By Tochi Onyebuchi
Reviewed by Caeleigh Hancock
War Girls is the third book published by Tochi Onyebuchi. It is a futurist sci-fi set in Africa, largely Nigeria, in the 2100s. It creates a glimpse into a future world where climate change and nuclear war have made Earth all but unliveable and those nations that can afford to have fled to colonies off planet. Nigerians still live on Earth, but it’s a hostile and toxic environment and a civil war has been raging for years. For war girls Omyii and Ify conflict is the only life they’ve ever known.
Omyii is a former child soldier caught up in the Biafran war for independence from the Nigerian Government. Omyii is the leader of an all-female refugee camp where she lives with her younger adoptive sister Ify, until a raid by the Nigerian Government causes them to be separated and end up on opposite sides of the war.
The story is action packed, the futurist tech is woven seamlessly into the story, with the war fought using terrifying deadly mechs and mechanised humans with biotic limbs and organs. The story is carried along by its two main characters, Omyii and Ify and is told in present tense, which can make the timeline difficult to track. Omyii and Ify are complex, heroic and strong female characters and through them, as well as other characters caught up in the war, we see the terrible physical and psychological cost of war and civil unrest. The book highlights the complexity of war with both sides guilty of committing atrocities and manipulating and using people on their own side of the war to meet their own ends.
As the author notes at the end of the book, the novel is intended as a platform to shine a light on wars within Africa, particularly the Biafran or Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s and other African wars during the 1900s and 2000s and the use of child soldiers, displacement, forced marriage and other human right abuses. As well as being an entertaining futuristic sci-fi read it also achieves its aim of highlighting the horrific wars and human rights abuses that have occurred within Africa and the ongoing exploitative nature of colonialism.
This story is suitable for older readers, it contains reference to the violence of war and war crimes, including, suicide bombings, torture, shootings, death, maiming and gore.