The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa–a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.
Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks–alone, except for her fox companion–searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.
But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?
Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor is a fabulous novella about a girl who gains mysterious powers by coming into contact with this peculiar seed that came from the sky. She quickly learns two things about her newfound abilities: 1) she can kill people with a touch, and 2) she cannot use technology of any kind, as it immediately stops working. This book took me on an interesting journey. This is my first Okorafor, and reading has made me want to delve deeper into the author’s portfolio.
The best aspect of Remote Control is how intimate the story feels. I guess that is kind of *the point* of novellas, but not all of them are as successful at it as others. This book really fits the bill. The reader gets to experience Sankofa’s – ne, Fatima – journey firsthand, and it envokes quite a bit of emotion. From her original transformation to the first time uses her powers, and as she begins to understand what she can do and what it means, all the way to acceptance of the situation. Confusion, fear, anxiety, confidence, acceptance, pease. This book hits the full scope of emotions, and it does it so well.
Another part of this book that I loved is how mysterious it feels the whole time. No one really knows what the hell is going on, least of all Sankofa. Even as she figures out her powers and how they work, it continues to be unclear exactly. how they came to be. She knows it has to do with the seed, which is why she spends much of the book following it around and trying to retrieve it from the man who currently has it in his possession. This really points to the ending, which, in my opinion, obscures more than discloses. The final pages, to me, are less revelatory to me than they appear. I like this, because I think it allows the reader to make their own meaning out of it instead of forcing the reader to feel a certain way. Part of the point of this book is about perspective, so I find it fitting that in the end I was allow to combine my perspective with Fatima’s to make meaning out of the story.
The book addresses themes of power dynamics (and what happens those who feel powerless are suddently empowered) and those deemed “disposable”, or at a minimum ignored, by society. I get a hint of warning about the reliance of technology, as well; the book is not quite a call to Luddism, but it does circle that drain on a tight line.
Remote Control is a very well-written novella that is quite emotive. I found the story to be interesting and though-provoking, along with plenty of tension-producing elements. I recommend this book for fans of Sci-Fi with an element of Speculative Fiction.