cover image After the Flare

After the Flare

Deji Bryce Olukotun. Unnamed (PGW, dist.), $16 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-944700-18-8

Olukotun’s uneven sophomore novel creates an Afrocentric near future marked by perilous technology and international turmoil. A massive solar flare destroys all electronics across the globe except along the equator, where the thicker magnetic field offers some protection. As the world’s population reels and satellites fall to earth, Nigeria leverages its newfound technological superpower status by ambitiously launching a space program to rescue an astronaut trapped on an international space station before its life support capabilities run out. Kwesi Bracket, a former NASA scientist of African descent, gets hired to oversee the design and construction of the training pool. The time-sensitive push to the stars faces increased pressure as Boko Haram encroaches towards the space base. To complicate things further, Kwesi and his colleague Seeta, an audio engineer, discover artifacts that suggest something alien is living underground in the compound. This mystery brings a wealthy and eccentric anthropologist to the area and leads them into an exploration of African history and lost empires. The prose’s clunky exposition and too abrupt action sequences cannot quite support the novel’s wide ambitions. While the world Olukotun builds is evocative, readers will feel shortchanged by the lack of development and confused plot. (Sept.)