British Fiction Focus

The Look of The Book of Phoenix

On May 7 in the UK, Hodder & Stoughton will publish a prequel of sorts to Nigerian-American novelist Nnedi Okorafor’s breakthrough book, Who Fears Death? It’s called The Book of Phoenix, and it’s about an “abomination.”

They call her many things—a research project, a test-subject, a specimen.

But she calls herself Phoenix, an ‘accelerated woman’—a genetic experiment grown and raised in Manhattan’s famous Tower 7, the only home she has ever known. Although she’s only two years old, Phoenix has the body and mind of an adult—and powers beyond imagining. Phoenix is an innocent, happy to live quietly in Tower 7, reading voraciously and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human.

Until the night that Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated, Phoenix begins to search for answers—only to discover that everything that she has ever known is a lie.

Tower 7 isn’t a haven. It’s a prison.

And it’s time for Phoenix to spread her wings and rise.

Like Lagoon, Okorafor’s last novel for Hodder, The Book of Phoenix has been blessed with some kick-ass cover art by Joey Hi-Fi, aka Dale Halvorsen of Alexander’s Band:

The Book of Phoenix Nnedi Okorafor

Nice sense of perspective? Check! Fittingly fiery colour palette? Check! Smart contrast? But of course. Honestly, this Hi-Fi guy… he’s made covering cover art interesting again.

The Book of Phoenix itself is the result of “a relentless muse,” according to Okorafor:

While writing The Book of Phoenix, I remember I tried to take a nap because the story was getting stressful. In the middle of my sleep, I heard a voice angrily tell me to get. “Keep writing it,” the voice hissed. I dragged myself off the couch, sat back down at my computer and kept writing. Yes, it was creepy and, yes, I was a little scared.

I didn’t want to write a novel when I wrote The Book of Phoenix. I wanted to rest my brain. So, I tried to write it as a short story. When the story kept coming, I wrote it as a novella. However, Phoenix would not let me rest. Onyesonwu in Who Fears Death? was the same. A relentless muse.

These two novels are sisters. Close sisters. But not twins. Their covers reflect this fact. Similar, but different. How do the stories connect? Who is Phoenix to Onyesownu and Onyesonwu to Phoenix? You’ll have to read them to find out.

Well, if you insist…


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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