David Mogo, Godhunter

Something about Suyi Davies Okungbowa's fantasy debut, David Mogo, Godhunter, intrigued me when I first read its press release. I mean, I've never read Nigerian god-punk. And though I had no idea what it could be about, I was curious to find out. And since I've enjoyed Nnedi Okorafor's works in the past, I wanted to give this new Nigerian author a shot. The book promised to be unlike anything else out there, which was reason enough for me to want to pick it up.

Suyi Davies Okungbowa has been a prolific SFF short fiction writer these last few years, but David Mogo, Godhunter is his first novel-length published work. As such, it does suffer from many of the shortcomings that often plague speculative fiction debuts. And yet, for all of its flaws, the book turned out to be quite original and demonstrated that Okungbowa could become one of the bright new SFF voices in the coming years.

Here's the blurb:

Nigerian God-Punk - a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko’s dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job’s bad luck. He’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god’s twin sister and a speech-impaired Muslim teenage girl to defeat the wizard.

The worldbuilding was my favorite facet of this novel. Okungbowa uses modern day Nigeria as a setting and most of the action occurs in and around Lagos, most populous city in the country and the entire African continent. The story takes place a few years following what came to be known as the Falling, when gods rained down from the sky and are now forced to roam the land around the Lagos area. The author's postapocalyptic depiction of the city and its surroundings was awesome. In that regard, it felt as though Okungbowa was in complete control of his setting and Lagos comes alive with an imagery that leaps off the pages. Like many readers, I'm just wondering where are the millions of Nigerians that lived in Lagos, for we don't see a whole lot of people throughout the book. I also liked how he portrayed the fallen gods and how he wove Nigerian myths and legends in all of the novel's storylines.

Weaving those myths and legends created something truly original, but it also engendered a problem that many a reviewer/reader seemed to have a problem with. Like me, the vast majority of Western fantasy fans are not conversant with Nigerian lore. Hence, Suyi Davies Okungbowa has no choice but to provide countless details for the plot to make sense. For better or worse, he was forced to rely on info-dumps to do just that, whether in the form of long discussions or inner monologues. Perusing reviews, one can see that lots of people disliked the fact that he failed to follow the "show don't tell" rule. Thinking back on it, even though I too would have preferred for the author to show more than he told us, I'm not sure that it was possible to do so and still imbue his tale with that amount of ancient lore. And perhaps it's due to the fact that I was already aware of this, but I didn't find the info-dumps to be off-putting to such a degree. In many ways, they are a necessary evil in this instance. Something that Okungbowa can get away with in this debut, yet something he'll have to work on for whatever comes next.

Okungbowa explained that this tale began as a short story that grew into a novella, which in turn grew into the threefold narrative that became David Mogo, Godhunter. This occasionally creates structural issues, as the three parts don't always blend in seamlessly. The good thing is that the novel starts pretty strongly and hooks you up from the get-go. By the time said structural problems showed up, I was already invested in the plot and simply kept going. But there is no denying that more effort should have gone into building a more seamless structure for the book.

Sadly, the novel features the sole first-person perspective of David Mogo, half-god himself. The godhunter is not always the most likable sort of fellow, nor is he the sharpest knife in the drawer at times, and the characterization suffers from it. As the title implies, understandably David must take center stage. But I'm afraid that he's not a compelling enough protagonist to carry the tale on his shoulders. First-person narratives can be tricky things and I feel that David Mogo, Godhunter would have benefited from multiple POVs. Especially given the quality and the diversity of the supporting cast. I for one would have loved to witness events unfolding through the eyes of characters such as Papa Udi and Fatoumata. Another thing that may trouble some readers is the fact that the dialogue can go from English to a Nigerian dialect depending on whom is speaking with whom. The context always allows you to get the gist of what is being said, but it takes a while to get used to.

In terms of rhythm, even though David Mogo, Godhunter is not a fast-paced affair by any stretch of the imagination, Okungbowa keeps things moving at a good clip. Some portions are paced better than others, but overall the novel is never dull and the plot remains interesting throughout.

In the end, although the execution can leave something to be desired from time to time, David Mogo, Godhunter features cool and original concepts and ideas. For anyone looking for something different, well I reckon that Nigerian god-punk could be just what the doctor ordered! Keep an eye out for Suyi Davies Okungbowa. As was the case with Nnedi Okorafor a while back, I have a feeling that we'll be hearing more from this Nigerian speculative fiction author in the years to come. I know I want to read whatever he releases next.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

1 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

Just $5.99 for the preorder, so I went for it!