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This book is a journey, and it is at times an intentionally uncomfortable one. Set in a (far?) future subsaharan Africa, racially-based genocides continue between the Nuru and the Okeke. An "Ewu" girl (the result of the rape of an Okeke by a Nuru man) is given the name Onyesonwu -- "Who Fears Death". This book has magic -- in particular: shape-shifting, and traveling to The Wilderness, the space where spirits go after life -- and sand, and violence -- though this is not a book "about" magic, or sand -- and scenes which are both unsettling and gripping. The narration from Anne Flosnik here is quite primal; we feel the pain and, as often, anger of Onyesonwu and her companions and adversaries.
Okorafor's world is one where some technology remains -- portable computers with maps, water collection devices -- but this is not at all a book about technology. It is about people, and in particular the roles of women (and men) in a highly tribal culture. There are ruins -- old, paved roads -- but this is not a book about the past. It is also not a book about the future. It is a book which is quite present, and is highly recommended to readers with an interest in something beyond the beaten path, whether coming from an interest in fantasy or more mainstream fiction, and the willingness to travel on unfamiliar and rocky ground.
28 of 28 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Who Fears Death in three words, what would they be?
Powerful, absorbing, refreshing
What was one of the most memorable moments of Who Fears Death?
When Onyesonwu, Luyu, and Mwita take shelter in the "haunted" cave
Have you listened to any of Anne Flosnik’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Yes, I have listened to Anne Flosnik's narration of Robin Hobb's Rail Wilds trilogy. To be honest, I found her narration of those novels quite irritating, and thought she did a much better job with Who Fears Death. But, see my additional comments, below.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
So many—Onyesonwu's friendship with the blacksmith, who became her stepfather; Aro's decision to teach Onye; the reconciliation between Onye and her friends Luyu, Diti, and Binta (you'll know which one I mean); Mwita's declaration of ifunanya; etc. etc.!
Any additional comments?
Anne Flosnik did a good job with the "African" accent she adopted for this novel. However, I disagree with the producer's decision to ask it of her. There's no reason Onyesonwu needs to sound like (a white person's idea of) what an African sounds like when they are just learning to speak English. I could understand it better if there were non-African or native English-speaking characters in the novel, from whom Onyesonwu needed to be distinguished; but that is not the case. All the accent does is perpetuate the idea that fantasy/sci-fi novels dealing with non-Western cultures/settings are foreign and strange. Put another way: If you were to read this novel, you would "hear" Onyesonwu in your head speaking with your own voice/accent. I can't help thinking Okorafor would prefer that kind of reader-character identification to the "othering" effect created by Flosnik's artificially imposed "black African" accent.
22 of 22 people found this review helpful
What would have made Who Fears Death better?
Having it read in a natural, comfortable accent - by almost anyone! But the way it is read in a horrible, forced accent in this recording is unacceptable (please see the general comments section below).
Would you recommend Who Fears Death to your friends? Why or why not?
No. The reading is uncomfortable to listen to and borderline racist.
Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Anne Flosnik?
I have nothing against Anne per se, but I feel she should have read it in a comfortable, natural voice. If the accenting is so essential to the telling, why not choose an African and raised English speaker to read it? Or at least someone of relatively recent African origin -
Britain has a huge and highly capable African diaspora!
Any additional comments?
The reader (Anne Flosnik, a white, British women) reads the story in a horribly fake accent, where she is quite obviously trying to sound like a non-first language reader, with an "Africanised" accent. The result is a podcast that is impossible to bear listening to and, I actually feel, is quite offensive and an insult to the author and the listener.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
a really special piece of contemporary fantasy. the narrator's voice wraps around you like a warm blanket until you are completely immersed in okorafor's words.
content warnings: graphic depictions of violence , rape and genocide. in no way gratuitous but crucial to the story so can't just be skipped over.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful