You may recall that I have stated my intention to widen my reading horizons by reading authors from countries other than the US and England. To that end, so far I have enjoyed books by Chinese authors, Japanese, Egyptian, Pakistan, Israel, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Ireland, Scotland, several Central and South American countries, Spain, and oh crumb, a few more that I have forgotten. I think Iceland.
So, after having recently read Spaceman of Bohemia, which you can read about here, when my Dearly Beloved recommended Nigerians in Space, written by Nigerian Deji Bryce Olukotun, as you can imagine, I was IN.
OK, turns out this was not a science fiction book, despite its title. There are no Nigerians in space, only a bunch of Nigerian scientists who WANT to be in space. In fact, the author, although Nigerian, grew up in Hopewell New Jersey, for pity’s sake. hahahaha
But in spite of all that, and feeling slightly scammed as if a Nigerian prince wanted my bank number in order to send me even MORE money, it turned out to be a really good book. Here’s the official plot description:
1993. Houston. Dr. Wale Olufunmi, lunar rock geologist, has a life most Nigerian immigrants would kill for, but then most Nigerians aren’t Wale—-a great scientific mind in exile with galactic ambitions. Then comes an outlandish order: steal a piece of the moon. With both personal and national glory at stake, Wale manages to pull off the near impossible, setting out on a journey back to Nigeria that leads anywhere but home. Compelled by Wale’s impulsive act, Nigerians traces arcs in time and space from Houston to Stockholm, from Cape Town to Bulawayo, picking up on the intersecting lives of a South African abalone smuggler, a freedom fighter’s young daughter, and Wale’s own ambitious son. Deji Bryce Olukotun’s debut novel defies categorization—-a story of international intrigue that tackles deeper questions about exile, identity, and the need to answer an elusive question: what exactly is brain gain?”
I will clarify this a bit. Yeah, it does pretty much defy categorization, but I would tag it as a thriller, with maybe just the teeniest bit of paranormal tossed in for flavor. An Nigerian political activist named Bello creates a program which he calls Brain Gain, that instead of all the best intelligences in the country leaving for a better scientific and academic life elsewhere, they would be lured back into the country with a promise of a space program. Wale, the main protagonist, desperately wants to be an astronaut to the moon. Each scientist, located all over the globe, is given a task of stealing something important in their individual fields, as an act of commitment to the project. They are promised plane tickets to Nigeria, where most have not been for decades, and a safe house, just in case, in South Africa.
Wale steals some scientifically unimportant moon dust from NASA, grabs his family and hotfoots it to the airport where he is supposed to meet Bello, who is a no show. He then drags his family to Stockholm to contact another scientist in the secret program, only to find him murdered in his apartment. This is where this odd story turns into a thriller.
There are three threads, one other following the daughter of a disappeared freedom fighter living in the Sudan, whom Bello had contacted to join the program, which daughter spends the rest of her life trying to find her father, and the third thread is that of a Cape Town abalone smuggler who gets involved with a dangerous smuggling gang. As the story moves from 1993 to present, Wale’s son is now twenty, trying to sell a high tech lamp he has created, where he comes in contact with the abalone guy, the daughter finds Wale, the last scientist of that group who has not been assassinated, and ….
OK, that’s enough. You want to know more? Go read it. It was a great read, and there is a sequel, After the Flare, in which, as the plot description tells us, Nigeria finally has its space program and Wale arrives to be part of it.