In this edition of Buy, Borrow, Bypass you will encounter three books. These books are about sorcerers in a future Sudan, aliens that inhabit human bodies in Chicago, and the jinn trying to take over the world in New York City.
The first book is Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor. Who Fears Death? takes place in a future, post-apocalyptic Sudan where apprentice sorcerer Onyesonwu sets out on a quest to defeat the evil sorcerer Daib. The genius of Okorafor in writing Who Fears Death? is that she has taken the tropes of fantasy fiction–the Chosen One, the Apprentice, the Quest, the Band of Friends, the Fight of Good versus Evil–and filled them with new meaning. This is a story that not only follows the development of a young woman, it also takes on topics such as gender roles, female circumcision, race relations, and rape. The problem with Who Fears Death? is that it builds towards a climax that doesn’t fully deliver and consequently leaves you disappointed at the end of the book.
The second book is The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu. This novel tells the story of slacker Roen Tan, who involuntarily becomes the human host of Tao. Tao belongs to an alien species that crash-landed on Earth before sentient life had developed. Since then this alien species has split into two warring factions. With Tao as a second consciousness, Roen becomes involved in the deadly conflict between these two factions. Overall, The Lives of Tao is an entertaining read that contains elements of science fiction, alternative history, and political thriller.
Verdict: The Lives of Tao is the first part of a series. If you intend to read all the parts, I would recommend you to buy the book. If not, borrow.
The third and final book is Salman Rushdie’s Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights. On the surface level, Two Years… is a novel with its feet firmly planted in the genre of magical realism. It begins with Dunia, a female jinni or jinnia, who seduces the medieval philosopher Ibn Rushd and bears his children. Several centuries into the future, the descendants of Dunia and Ibn Rushd are called on to save the world against the attack of a group of evil jinn. Beyond the surface level, Two Years… is a sophisticated political allegory of the threat towards humanity posed by religious extremism. The only drawback is that Rushdie at times gets a bit preachy in spreading the gospel of Atheism, consequently falling into his own trap. Also, when you read Two Years…, read it out loud to yourself. Salman Rushdie does not write prose. He writes music.