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Review of Deji Bryce Olukotun novel AFTER THE FLARE: “Fascinating Blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy”

September 16, 2017 Leave a comment

By Tim Chamberlain

In his latest novel AFTER THE FLARE, Deji Bryce Olukotun delivers a fascinating blend of science fiction and fantasy from a new point of view.

It’s the near future, and massive solar flares have crippled North America, Europe and Asia. Not only does this cause massive disruption on the ground, but all satellites are in danger of crashing, including the manned International Space Station. Nigeria has the only functioning spaceport in the world, and they are scrambling to send a rescue mission to the ISS. Enter our hero, Kwesi Bracket, a displaced American NASA employee thrust into a whole new world in Nigeria.

Fans of plausible, near-future science fiction will enjoy Olukotun’s many inventions which include the Geckophone (a moving, lizard-like phone that can crawl up on

Deji Olukotun Photo © Beowulf Sheehan

the roof to charge in the sun), food-based security (it’s Tuesday, so you have to eat a kola nut and blow through a straw to pass–it’s complicated, and Olukotun does a much better explanation), and the future of currency–cowrie shells. It’s the many little touches like these that make this story vibrant.

But it’s not all just solid science fiction–from the beginning there are mysterious goings-on at the spaceport, and it soon becomes obvious that something beyond science is also somehow involved. Beyond that, the very real members of Boko Haram menace the entire situation, and the terrorists must be dealt with. Olukatun expertly brings all of these various elements together by the end.

The plot of AFTER THE FLARE itself is action movie-worthy, never keeping still for very long. But perhaps the most interesting parts of the book to me were the little asides on life and culture that weave a fascinating picture of Nigeria as it exists now, and how it would evolve in this solar flare ravaged future. The descriptions of the interactions of different local ethnic groups alone is instructive for someone like me that is mostly unfamiliar with the intricacies of Nigerian culture. Also, the fact that Bracket is American gives Olukotun a very natural way to get into these things–the American needs to know what’s happening.

In the end, AFTER THE FLARE is a seriously satisfying journey through a dystopian future and Nigerian culture that keeps itself grounded with interestingly plausible tech and frighteningly real monsters. Any fans of classic sci-fi should enjoy this new entry that puts things in a setting not typically seen in this genre.

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