. Would recommend.
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Transformational

Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt...natural, and that's putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was "wrong". But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.

Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the "reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist" and the "saga of the wicked woman and mad man" unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn't so predictable. Expect the unaccepted.

I’ll preface this review with the information that this is the first book by Nnedi Okorafor that I’ve read. I’ve heard that her work was thoughtful and engaging, dynamic and none of those even gave a full hint of what to expect with this novel. The characters are unique and dynamic, the plot is thoughtful and the concepts transformational in what we expect from a science fiction novel. 

Why do I say it’s transformational? Because for the first time, this is a character that is disabled, who deals with those differences in unique ways. In the novel “Noor” AO has reconfigured her body but that does not change her essential humanity not even when she begins to develop new skills in her journey across the deserts of Nigeria. While AO’s understanding of who she is slowly changes, she still remains human as does DNA in his full acceptance of AO, despite her differences. These characters don’t just transform themselves but they change the landscape of their world, impacting it spiritually as well as technologically. 

Beyond the ideas and thoughtfulness of the plot, the action and pacing will keep you engaged and turning the page, wanting to read more and more. Even when I reached the end, I wanted more words, the plot and characters were that dynamic. Nnedi Okonafor engages every sense with her words, to immerse the reader fully in her novel. The book deals with a world far separated from the typical city dweller and yet, I found myself empathizing with every action of both AO and DNA and I loved delving into their world. 

If you love intriguing and thoughtful science fiction and a story set in Africa that teaches about transformation in all its meanings, this novel is for you. I loved every minute of the book and can’t wait to read more novels by Nnedi Okonafor. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 winds.
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Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt...natural, and that's putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was "wrong". But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.
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Nnedi Okorafor has done it again! “Noor” is a marvel of sci-fi, African-futurism, climate awareness, and cultural appreciation. As with many of Okorafor’s novels, there is a clash between how things were *before* and how things are *now*, which often includes erasure of a culture, folktales, stories, “ways” learned from experience and lifelong toil, combined with futuristic explorations of technology and what that can mean for civilization as a whole. Her adventures within the creatively endless possibilities of an advanced techno-sci-fi universe make all of her novels so incredibly fascinating and make the reader feel like techno-shades have been lifted from our eyes. I really enjoyed this novel, despite some heavy themes around dehumanization of “the other”. The technology she explores around seeing through and breathing in violent sandstorms was almost astrolabe-esque (i.e. from the Binti trilogy). Great read.
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Africanfuturism novel about human augmentation

Content warning: war, disability, harassment

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

“Noor” by Nnedi Okorafor is an Africanfuturism science fiction novel about a young Igbo woman called AO who has a number of cybernetic augmentations to assist her due to her disabilities. AO works as a successful mechanic in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja however not everyone accepts her for who she is. When she retaliates after being harassed by a group of men in the market, she finds herself on the run. Joining forces with a young Fulani herdsman called DNA, they find themselves heading towards a perpetual sandstorm in the desert seeking refuge and answers. Between them, they discover a national conspiracy and the untapped abilities that are their only hope of stopping it.

This was a fast-paced book in a reimagined Nigera that examines pressing social issues through a science fiction lens. I really liked the way Okorafor handled the stigma surrounding disability, and the complex relationship AO has with her augmentations, where they came from and the cause of her disabilities. The book really tackles capitalism and the consequences of giving too many rights and too much power to corporations. AO is a really strong character with a streak of recklessness and a clear idea of what she wants. I thought DNA, with his softer yet still courageous personality, was a good counterpoint.

There were some rather surreal moments in the book, such as when AO and DNA met a white yogi in the middle of a sandstorm. I will be honest and say that I think there were a lot of commentaries about Nigerian society and politics that I did not have the background to fully appreciate, especially the herder-farmer conflicts. I think that Okorafor was nevertheless generous enough with her writing to help any reader understand the broad factors at play.

