Tochi Onyebuchi’s War Girls, published 15 October 2019.
In this highly technological war, set in a dystopian world, we see Onyii and Ify fight on either side of the civil divide. Having grown up as sisters they end up on enemy sides. How much does their past influence their actions? How does war and propaganda influence their relationship? Their love for each other? Those might be the imminent questions. Far more important are the bigger questions. Is it ethical to have child soldiers? Is it ethical to enslave people to fight in your war? Should every technological advancement be weaponized? Who has the moral high ground? And, most of all, is it all worth the outcome?
War Girls is based on the civil war between Biafra and Nigeria from the 1960s, but the reimagining is set in the 22nd century. I’m going to thank one of my lecturers here for broadening my general knowledge in her class on African history of the 20th century. I knew I was rooting for the wrong side early on, but that made the whole story even more interesting.
The world-building was excellent. From the catastrophic state Earth is in, to the war zones and especially the technology of augments, ‘battle mechs’ and cyborgs. It was stunningly well thought through and written.
Which brings me to why I did not give the book five Harpy Eagles. I thought the characters weren’t fleshed out well, at least not as well as some of the tech described. Also, the book is divided into three parts and this novella style didn’t really work for me. The first part, though, really stands out. I was rooting for both MCs and was turning the pages fast. The second part felt like starting all over, and the vignettes didn’t help. The third part was mostly boring; a lot of characters died, other characters acted out of character, and the end came too fast.
Since this is the first book in a series, it might have been better to move part three to the second book. Or it could have worked as a standalone, provided a slightly less abrupt ending.
3/5 Harpy Eagles