This book is a prequel to Okorafor’s Who Fears Death. It covers the story of a woman named Phoenix who, though she looks 40, is actually only a few years old. She and the few friends she has were created or enhanced by science and kept in Tower 7 to be experimented on. When Phoenix discovers she has abilities that mimic her namesake, her thoughts focus on escape and freedom.
I love this book. It answered all the questions I had about the history of the world created in Who Fears Death. It answers my questions about who wrote The Great Book, how the world became one giant desert, and how the Okeke people became subservient to the Nuru, even if some of the answers come indirectly.
The Book of Phoenix is a moving story. There is so much loss in Phoenix’s life. But also so much rebirth. This book feels like it is designed to awaken the fires of your soul and move you to action. I’m not sure what that action is, but I definitely feel determined to do it. Okorafor has a talent for writing strong, female characters and it is impossible for me to not be affected, even inspired, by their strength.
The most tragic part of this story comes in the final chapters and reflects the nature of stories based on oral histories and translations: they’re always changed or adapted to reflect the nature and beliefs of the storyteller. I cannot say much more on this topic as it would be labelled “spoilers”, but I feel it is a lesson that we must all take to heart; that stories, no matter how grandly told, no matter how believable, sometimes only hold a grain of truth.
I am happy to recommend this book. There are some “experiments” described that are disturbing to think about, but nothing too graphic. You do not have to have read Who Fears Death first, though I would still recommend it. I really have no reason to give this book less than 5 out of 5. Okorafor is an author whose writings stick with you hours after you’re done reading them.