Goliath is a story about survival. It’s about the lives we carve out of spaces where everything has been taken, everything is against us, and where no one begins to look. There are layers of privilege, pvoerty, racism, structural inequality all tied up in this epic SF world. At various points I clicked more or less with these character’s lives, but I was constantly in awe of Onyebuchi’s world. This setting of the future.
This book did not capture me or my imagination at all. I couldn't connect with any piece of the book (writing, story, characters) and felt immediately lost and checked out. I do not read a lot of sci-fi and think someone more familiar with the genre would fare much better than I.
Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to the advanced copy of this book to read.
Great example of a dystopian novel done right! I will say that it was a little slow to start, but once you get past the initial slog, it was worth it. The introspective look at America and what it has become made this a truly impactful read. I can't wait to see what Onyebuchi does next.
This novel is rich, dense and dream like in how it portrays those left behind after the ecological collapse of earth. Heartbreaking and yet somehow also inspiring as the cycle of inequality continues.
An interesting retelling that didn't fully grab me (like RIOT BABY) did -- not a knock on the book, more a knock on me as a reader, I think. Onyebuchi's writing is still vibrant and his storytelling exciting, and the message in the book is more pertinent than ever, but it slid from my mind pretty quickly after I finished it.
This may be a new record for latest feedback ever, but honestly Onyebuchi is a killer writer so I knew this book would be awesome.
Lots of detail, politics, complex timelines, and the book tackles a lot of difficult topics in an engaging way- I still want to burn everything down, but at least I'm reading good fiction while I'm raging.
Thanks so much for the review copy!
I was so, so excited to read this book. The premise is incredible, it's gotten lots of buzz, and I loved Riot Baby. That said, I unfortunately had to DNF this book at 24%. I could not follow the characters, settings, or timelines. From what I hear, it is well worth it for readers who can. Perhaps one day I will take another stab at it. The level of originality and social relevance of this story is enough to recommend it.
I'm not a huge sci-fi person, but my husband is so he's been getting me into reading more sci-fi, and I'm really glad I requested this book. The premise is more realistic than the sci-fi I'm used to reading -- it's not hard to imagine earth decimated by climate change, led by the rich and overall looking pretty grim. The writing style is very unique and it took me a little while to get through it (it's not very fast-paced) but I'm very glad I read it.
This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.
Before I could finish reading this book it got archived and there's no way I can review a book I didn't finish reading.
I have a reviewerly confession to make: I never finished Parable of the Sower. I read every other Octavia Butler book I could get my hands on as a teenager--my favorite was the Imago series, which tugged on my feelings about desire, embodiment, and trauma in ways I was not ready to articulate--but I didn't want to read then about the ways in which teenage girls are powerless, and I have not returned as an adult. That means I can't tell you whether Tochi Onyebuchi's novel Goliath is like Parable of the Sower in any deep and fundamental sense. But it is absolutely like the way people talk about Parable of the Sower.
If you want to read a gorgeous, literary, terrifying near-future novel about race in America--if you want to metabolize a brilliant person's take on where things are going that you may look back on, thirty years from now, to say, "Fuck they were right"--you should read Goliath.
I read Tochi Onyebuchi because I am personally and abidingly angry at the American quote-on-quote justice system in ways that middle-class white people mostly don't talk about. (Grand sweep of ideas? Yes. Background-radiation family trauma? Not so much.) This puts me in an odd position as a reviewer, because on one hand there are huge swathes of this book that are familiar in the sense of familial, and on the other hand I'm white and this book isn't for me, in ways it makes painstakingly clear.
This book is also not for Jonathan. That might be less obvious, because Jonathan is a prominent viewpoint character, especially in the early sections. Jonathan grew up on a space station, safely away from polluted, climate-crashing Earth, but he has working-class New Haven roots, and he yearns to go back. He also yearns for his boyfriend David.
Basic English-lit-class training tells you that if you're reading a book called Goliath about characters named David and Jonathan, tragedy is coming. This is perfectly true. Goliath is a tragedy in the technical sense--someday, a high school student is going to write an essay on hubris and catharsis in this novel, and when they do, I hope they get an A. But neither David nor Jonathan is the tragic hero.
