This was supposed to be my beach read last week. Something short which wouldn’t take too much investment as I knew I’d be spending a lot of time with family, and it would be hard to squeeze in time for reading.
Wow did that plan fail.
I finished up another library book just before my trip, and was still waiting for my next hold to come in so I figured I could read a little of this, and then finish it while at the beach.
Two days later, I was posting four stars to goodreads and wondering what the heck I was going to read now. I finished this that quickly. I suppose I should have known . . .
Ever since I read Binti, back in 2017, Okorafor has been like pizza for me. I tell myself just one more slice (chapter), ok maybe two more but then that’s it! Only to realize later that I’ve crushed the whole thing in a sitting (send help about the pizza . . . the problem is getting out of control!).
I’m still getting caught up on everything she’s written (Broken Spaces & Outer Spaces, and Who Fears Death currently next in line), but I’ve managed to get a couple of her stories read, and have loved every one of them.
Anyway, this story was not different. Right from page one, I was already smiling as the book opens with a quote from Omar Little . . .
Yes, Omar Little from The Wire.
And it set the scene perfectly. As members of the town flee the presence of Sankofa, the “adopted Granddaughter of Death”, I could just hear them saying her name as they ran, much to the cadence of “Omar is coming!”
Another of Okorafor’s strong suits is worldbuilding.
It’s no surprise then that the world of Remote Control simply shines. Those who have read Okorafor before, will see a lot of new elements, but also recognize things from her previous stories.
For instance spiders seem to be a common occurrence, and in past books have always felt like some kind of unknowable architect, moving through the world with their own agenda, weaving a web of fate in which humankind is merely an unsuspecting fly.
After a quick google, I thought that perhaps this constant occurrence was meant to be Anansi, a popular figure in Akan folklore. A second google revealed:
Okorafor has spoken on Udide — and generally seems to have cornered the SEO on the term — during her TED Talk about Afrofuturism and how it is different and unique from Western, mostly white and male, Science Fiction.
In her novel, Lagoon, Udide the spider artist, is a vast spider who lives underneath the city of Lagos and is responsible for weaving the past, present, and future into the lives of the city. For Okorafor, Udide seems to be a metaphor for Science Fiction itself, and the socio-political power of stories. Science Fiction is a will-to-power. The question: What if?
Assuming her tweet holds true for the Remote Control as well, then it would seem Udide (or some aspect of Udide) is the large black spider Sankofa encounters in the very first chapter as she enters town:
“Good evening,” Sankofa said in Mampruli as she stepped up to the gate’s door. The spider paused, seeming to acknowledge and greet her back. Then it continued on its way up, into the forest of broken glass on top of the gate. Sankofa smiled. Spiders always had better things to do. She wondered what story it would weave about her and how far the story would carry.Okorafor, Nnedi, Remote Control, pg. 10
We aren’t told its purpose, nor are we sure what business it has in the town, but it seems to give the weight of this moment some emphasis. Fate is at work here, or was, and is now scurrying onward toward whatever’s next.
In that same scene, we also see a grasshopper (prominent in Akata Witch and Akata Warrior), though I haven’t taken the time yet to familiarize myself with any symbolism related to it and what its appearance could mean.
A later scene shows us a wall filled with masks, which seems meant to invoke the Night Masquerade of Binti, or something similar in the Akata Witch/Warrior books.
In this way, all of Okorafor’s stories seem to take place in a kind of mythic African universe, but I don’t believe that they are the ‘same universe’ as we would say about the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere . . .
To me, this is incredibly refreshing, as I don’t feel the need to read every one of Okorafor’s novels, afraid I may miss something, but it does add a bit of added enjoyment to the stories I have read.
But considering I compared my compulsion to read her stories as equal to that of stuffing my face full of pizza . . . I will probably end up reading them all anyway.
Go read this one. Probably read it twice. I’ve only begun to unpack everything that is packed into this relatively short novella, and I’m sure that upon second and third reads I will think about and discover even more. That seems to be the nature of things when reading Nnedi . . .
Anyway, that’s all for now. If you’ve got thoughts and opinions, please leave em in the comment section. I hope to hear from you there! See you next time!