REVIEW: ‘The Hero of Numbani,’ — Believing in a Better World

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The Hero of Numbani

The Hero of Numbani is published by Scholastic Inc. and written by Nicky Drayden. In the near future, in the technologically advanced African city of Numbani there is a young girl named Efi. She is gifted with an extraordinary mind and loves to build robots. When a terrorist by the name of Doomfist threatens the peace and unity of her people she takes it upon herself to build Numbani a defender. She sets out to build Orisa. After all, the world could always use more heroes.

The Hero of Numbani is set in the world of the popular video game Overwatch. For those not familiar with the story behind Overwatch here is a quick crash course.

In the not too distant future, humanity has advanced technology in significant ways. This is no more apparent than in the creation of the omnics. Omnics are advanced robots that eventually decide they deserve equal treatment with humans. The rebellion that follows threatens to destroy the world, resulting in the event known as the Omnic Crisis.

To restore order to the world, the organization known as Overwatch is founded. Overwatch is comprised of individuals possessing singular gifts who wish to see the world at peace. Once the crisis is past, Overwatch is disbanded. But in the absence of earth’s protectors, new threats are beginning to form. And new heroes are needed to stand.

It is in this world that The Hero of Numbani is set. Numbani is a city built on peace and unity, dedicated to the belief that humans and omnics can live together for their mutual benefit. The city itself is depicted as a gorgeous example of Afro-futurism. Drayden does a great job of describing the city’s look and culture. It is a place full of ideals and hope. And it is this hope that nurtures our protagonist Efi Oladele.

Efi has grown up in the shadows and pain that has lingered from the Omnic Crisis. Knowing what the world was like not so long ago, Efi uses her intellect to try to better her world. This is primarily done through her natural talents with robotics. As Efi is a genius-level inventor, she works tirelessly in her shop. Often to her parents’ worry.

Efi is still only 12. And while her parents are immensely proud of her, they worry that she is missing out on the things that make childhood brightest. Efi appreciates her parents’ concern, but just wants to build her robots. This focus is redoubled when an old enemy returns to Numbani — Doomfist.

Doomfist is a terrorist who believes that only through conflict can humanity become truly great. That the strong must rise over the rest, and accept their rightful place. He was thrown in jail years ago by Overwatch. But during Numbain’s annual Unity Day celebrations, Doomfist returns. Efi is witness to the carnage and destruction wrought by this one man with her own eyes. And she knows what she must do. She must build a robot capable of defeating Doomfist.

The Hero of Numbani

This fateful encounter is the crux of The Hero of Numbani’s story. Drayden does a fantastic job of portraying the emotion that fuels this moment. From Efi’s personal reactions to those of friends and family around her, every paragraph of this scene hits home. Even though there is little actual violence, and what there is, is mostly wrought on machines, thanks to the flawless exploration of Efi’s experience it is an extremely poignant moment. It completely sells how a 12-year-old girl could gain the determination to build the city of Numbani a new hero.

Aside from the above moment, and one or two others, The Hero of Numbani is mostly a fun story about learning how to deal with things like failure, friendship, and the complex emotions they bring. Efi provides an extremely likable protagonist who’s hopefulness is nothing short of inspirational. Which is a good thing, as large portions of this book are a one-character show. But while the entirety of the book is good, it truly hits its stride once Orisa comes online.

You see, building Orisa is only the first step to Efi’s solution for Numbani’s Doomfist problem. Efi doesn’t want Orisa to simply be a walking weapon. She wants her to be a part of the community. To understand and nourish Numbani, as much as defend it. This requires Orisa to have a great deal of empathy. But there are a lot of bugs to work out.

These often result in humorous instances of Orisa doing something that she thinks is helpful, while actually making the situation worse. Efi quickly comes to realize building a fully functioning robot from scraps was the easy part.

Along with a heartwarming humorous tale, The Hero of Numbani also makes great use of the wider Overwatch lore. Other charters make appearances where appropriate, along with references to key events. Drayden uses these call outs with the light touch that is always best. Too much can easily become eye-rolling.

The Hero of Numbani finishes its narrative with an exciting finale that payoffs off its story beautifully. It brings together all the overarching concepts into an exceptionally executed moment. This is the sort of story that mixes fun and meaning in the perfect proportions to create a memorable tale.

The Hero of Numbani is available now wherever books are sold.


The Hero of Numbani
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TL;DR

The Hero of Numbani finishes its narrative with an exciting finale that payoffs off its story beautifully. It brings together all the overarching concepts into an exceptionally executed moment. This is the sort of story that mixes fun and meaning in the perfect proportions to create a memorable tale.