There is a strong sub-faction of science fiction and fantasy readers these days who, without looking too deeply, take a book or story and champion it on premise alone. If it is said to highlight women’s issues or racism, it is automatically praised as ‘great’ regardless of the actual quality of the novel—the trigger enough to recommend. Genre novels set in Africa can also be on this list. Somehow mention the struggle of Somalese or Nigerians in a story and it’s almost sure to garner the support of this sub-faction, regardless the quality of the backing narrative. As a whole, this does science fiction and fantasy no favors. Good, unique novels which do not go out of their way to billboard ‘Africa’ yet intelligently examine issues inherent to the continent get lost in the shuffle, while more generic novels which put a few cheap, neon lights around the setting or culture tend to get more press. Tade Thompson’s 2015 Making Wolf utilizes contemporary Africa as its setting, the question is, is the surrounding narrative substantial?
Making Wolf opens with Weston Kogi thinking he’s making a brief return trip to his home country of Alcacia, Africa for a beloved aunt’s funeral. The post-ceremony commemoration getting out of hand, Kogi quickly finds that his plans for return are not to be. Press-ganged into detective work that his job as mall security in London would not seem to qualify him for, the local rebel group LFA tasks him with identifying the killer of a recently assassinated politician—as long as the killer is not a member of LFA. And it’s not long into the ensuing investigation that the opposing rebel faction, the CPA, tasks Kogi with the same: identify the killer as long as it isn’t one of us. As men from the government emerge from the shadows as well, Kogi’s chances of identifying the assassin and making it back to London in one piece grow grimmer by the day.