War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi – War Girls #1 – Razorbill – Published 15 October 2019
The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.
In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.
Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.
And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.
With heartbreaking reflection of the Nigerian Civil War but with a high-tech futurist twist, War Girls is a homage to sisterhood and family forged by the bonds of loss in a detailed sci-fi war novel.
Onyii and Ify are sisters, living in hiding in a secret camp for girls. Both their lives have been touched by the violence of the war in Nigeria. Climate change, nuclear destruction, famine and political unrest have left the country war-torn by battles led by drones, droids and augmented soldiers (those with bionic limbs and tech implants). When a raid on the camp sees the sisters torn apart, they must reconcile their new positions on opposite sides of the war.
Onyii and Ify are formidable characters, in spite of the traumas they have faced. Onyii is a solider, with tech implants and mechanic limbs. With fantastic moves in the air and on the ground, she is a killing machine. Onyii protects and shelters Ify. Ify is something of an outsider in the camp and endures the ridicule of the other girls. But Ify has a secret talent for using tech to join networks, discover the secrets of those around her and find data to feed her thirst for knowledge. When a raid tears the girls apart, they are both thrust into the war, but on opposite sides. The girls are presented with their possible futures and details about their pasts.
The technology in War Girls is intriguing, from artificial limbs to flying war suits I could only picture as early Iron Man suits. The girls’ skills in building with, repairing and hacking tech is also cool.
A huge part of the story is the reflection of the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s, as well as the use of child soldiers. It’s a sad and poignant reminder of the losses, corruption, and complex emotions faced by those involved in the war.
While the premise for War Girls, the tech, the setting and the action, all add up to a great book, unfortunately my attention wasn’t captivated, I didn’t connect with the characters and I had to wade through the writing. Perhaps it was just too long, or just had too much detail in sections, but it wasn’t a book I enjoyed, despite valuing it for its message.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: War, girls and women, technology, bionic limbs, sisters, politics, child soldiers, Africa, Nigeria.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Violence – injuries, death, fighting.
Published: 15 October 2019 by Razorbill.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 464 pages.
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