Deji Bryce Olukotun writes science fiction stories, and his second book was a dystopian novel. So, perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that his first book, Nigerians in Space, would be a science fiction novel. Especially since it opens at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Alas, this is no science fiction novel. In fact, it’s difficult to categorize it in any way at all.
Nigerians in space?
If anything, Nigerians in Space revolves around the theme of corruption in Nigeria. The central figure, Wale Olufunmi, is a Nigerian lunar geologist who is employed as a lab technician at the Johnson Space Center. His fantasy is to walk on the moon. So, he jumps at the chance to buy into a harebrained scheme to repatriate Nigerian scientists from all over the world in a “Brain Gain” that will permit the country to establish its own space travel program.
Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun (2014) 296 pages @@@ (3 out of 5)
The story in Nigerians in Space unfolds in short chapters that alternate between 1993-94, when the Brain Gain scheme was launched, and the “present day” twenty years later. The action moves rapidly from Houston to Capetown to Stockholm; Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; Paris; Basel; and Abuja, Nigeria. As a result, it’s a bit difficult keeping track of where and when things happen. And, with the exception of Wale, the lunar geologist, the principal characters don’t come across as credible. The mysterious Nigerian official who enlists Wale in the Brain Gain scam and a young South African woman who becomes a supermodel are both especially difficult to understand.
Ironically, in 2016 the Nigerian government announced plans to send an astronaut into space by 2030.
About the author
Nigerians in Space was Deji Bryce Olukotun‘s debut novel. He has written a number of science fiction stories for magazines and a dystopian novel, After the Flare. Olukotun is an attorney who works as a digital rights activist as well as a writer.
FYI, this is the 1,000th review I’ve posted on this site. (I’m not counting the 130 commentaries, FAQs, and reading lists I’ve also posted here.) Imagine that!
For further reading
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- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
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