Nnedi Okorafor’s LaGuardia is a sci-fi tale with a difference. Set in a politically-charged future United States, which clearly hasn’t shaken the anti-immigration stance of its present-day politics, it sees a Nigerian refugee trying to smuggle a sentient alien plant into America to help it escape its own political enemies. Both Future Chukwuebuka (the Nigerian) and Letme Live (the plant) have prospered in Nigeria, which is more open to immigration from outer space than the rest of the world. This has brought many benefits to Nigeria, including alien technologies more advanced than those on Earth, and has vastly benefited the local economy. However, the space tourists have brought their problems with them.
This is where we enter the story. Letme Live’s species is in danger of extinction, threatened by enemies in a war between rival plant planets. Future smuggles him into the United States, whose tough policy on immigration and single point of entry (LaGuardia space port) ensures that Letme Live should remain safe. However, complications arise because Future is pregnant, leaving the father of her child behind in Nigeria, and returning home to her mother in New York City.
It’s a refreshing blend for a science fiction story, and not just because of its female, pregnant, African protagonist. The story itself manages to maintain a level of drama and excitement without erupting into full-on action sequences, and the tone is generally uplifting and positive. Despite not following the usual paths sci-fi stories tend to take, it maintains enough key sci-fi elements to cement it to its genre, particularly through its exotic collection of sentient aliens.
Tana Ford’s illustration is a good match for this. It’s not trying to be overly realistic, fully embracing the fantasy of the story and running with it. The most challenging aspect is probably the illustration of all these various alien species but Ford handles it with skill and confidence, keeping the story rolling even when it calls for fantastical elements to be blended into the everyday non-sci-fi nature of the rest of the story.
Despite all this, I’m not convinced that it’s a great cross-over story that’s going to bring those who don’t like sci-fi into the fold, because there’s just still too much about it that’s gloriously science fictional. However, if you’re a science fiction fan looking for something that’s a bit different from the usual fare, this alternative take on the genre might be a pleasant breath of fresh air.