At the center of Goliath are the stackers. Most of New Haven--the parts not under domes--will kill you if you're not wearing a breath mask. But the houses are still beautiful. A drone can reduce a house to its components in seconds. Then a crew of humans collects the lovely, weathered brick. It's tough, physical, satisfying work, if you don't think too hard about the symbolism.
In the space of a year, the team--Bishop, Linc, Mercedes, Bugs, Timeica, Sydney, and their colleagues--becomes a sort of family. Much of Goliath is a sort of literary collage, telling you who the stackers are, where they came from, what kinds of grief they carry, what kinds of grief are impossible to carry--and what they find that is beautiful, and what happens in the spring.
(I read this book as a NetGalley ARC, but it's now available to everyone!)
Earth being poisoned, ultimately forcing humanity to the stars has been a premise that I’ve read many, many times. Goliath shifts that conventional focus from the population escaping to the often neglected lives of those left behind. Race and poverty are major themes, as such, Goliath was jam-packed with righteous anger and cynicism. While this was in no way a fun read, some books are meant to be uncomfortable. When discussing this read with one of my fellow book lovers she sent me the following clip that captures why books like Goliath are so important.
The premise of Goliath is fascinating. With the earth deemed too dangerous for routine life, the bulk of humanity escapes to the recently built space stations.The people left behind are given no choice about the matter and are forced, due to a lack of other work, into hard labor where they scavenge building materials from abandoned houses to ship up to the ever expanding stations. Also, due to being exposed to contaminated air constantly, even with the use of masks, the Earthers live short, hard lives. Now after a few generations have lived in the stations, people, mostly white, are now returning. And what started out as a trickle has become a flood, with gentrification in full force as the black residents are being forced out of their communities, along with an increase in government monitoring and brutal targeting by a mechanized police force. Additionally, with the return of the people from space, they bring with them comforts such as clean air bubbles that have been denied to the surface population, further stoking resentments.Tensions escalate throughout this heartbreaking book until violence overflows.
I found the characters and world in Goliath to be excellent pieces that valiantly attempt to hold together an ever jumping timeline. I spent so much of this read thoroughly confused as to where I was in the story. Without prompting, some chapters utilize flashbacks while others jump forward in time before returning to the overall main story within the relative same timeframe, though sometimes this was also flexible. The flashbacks not only expand upon this intriguing and broken literary world but also fill out the backstories of the cast. That said, the backstories were often filled with gaps that left character’s stories incomplete or unresolved. Moreover, other flashbacks seemed to be totally unrelated side stories until the link to the main characters is passingly revealed. Even having finished Goliath, I would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what happened and in what order. I have so many questions.
Overall, Goliath was a thought-provoking read with a unique, heartbreaking take on the aftermath of humanity abandoning a planet they poisoned, though the ever-shifting timeline distracted from the flow of the read.
Original and ambitious. The writing was very good, and the worldbuilding, but I had a hard time tracking all the characters. It might have worked better for me as a physical book, with the ability to easily navigate back to refresh myself.
