Year Of Publication : 2018
Publisher: Cassava Republic Press
No. Of Pages: 470
Genre: Sci-Fi, Speculative Fiction, Afrofuturism
“The tentacles slipped around her right ankle before she
could move away. They yanked her off her feet, as two then three more tentacles slapped around her left ankle, torso, and thigh. Grass ground into her jeans and T-shirt and then bare skin on her back as it dragged her toward the water. Sunny had never been a great swimmer. When she was a young child, swimming was always something done in the sun, so she avoided it. It was nighttime, but she definitely wanted to avoid swimming now. She thrashed and twisted, fighting terror; panic would get her nowhere. This was one of the first things Sugar Cream had taught her on the first day of her mentorship. Sugar Cream. She’d be wondering where Sunny was. She
was almost to the water now.
Suddenly, one of the tentacles let go. Then another. And another. She was . . . free. She scrambled back from the water, feeling the mud and soggy leaves and flowers mash beneath
her. She stared at the water, dizzy with adrenaline-fueled fright. For a moment, she bizarrely saw through two sets of eyes, those of her spirit face and her mortal one. Through
them, she simultaneously saw water and somewhere else. The double vision made her stomach lurch…”
Away from the usual narratives found on the pages of African-authored books, there are those who have, over time, tried to place a wholly different spin on our storytelling, either by introducing erstwhile unexplored concepts, or by simply weaving the paragraphs in unconventional styles. Nnedi Okorafor, Ph.D, born to immigrant parents in the United States, is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism for both children and adults. A winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, she is also the author of the books “Who Fears Death? ” , “Long Juju Man” and “Zahrah The Windseeker”.
“Sunny And The Mysteries of Osisi ” is a sequel to the book “What Sunny Saw In The Flames”, and is the second instalment in what looks to be the Sunny’s Adventures trilogy. Its story begins where Sunny Nwazue, relatively fresh from her triumph over Black Hat Otokoto, is ambushed by the lake beast while running late errands for Sugar Cream, her mentor at Leopard Knocks. She is saved by the intervention of Mami Wata, but she never fully moves on from the encounter.
While trying to balance school work with her learning of the strange Nsibidi language, Sunny begins to have disturbing visions of events resembling an apocalypse. Her enquiries reveal that she has to travel to a mysterious city called Osisi. She enlists the help of her friends (Sasha, Chichi and Orlu), and makes arrangements for the “trip” with a giant spider (Udide) and a flying grasscutter, while trying hard to keep these heavy secrets from the rest of her family.
The book, thirty-six chapters long, explores the concept of spirituality, superstition and witchcraft in these parts, only this time in practical, non-stereotypical ways. Here, Nnedi also illustrates the perennial battle between good and evil, and sheds light on qualities such as loyalty, determination, discretion and discipline.
This instalment is worthy of commendation in terms of description and graphic narration. The language is pretty simple and doesn’t require any brain-racking, which would be largely due to its target audience. However, it picks up really slowly, and the build-up to the main event is pretty tedious. Getting into the thick of the action requires some patience, a departure from Nnedi ‘s other works, and even where things speed up, the narrative deccelerates yet again, making for a laborious read.
The pages also leave you feeling that the author could have used a little more research. There is a cringeworthy reference to the Ibibio ethnic group being under the Efik, and there is a lot of demonization of the Ekwensu deity, which won’t sit well with culture purists. Sure enough, this is fiction, and speculative at that, but if a different recipe is going to be served, it should be done properly.
Ultimately, “Sunny And The Mysteries Of Osisi ” sustains the ambition, but lacks the pace of its predecessor. Beyond that, there are sceptics who have attributed Nnedi’s rise in literary circles to more of (international) exposure than actual penmanship, and the ‘texture’ of this novel will provide more ammunition for those assertions. Maybe it’s a case of “stumbling sequel syndrome”, but fans won’t be too impressed, newcomers won’t be convinced, and while this may resonate with a much younger age demographic, it has to be admitted that Nnedi has written much better than this.