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Monday, February 22, 2021

Review: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Riot Baby 
by Tochi Onyebuchi

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publish Date: January 21, 2020
3 hrs 46 mins
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.

My Review:

Kev is the Riot Baby - born during the Rodney King riots when the officers were acquitted. Ella is his sister who has this Thing from astral projection to time travel to entering people's minds.  When Kev becomes a victim of the system simply by being a young Black man, we spend the majority of this novella with him at Rikers where Ella comes to visit him in various ways.

Onyebuchi takes us back and forth through time, giving us glimpses into the history of racial oppression, violence and injustice. While this is slated into a near futuristic "dystopia", I don't feel this is a dystopian read. Shit's been happening for centuries.  Justice system is terrible, police brutality is still all too real and well... racist roots won't be pulled and discarded - they just may be mulched and then reinserted into the earth.  Even when Kev gets out, he's put into a place where he still can't see anyone, is regulated by a chip that was placed in his body and must stay in a certain establishment. Um, hello further incarceration.  And Ella is also confined within her own abilities. 

SO MANY things this novella will make you think about and we all need to.  I do wish I we knew more about Ella and her powers.  And this chip Kev has implanted with all its robotic, almost Stepford type amenities it provides. There were definitely moments I felt could have been expanded on.    

I almost wish I had read the book rather than listened to the audio ONLY because there were several quotes I can't remember now but that I wanted to jot down or mention.  The author does an fantastic job narrating this himself.  Definitely would recommend.


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