After reading the synopsis, I was really excited to read this book as it described a future world in 2050, where the Earth is decimated by climate change, disease, and radiation compounded by rich, white communities creating an orbiting colony to escape the desperation, desolation, and destruction of our earthly home, leaving poorer, less fortunate communities of black and brown people remaining to struggle to survive. This book discusses what happens as the white colonists decide to start returning to Earth and resettle areas that have been already populated by the remaining people. As it seemed to encapsulate everything I look for in a book--thought provoking, futuristic, dystopian, I anticipated giving this book 5 stars, especially since this book reflects on where we have been, where we are now (Covid, BLM, gentrification) and where we possibly could be headed in the future as a nation and global society. I enjoy reading difficult books with complicated stories that push me to think differently and have a new perspective. This book, however, was NOT that kind of "difficult". This was difficult from the beginning as there were vivid, graphic descriptions of sex, rape, murder/violence, drug scenes, which really didn't add to the story but rather subtracted as they didn't seem to have a purpose beyond shock value as the scenes could have still gotten their point to the reader without being assaulting. The story flipped between times, places and characters without warning or clues as to WHO the characters were or how they fit in with the main story, sometimes within the main story, but written in such a way it sometimes wasn't even clear if the scene was a memory? a daydream? a nightmare? Just when I wanted to understand a character or situation more fully, it abruptly changed to something seemingly random. I kept reading despite wanting to give up on the book, hoping that at the end I would fully appreciate the complete stories of each character and timeline and how they fit together. That never happened for me as the end of the book also ended just as abruptly as each of the scenes within the book. The language in the book used slang, with extremely heavy use of the "N" word (instead of making a statement, it was used so frequently it almost desensitizes the reader, making it seem normal/commonplace/accepted, which is unfortunate) while peppered with complicated vocabulary and futuristic jargon that is never really explained (although some later become clear through context). Some things that would have enhanced reading the book, as it is, would be if when the timeline changes, the year should be clearly labeled (I had a NetGalley ARC, so maybe this was changed in the final version?) instead of the "20--" that was used for the year. Characters names should be used in flashbacks (some scenes had none!). A map or maps of the futurelands that the author is referring to would have enhanced the story as could better envision where the characters were and where they were going. Also a glossary explaining futuristic jargon would have been great too. Finally the story was really slow and rambling in the middle and I kept wishing I knew MORE about the colony--WHY were people coming back? WHAT was it like to live there? Although all book endings do not need to be "happy", I do wish this book had given us some closure as to what happened to each character, glimpses of their futures and any direction of hope for all of humanity to live together peacefully on this Earth.
Skip to content
February 17, 2022 robwolfbooks
Gentrifiers Return to Earth Seeking Virgin Land Where None Exists in Tochi Onyebuchi’s Goliath
Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.
Tochi Onyebuchi’s new novel Goliath features a phenomenon familiar to those of us who live in cities—gentrification.
Like the gentrifiers of today, who push out old-timers with high rents and coffee boutiques, Onyebuchi’s urban colonizers are taking over property in communities that have suffered from underinvestment and systemic racism.
But unlike gentrifiers of today, who often leave behind comfortable lives in the suburbs, the gentrifiers in Goliath are returning from comfortable lives on space stations where those with means had fled years earlier to escape pollution and environmental degradation on Earth.
Onyebuchi sees in the story of David and Jonathan—returnees from who take over a home in a Black and Brown community in New Haven—parallels to frontier narratives.
“I’ve read a lot of westerns and western-inflected literature, and the ways in which people have written about the American West were very fundamental in how I approached the characters of David and Jonathan,” Onyebuchi tells in the new episode of New Books in Science Fiction. “You have people going out west historically for all sorts of reasons. ‘Oh, that’s where my fortune is.’ Or they’re like, ‘Oh, like, there are no rules out there. I can totally remake myself.’”
In David and Jonathan’s case, their relationship is broken. “They think, ‘Oh, if we just change the scenery, that’ll make things better, we’ll be able to start over.… We can make this work on Earth. It’s virgin territory, this place where we can build something together.’ That in many ways is the animating impulse, of course, completely or almost completely disregarding the fact that Earth is already home to a lot of people.”
Tochi Onyebuchi is the author of the Beasts Made of Night series; the War Girls series; and the non-fiction book (S)kinfolk. His novel Riot Baby—which he discussed on the podcast in 2020—was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and NAACP Image Awards and winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction, the Ignyte Award for Best Novella, and the World Fantasy Award. He has degrees from Yale, New York University, Columbia Law School, and the Paris Institute of Political Studies.
by Tochi Onyebuchi
A Review by Jamilla @LandsAwayBooks on Wordpress.
A slow and steady look into a planet Earth abandoned by those who can afford to it’s cities a barren polluted wasteland for those who aren’t wealthy enough to leave it all behind.
An interesting and experimental book, it lost me in some places and devastated me in others.
Loved how it tackled so many themes racism, classism and a whole new scale of gentrification. This book felt percipient.
Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for this egalley.
Tochi Onyebuchi is back with another blindingly brilliant and powerful novel, Goliath. Honestly, it will be a struggle reviewing this book because my words do not contain the same level of force found within this book.
By the late 2050s, the people of Earth have begun to look to the stars. In reality, that means that people with means of leaving are doing so. They're finding new homes in space colonies, leaving behind all they knew without a second thought.
