Nommo Award-Winning Books: 6 Superlative African Speculative Fiction Reads

These novels and novellas are the best of the best.

Nommo Award-winners Beasts Made of Night

The African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) awards the Nommo Awards for African Speculative Fiction annually. These awards recognize the best in speculative fiction such as fantasy, science fiction, horror, and philosophical fiction. 

First awarded in 2017, the Nommo has become a staple in the African literary year. Every year, members of the ASFS nominate any published work for the four categories: Novel; Novella; Short Story; and Graphic Novel. Eligible nominations are then shortlisted and voted on by members.

The Best Novel award, also called The Ilube Award, has honored some of the most exciting voices writing in Africa and the diaspora. The award is named after Nigerian-British technology entrepreneur and educational philanthropist, Thomas Segun Ilube, and is announced at the annual Ake Festival, the largest literary festival in Africa. 

These six Nommo Award-winning books represent some of the best of the best in African speculative fiction. 

2019 Nommo Award-Winner, Novel

Buy Rosewater at Amazon

Rosewater

By Tade Thompson

Rosewater is a town in 2066 Nigeria, built around an alien biodome. The novel follows Kaaro, a psychic who works as a banker, government spy, and interrogator. Written in the first person and present tense, Kaaro's story is told in time-lapses.

As news spreads that the biodome releases a mysterious substance with healing powers, visitors flock to it. 

Kaaro is among many residents who have been infected by the biodome, and are forced to join the government Section 45 to extract information from prisoners. As time goes on, many of Kaaro's colleagues — the Sensitives —fall ill or die, and Kaaro is forced to investigate his memories as he seeks answers.

Rosewater is a mix of cyberpunk, telepathy, biopunk, alien-headspaces, spy fiction, and Lagos, Nigeria in its true form. You are in for a treat.

Tade Thompson was also a finalist for the Hugo, Locus, and the Phillip K. Dick Awards. He won the 2019 Arthur C. Clarke and Prix Julia Verlanger Awards.

RELATED: Science Fiction and Fantasy Books by Black Authors You Need to Read 

2019 Nommo Award-Winner, Novella

Buy Binti at Amazon

Binti

By Nnedi Okorafor

Winner of the Hugo and the Nebula Award for Best Novella, Nnedi Okorafor is a well-known voice in the SF&F community.

Binti is from the Himba, an isolationist tribe. A sixteen-year-old math genius who has been accepted into the prestigious Oomza University; she fights family pressure bent on preventing her from leaving the tribe to pursue her education. Convinced in numbers and logic, she sneaks off at night to catch a spaceship to the planet where Oomza University is located.

While in transit, terror strikes as the spaceship is boarded by a jelly-fish like alien species called the Meduce, and Binti must use her tribal metaphysical powers to broker peace before she begins her studies in the university.

Nnedi Okorafor blends science fiction and fantasy in this quick read, and uses cultural references traceable to her Nigerian heritage.

RELATED: 10 Nebula Award-Winning Books Written by Female Authors 

2018 Nommo Award-Winner, Novel

Buy Beasts Made of Night  at Amazon

Beasts Made of Night

By Tochi Onyebuchi

This Nigerian-inspired fantasy is the first in a duology. Its sequel is Crown of Thunder.  

In the city of Kos, Akis, or Sin-eaters, are in a symbiotic relationship with corrupt mages. The royalty pays the mages for the Akis to eat their sins, and the Akis get a fraction of the payment. 

But when Taj, a young Aki, falls in love with a princess, he's thrown onto a path that will lead to rebellion. 

RELATED: 36 Must-Read Fantasy Book Series 

2018 Nommo Award-Winner, Novel

Buy Murders of Molly Southbourne at Amazon

Murders of Molly Southbourne

By Tade Thomspon

For Molly Southbourne, the rule is simple: Don't bleed.

The New York Times describes this novella as "a bold outpouring of flesh and crisis at once horrifying and familiar.”

In this genre-bending story — mostly horror, part sci-fi and fantasy — we witness the strange life of Molly Southbourne. When Molly bleeds, a clone of her emerges, hell-bent on killing her. 

Molly's parents must help her kill the new mollies, and teach their daughter self-defense. But as the story moves, the mollies become more organized and cunning.

This page-turner is so creepy and gripping, you'll be compelled to finish it in one sitting. 

RELATED: 9 Scary-Good Fantasy Horror Books 

2019 Nommo Award-Winner, Novel

Buy Freshwater at Amazon

Freshwater

By Akwaeke Emezi

"The world in my head has been far more real than the one outside—maybe that’s the exact definition of madness, come to think of it.”

Freshwater is a coming of age story about Ada, a girl grappling with multiple personalities and protracted trauma. The novel is told from the point of view of spirits called Ogbanje in Igbo mythological traditions. (Ogbanje are children who die over and over again). These spirits are hosted in the body of the protagonist as she navigates a traumatic upbringing in Nigeria, and faces violence in America.

This is a masterful debut novel, written in lyrical prose that makes the story at once compelling and gripping.

Freshwater was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction by the American Library Association. It was also nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Women's Prize for fiction. Emezi, who uses they/them pronouns, was the first non-binary trans author nominated for the latter award. 

RELATED: 9 Unmissable Books by Trans and Non-Binary Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors 

2019 Nommo Award-Winner, Novella

Buy The Firebird at Amazon

The Firebird

By Nerine Dorman

In this 80-page novella from South African author Nerdine Dorman, we follow Lada, a warrior-monk of the order of Fennarin, who opposes demons and insurgents that terrorize her home. 

Convinced by the creed of the order, she betrays her kin. But when her brother Ailal is captured by the order, she must choose a side. 

In this novella, Nerine explores the power of propaganda and belief systems. The narrative is fascinating as we witness the hideousness of both monks and monsters.