Hello, Haley here, and we want to welcome you back to The Reading Room, where we share our thoughts on books we’ve read recently! Today I’m sharing my thoughts on a novella that releases this past Tuesday: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi. We received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes. All opinions are our own and do not reflect the thoughts or beliefs of the publisher or author.
Riot Baby is a gut-wrenching sci-fi novella filled to the brim with pain, violence, and hope. It follows two siblings living in a contemporary world painted with a dystopian hue. Both Ella and Kevin have unique gifts but their lives are marked by violence with Kevin’s birth occurring only hours after the police who beat Rodney King to death were acquitted. When Ella glimpses a bleak future for her brother she tries to do some thing about it and forge a life of hope for them both in a world in chaos.
About the BookRiot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
Published by Tor.com on January 21, 2020
"Riot Baby bursts at the seams of story with so much fire, passion and power that in the end it turns what we call a narrative into something different altogether."—Marlon James
Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.
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.
Riot Baby is definitely more of a character driven story with extensive amounts of introspection and flashbacks that set the tone of the narrative. With this in mind, the pacing is still solid and fast enough to engage readers who prefer stories that move quickly.
The structure of the novella is unique. There are only a few chapters but each one is marked by some significant act of violence against individuals of color. In every instance, Onyebuchi handles the situations with brutal honesty and powerful prose.
We follow Ella as she struggles with her mother’s failing health and her brother’s time in prison while she occasionally glimpses the violent deaths of those around her. We also get snippets of Kevin’s POV as he tries to simply survive behind bars and then later in a sort of halfway house community. Throughout the book Ella and Kevia share moments together through a telepathic link they share.
Riot Baby is weighed down with a lot of heavy themes centered on current social issues: police brutality, racism within the prison system, and the failings of our prison system to rehabilitate released inmates, to name a few. Honestly, its heartbreaking and not for those looking for a light read but its also beautiful, eye opening and extremely important.
What About You?
Have you read this book? Did you like it as much as I did? I can’t wait to chat about it with you!