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Goliath, by Tochi Onyebuchi

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Riot Baby was intense and wonderful, but Goliath is Onyebuchi’s novel-length debut, and it is…also really intense and really well-done. And really intense. Time this one for when you’re ready for it, friends, because it packs a punch.

The thing about this book is that it does a lot of the same stuff that classic SF does…except that it notices exactly how horrible it would all be and does not gloss over that part. “Earth is an environmentally devastated wasteland, and mostly-white people from mostly-rich countries have fled for space, leaving historically oppressed people behind to deal with their mess. Also lots of people are smoking all the time.” Ya..aaay! If you’ve ever thought about that and thought, wait, that would be terrible for loads of people, then congratulations, Onyebuchi has too, and his book is vivid and humane and human with the weight of it. Same premise, different focus.

It is also one of the first long-form works of science fiction I’ve read that really takes on board the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not about the pandemic, but the pandemic is seamlessly folded into the past that these people are struggling unevenly out of. It’s mentioned explicitly in some of the backstory; it joins pollution in the unevenly distributed set of forces making it harder for some to breathe than others.

There are also horses and blueberries and people struggling to relate to each other as best they can and build what community they can in the wreckage of a world that was stacked against that. There is a lot of death, a lot of devastation, a lot of people who don’t even know how they’re hurting each other or how they could stop. But there are people who plant as well as people who destroy here. There are always moments of grace.

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