Meanwhile, Earth continues to crumble. The cities left behind aren't staying for long as those in the colonies take every scrap of resource or memorabilia available. Once again, leaving those stuck behind with less than ever.
I just...wow. I'm sincerely struggling to find the right words to describe Goliath and how it made me feel. On the bright side, that's how you know you've found a good book – when it leaves you speechless.
Goliath is a complex novel that weaves science fiction elements with real-world problems, such as politics, racism, and the state of the world. It's not what I would call a light read, but that's not a bad thing.
I should probably mention that much of the story within Goliath isn't told linearly. So it can get a bit confusing at times. Honestly, it probably wouldn't hurt for me to read it a second (or even third) time. However, I think it is worth that time and experience.
Unlike most books I read, I found myself treasuring Goliath. I didn't read it all in one stint – but instead read a little bit here and there. It allowed me to better absorb all of the messages and material within the pages – and trust me, there's a lot.
Goliath is a poignant read, one that cuts to the quick and doesn't pull punches. It is brutally honest about the reality of space colonization – and who we would leave behind in the process. It is painful to read and forces the readers to really think about all of the implications within this concept. As such, I think Goliath is an essential science fiction read.
Sadly this was a DNF for me. I loved his previous book but had a time with the format of this one. Slow pacing and some odd jumps?
The year is 2050 and the world looks very different than it does today but some things are alarmingly still the same: gentrification, the prison system and climate change are still massive problems. In this Afro-futuristic tale the world is a scary place, even scarier given the world outside our windows right now. This book is political and biblical at points, and even if that isn’t for you it is important to the context of the story and this is Ana amazing writer and story that needs to be told.
Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi [Tordotcom Publishing, 2022]
Let's not mess around here: Goliath is one of the most impressive works of science fiction I've ever read. Tochi Onyebuchi's novel bills itself as "a primal biblical epic flung into the future", and it certainly delivers on that sense of both scale and mythology: a mosaic novel set in New Haven, Connecticut, centred on the lives of those left on a radioactive, oxygen deprived Earth by a space colonisation movement that was only ever accessible to the elite, the shifting dynamics as some of the spacefarers begin to return, and the damage that this gentrification causes to communities who have only ever tried to build a safe, comfortable life for themselves. Within that broad framework, Onyebuchi populates his narrative with a range of perspectives and characters, taking us through a meticulous, non-linear journey through their lives and concerns. At the heart of it are two groups, given equally sympathetic portrayals despite their very different positions. There's the young gay couple, Jonathan and David, who are returning from space and whose perspectives are portrayed as sympathetically as any others, albeit with an eye to showing how much their perspectives differ from those already living in the neighbourhood that they consider a blank slate opportunity (in the opening paragraph, Jonathan talks about the warnings he receives about "gangs" who populate Earth, before dismissing them in favour of his enthusiasm for the "shadow country" that is his vision of the planet). And then there's Linc, Bishop and their crew of demolitionists, whose job is to tear down houses (using a very cool bit of futuristic technology with potential for grim malfunctions that are quickly demonstrated) and then stack the bricks left behind so that they can be transported to the colonies. It's through the eyes of Linc and his buddies that we really come to grips with the extent to which the world has been broken, and the inescapably racist dynamics of who suffers from it. The group's banter swings from wild second-hand stories about former house parties to furious deconstructions of their political reality, and it's their reactions which sets the tone for the rest of the novel's politics.
There's no grand showdown or dramatic set pieces in Goliath: Jonathan and David's lives briefly intersect with Bishop, but not in any way that changes the course of the future history we are watching. Instead, Goliath just concerns itself with setting out that history: built, as the acknowledgements demonstrate, from a deep understanding of the dynamics of our recent past and extrapolating them into an era of space travel. The result is a very particular kind of novel: one which demands a lot of attention while reading and isn't in the business of giving instant narrative gratification, but which takes a sledgehammer to a lot of genre assumptions about near future science fiction, including how the sexy, exciting bits of those future get distributed and whose stories we consider worth telling because of that. I expect I'll be evaluating every book set in this narrative space against Goliath for the rest of my days, and I can't think of any better sign of quality than that.