A multifaceted story at breakneck speed that tackles critical social issues through creative technology.
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As someone who has read multiple books by this author, I always come out of them wishing they were a full length novel, which is a compliment! They are such great books with a strong world, characters, interesting African mythology or lore, I just want more.  I would have loved much more detail about AO’s backstory with her parents, brother and a lot more detail on why Ultimate Corp was a real, threat. While the ideas were interesting they didn’t feel “fleshed out” for a lack of better term
Full review to come on YouTube.
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2 stars

**Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.**

Pros
+ Nigerian-American author
+ themes: Afrofuturism, company colonialism, biotechnology, transhumanism, Nigerian old world (nomadic/anti-capitalist/anti-tech) vs. Nigerian new world (city/capitalist/tech-dependent)
+ setting: near-future Nigeria where megacorps control everything, including technology, agriculture, and even human bodies
+ AO/Anwuli Okwudili/Artificial Organism (POV MC): a physically-disabled (both from birth defects and a car accident) then augment-enabled woman on the run
+ DNA (MC): a Fulani desert herdsman also on the run

Cons
- The blurb mentions it is a "fast-paced, relentless journey." I couldn't disagree more with the "fast-paced" comment. This was SUPER SLOW and really dragged for me. Also, instead of feeling like a "relentless journey," it instead felt like the characters were just wandering around somewhat aimlessly as long as they weren't going back to where they knew danger was.
- The AI elements were such a let down! Nothing was really explained, it ~just was~ which really annoys me. Technology isn't magic so explain it. Or make it magic and be fantasy. The dangled futuristic-AI-woman carrot turned out to be too good to be true here.
- I also saw one of the big "twists" at the end from the very beginning. As soon as the world was explained, I was like... of course X did Y causing Z??? Surely it isn't so obvious. BUT IT WAS! That was the twist. *Sigh* I think anyone who has ever read megacorps dystopians would have probably seen that twist a mile away.
- The intimate scenes were cringey AF.

TW: physical abuse, medical abuse, body degeneration, murder, baby endangerment, massacre, surgery, car accident
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Nnedi Okorafor is back again with Noor, a new incredible universe that proves her exceptional abilities as a writer. Noor is a beautiful, wonderful story that will fill you with magic and joy as you read each page.
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“When you are someone like me, one who is always fighting for herself, against oppression, hate, misunderstanding, fear, you move about the world with care. You seek out those places where people will accept you and you nest there.” -Anwuli Okwudili, aka AO

There are many silimaries between this novel and Okorafor’s previous work Remote Control. Both discuss the topics of hate, oppression and anti-capitalism. Both take place in the near future and are set in Nigeria. 

Okorafor’s writing transports me to another place and causes me to compare these places to our own. We live in a world dependent on technology and materialism; a world controlled by the few (not the majority).
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Rep: African (Nigeria)

This was my first time reading anything by Nnedi Okorafor, and unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. Whilst I enjoyed the Africanfuturism elements of the story, the actual plot and characters were quite basic. There were big plot jumps throughout the novel that made it difficult to enjoy the story and understand what was happening. I wasn’t a fan of the bond between AO and DNA – it was just too rushed and gave major insta-love vibes. When I finished the book, I felt disappointed. I didn’t like AO, wanted more world-building, and a more interesting story. For those reasons, I’m giving this 2/5 stars.
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Rating: 3.5 stars

Nnedi Okorafor's writing is the type of sci-fi/speculative fic that pushes the boundaries and makes me go "well huh." Noor is a lot Afrofuturism and a bit Afrojujuism (which is a new to me term!). This is a speculative fic look at what it means to be "other," disability and mobility devices as we move into a more technological world, and the evils of capitalism.

There are several stories within the story in this book, and while some were interesting there was one very long one about the invention of the solar power they use that was just long and didn't seem to have a huge impact on the story itself. I found myself getting impatient with all the side stories and wanting to get back to the actual story.

While those side stories sort of slowed things down, the book overall remained quite fast-paced, especially the end which comes on, well, like a whirlwind. Every time I thought I knew where the story was headed, the winds changed and it swept along somewhere completely unexpected.
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Full review posted at BookBrowse: https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/reviews/index.cfm/book_number/4369/noor
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This is a fascinating short novel (nearly a novella), and, as with most everything Okorafor writes, it's full of deep characterization and even headier sci-fi ideas, along with a heaping dose of sharp commentary on modern technologies, their potential, and their risks. It's by no means my favorite thing by the author, but it's a very solid work that gives a great disabled protagonist who is never shy of discussing her augmented body. I'd love to teach this book.
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