Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

When I said yes to a review copy of NIGERIANS IN SPACE, I will admit that it was partly the title. The opening line of the blurb didn't hurt either. Starting to read it, from about chapter 2 I was totally bamboozled, and firmly hooked. (Although I was mildly disappointed that the piece of the moon stolen was pilfered from a laboratory ... for a while I hoped....)

With a story that quickly moves from the early 90's to the present, this is a very smooth, slightly mad debut novel which bodes particularly well for future outings.

It could be that part of the story that really works is the idea that there would be a government official orchestrating a brain gain back to Nigeria. A call to arms for Nigerian scientists the world over. Return, use your knowledge and help the land of your birth become the rising technological power of Africa. There's just the minor inconvenience of a little pinched material as your "entrance fee" for want of a better description.

It's hard not to get well into this whole story without the words "Nigerian Scam" rolling in front of your eyes. And it is a very delicious idea, that the ultimate Nigerian Scam might actually be perpetrated by Bello, the Nigerian government official on some of the great Nigerian brains of our time. Especially as the ultimate plan seems to fall to pieces very quickly and the main character - lunar rock geologist Olufunmi, finds himself stranded, with family and a rapidly disappearing brain gain dream.

But the story is not just about Olufunmi. There's also amiable Thursday, who goes from abalone breeder to poacher, and Melissa another victim of Bello. All three storylines do eventually converge in a resolution steeped in African sensibility.

The action moves around a lot in this book, although once it hits South Africa it settles and whilst there is a strong sense of place, it's also the strong cultural setting and feel that really make this an interesting read. Slightly mad definitely, but good mad. In fact it was fascinating all round. Even if the first few chapters might have you wondering what on earth..

Year of Publication
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"It's time to end the brain drain and move to brain gain. It's time for a great mind of Nigeria to return home. You're the mind we need, Doctor."

1993. Houston. A lunar rock geologist gets an outlandish request: steal a piece of the moon. Dr. Wale Olufunmi has a life most Nigerian immigrants would kill for, but then most Nigerians aren't Wale-a great scientific mind in exile with galactic ambitions. With both personal and national glory at stake, Wale manages to pull off the near impossible, setting out on a journey back to Nigeria that leads anywhere but home.

Nearly twenty years later, in present day South Africa, street kid Thursday Malaysius takes up smuggling something almost as precious-South African abalone-and quickly finds himself in over his head, with the police, the mob, and just about everybody else on his tail.

Compelled by the actions of these two men-and the nosy, troubled young daughter of a South African freedom fighter who has gone missing-Nigerians traces intersecting arcs in time and space from Houston to Stockholm, from Cape Town to Bulawayo, as the lives of Thursday and Wale spiral toward an unlikely collision.

Deji Olukotun's debut novel, "Nigerians in Space," defies categorization-a story of international intrigue that tackles deeper questions about exile, identity, and the need to answer an elusive question: what exactly is brain gain?

Review NIGERIANS IN SPACE - Deji Olukotun
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Blog CR - Nigerians in Space, Deji Olukotun
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, June 6, 2013

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