Novella November: How Do You Build a World with Less Than 50,000 Words?

Novella November: How Do You Build a World with Less Than 50,000 Words?

A review of REMOTE CONTROL by Nnedi Okorafor.

You’re a busy person. You wish you read more books. But the idea of committing to a full-length novel is intimidating. It’ll take you months to read half the book and then it will sit on the shelf, haunting you, forever unfinished. Never fear, the novella is here! 

A novella is nebulously defined as “a work of narrative prose that is shorter than most full-length novels but longer than a short story.” But don’t assume that the shorter page length means a lack of depth or narrative intricacy. The length limitations of a novella are a catalyst for creativity, birthing incredibly imaginative stories within a brilliant economy of words. With a novella, the audience is often plunged into the fictional world, not hung up on explanations or backstory. If you want to give novellas a try, you could do an online search for the best books under two hundred pages and pick one at random, OR you could start with one of my favorite authors who excels in this format: Nnedi Okorafor, and her new novella REMOTE CONTROL. 

Okorafor is a master of world-building with a few, well-chosen words, and REMOTE CONTROL is an excellent example of her genius. Set in Ghana in the near future, the story follows a young girl bestowed with a strange power by an alien artifact. The girl goes on a journey to seek out the source of her mysterious transformation, leaving a wake of bodies in her path and earning the mantle of the Adopted Daughter of Death. 

“What am I?” she said. But she didn’t really care about that question. No. She was what she was and now after nearly dying, waking up in her own grave, and emerging from the soil, she was better.

The first time I picked up a book by Okorafor (BINTI, which I also highly recommend) I was completely transported. Her ability to wrap you up in her fantastical science fiction world without pages and pages of methodical description is unparalleled. Pack your bags, pick up REMOTE CONTROL, and get ready for a journey that you’ll never forget. 


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