I asked the library if they had this book after reading Olukotun’s ‘We Are The Olfanauts’ (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…) and they decided to buy it just for me! So, you should go request it from the NYPL so it doesn’t turn out to just have been for me!
The novel is even better than the (unrelated) short story. It’s in that interstitial literary arena where it’s almost-but-not-quite science fiction, but is definitely fiction that will be appreciated by science fiction fans.
Dr. Wale Olufunmi is an accomplished lunar geologist. But he’s been stymied in his enduring ambition: to become an astronaut and actually get out into space. In 1993, the US space program isn’t going much of anywhere. But Wale has been approached by a countryman with seemingly impressive government credentials. He claims that Nigeria is working on a secret ‘brain gain’ program designed to lure scientists and intellectuals of Nigerian descent back to their homeland and usher in a new era of greatness for the country. All of Wale’s dreams could come true – but first, he has to prove his commitment and loyalty…
What transpires next starts a roller-coaster ride of disastrous proportions, with brilliant writing mixing tension, humor and incisive social commentary in a book that’s part international crime thriller, part murder mystery, and all vivid, fascinating details.
My one criticism is that I thought that the two main subplot threads (one following a young man who gets roped into a bizarre scheme involving illegal abalone smuggling and the other involving a reclusive young woman who unexpectedly becomes a celebrity model) could have been tied together a bit more tightly with Wale’s story. But it’s really hardly a flaw, and there are also two more books planned.
I’m not sure I can exactly put my finger on why (the style and feel of the writing…), but I think this book would appeal to fans of Ben H. Winters (Last Policeman trilogy/Underground Airlines).