REVIEW: “When We Dream We Are Our God” by Wole Talabi

Review of Wole Talabi, “When We Dream We Are Our God”, Apex Magazine 120 (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

A man explains his decision to join his mind with others in a network seeking to connect and learn, inspired by the birth of the first true artificial intelligence. It’s a fairly intellectual story, driven by science and philosophy, but uses that as a vehicle to explore matters of the heart.

In my experience, stories about the singularity tend to posit that AI will either seek to destroy us, or else want to become our friends. This story find a nice middle path between those reactions, though the AI is actually only a small part of this tale. Still, I felt like it did something different with a the concept, which is noteworthy.

I believe that this is, above all, a story about potential, and about hope. Humanity’s potential to overcome our problems. Hope that the universe will be friendly, or can be made so, and hope that sentience can win out over hatred and fear and divisions.

REVIEW: “Necessary and Sufficient Conditions” by Wole Talabi

Review of Wole Talabi, “Necessary and Sufficient Conditions”, Apex Magazine 117 (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

This is a story about revenge. Yemi Ladipo is on a quest to murder the man who took everything from him, Professor Olukoya. It would do the story a disservice to say that Yemi learns that the truth is more complicated than it seems, because this story is so much richer than that cliché would suggest. The truth does not exonerate Olukoya, so much as flesh him out.

The story really picks up – transitioning from pure revenge in a science fiction setting to something unique – when Professor Olukoya begins to explain why he did what he did, so many years ago. His reasons are not enough to move Yemi, but it’s up to each reader to determine whether or not one death is worth it for the greater good. It would be easy to make the professor either tragically misunderstood by the protagonist, or a simple villian, and I’m glad that the story went in neither of those directions. Talabi does not let this story rest in simplicity, which I appreciate. The conclusion goes one step further, forcing Yemi to really confront difficult truths.

I haven’t touched on this yet, but the fact that this story takes place in a science fiction future in which an African country is at the forefront of technology is both a lovely change of pace (and something we should see more of), and a relevant plot point that I will not spoil for you. Highly recommended for anyone who likes their science fiction both character driven and fast-moving.