The Blurb On The Back:
They call her many things – a research project, a test-subject, a specimen. An abomination.
But she calls herself Phoenix, an ‘accelerated woman’ – a genetic experiment grown and raised in Manhattan’s famous Tower 7, the only home she has ever known. Although she’s only two years old, Phoenix has the body and mind of an adult – and powers beyond imagining. Phoenix is an innocent, happy to live quietly in Tower 7, reading voraciously and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human.
Until the night that Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated, Phoenix begins to search for answers – only to discover everything she that she has ever known is a lie.
Tower 7 isn’t a haven. It’s a prison. And it’s time for Phoenix to spread her wings and rise.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
It’s the far future and an old man called Sunuteel has wandered into the desert, leaving his wife, Hussaina, behind to ponder a vision she saw in a recent storm. He finds a cave filled with computers where he downloads an audio file entitled The Book of Phoenix in which a young woman called Phoenix recounts her life story. Raised in Tower 7 in Manhattan, Phoenix was a genetic experiment (known as a SpeciMen) with the ability to make herself very hot and super healing. She was happy in Tower 7, despite the experiments that the Big Eye scientists perform on her, but then her best friend in the Tower, Saeed (a young man who can eat glass, concrete and other things that would kill a normal human), commits suicide. Mmuo (a man who can pass through matter) tells her that it’s because Saeed saw something in one of the laboratories – something that shocked him enough to take his own life. For the first time, Phoenix questions what’s happening to her and the other SpeciMens in the Tower and her discoveries will change herself and the whole world …
Nnedi Okorafor’s SF superpower thriller (which started life as a short story and ended up being shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award) is a searing novel about lost innocence, revenge, white privilege, colonialism and racism and although I found the ending a little rushed and the romance elements under-developed, it’s nevertheless a powerful read that’s definitely worth a look. Phoenix is a fascinating character – chronologically she’s only two year’s old but she has the body of a 40-year-old and has been allowed to read widely so that intellectually she’s incredibly smart but emotionally she’s incredibly innocent, seen through her sweet budding romance with Saeed (who I found slightly underdeveloped and it feels like something’s missing from his story at the end). Okorafor makes her points about colonial attitudes towards Africa and Africans in a damning and shocking way and her depiction of the attitude of white men in a Ghanaian town, while broad, also rings true. It’s great to read a book with non-white protagonists, but I wanted more of Bumi (a black scientist who’s the closest thing Phoenix has to a mother) who disappears in the final quarter. For all this though, this is a strong read and one that’s definitely worth a few hours of your time.