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Riot Baby

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,827 ratings  ·  636 reviews
Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brut
Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Published January 21st 2020 by Tor
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Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,827 ratings  ·  636 reviews

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Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love the ideas here, the genre blurring, how the narrative grapples with what it means to be black in this country. There are some issues. The transitions are odd. I get the purpose but it became more frustrating than interesting. And I think the book needs another 40 or so pages so that parts of the story could expand. But still, great book.
Lala BooksandLala
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-releases
Book 4 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge!

I don't think I've ever read a book this short, that succeeded at everything it could have accomplished even if given 400 more pages. The broadness of this idea and setting, paired with the intimacy of this family narrative could not have been a more perfect balance. We've got some big themes like racial injustice and incarceration in a dystopian setting, but also a beautiful sibling dynamic at the heart of the story that is simply moving.

I'm so glad
James Tivendale
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: freecopy, sci-fi
I received an uncorrected proof copy of Riot Baby in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Tochi Onyebuchi and Tor.

Riot Baby begins in Compton, USA depicting topics that could have been straight out of an N.W.A song. Racism, police brutality, gang banging etc... This chapter is presented by a young lady Ella who is one of the two point of view perspectives. At the culmination of the chapter Ella's mother goes into labour in the midst of a brutal riot and gives birth to her little
The Artisan Geek
------------------VIDEO REVIEW------------------

Finally a book review is up! :D

This book was definitely better the second time around! I think that if you aren't familiar with (black) history/culture in America you're going to have to work a little more in order to understand everything. Having done it, I would ay it was well worth the efoort and definitely would recommend reading it. My review will come out at the start of February.

A sincere thank you to for sending
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
fulfilling my 2020 goal to read (at least) one book each month that was given to me as a present that i haven't yet gotten around to reading because i am an ungrateful dick.

nothing i can say about this book is going to resonate as much as the author's own words, so:

This book, like its title character, saw a fiery birth. Formerly a swirl of disembodied phrases and feelings and half-characters, the story of Ella and Kev began to coalesce while, in Paris, I learned of the non-indictments of the pol
R.F. Kuang
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jananie (thisstoryaintover)
incredible scope and astounding intimacy. this book covers so much in so little time. as the author says in his acknowledgements, this book is "angry, the type of angry that still leaves room for love." Highly recommend.
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race, fiction
Riot Baby, though short, is powerful. It is a book that punches you in the gut with each of its 174 pages. 

It is the story of siblings Ella and Kev and how structural racism defines their lives, beginning in childhood. Kev is the Riot Baby, born during the LA riots of 1992, Ella the sister with mysterious powers. Their childhood is fraught with danger, and violence is an everyday affair. Somehow they survive into adulthood, when Kev is unjustly arrested and incarcerated, as so many young black m
Mel (Epic Reading)
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
”We don’t get where we’re going by matching hate for hate.”

This is an odd little story. I’m not sure I understood it all. But I hope I got enough of it that I know what Toni Onyebuchi is trying to say. It jumps around a lot. So be prepared to really pay attention.

My favourite part is when Onyebuchi describes using algorithms that are coded to persecute POC as the same as cops making conscious decisions. This is very powerful to me. Thus stating, systematic racism is no different than allowing
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, overdrive
This is my third attempt with this author and it’s probably my last. I just don’t think he is very good at writing fantasy. This novella is a combination of fantasy and realism. Ella has all sorts of powers (time travel, teleportation, ability to see the future), but none were explained or seemed to be applied in a useful way. The realistic parts of the book about the criminal justice system were better. 2.5 stars
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Riot Baby

Riot Baby is a story of Kev and Ella, two siblings from South Central Los Angeles, trapped into reliving their story over and over like an endless repetitive Groundhog Day, unable to ever break out of the roles society chose for them. Their interlinked stories are similar but different.

Kev was born as the 1992 LA riots raged and the inner city burned. For four or five days, all semblance of order left town as truckers were pulled out of their rigs and beaten nearly to death with bricks
Matthew Quann
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, hype, pretty-short
Occasionally, when a big book lands I feel like I'm missing out if I don't immediately jump on board and get in on the cultural conversation. There's a palpable jolt of nerdy electricity when I get to touch the live wire of a popular new novel and join in the discussion. For armchair and couch thrill seekers like myself, the rub comes when you read with enough diversity that hyped-up books land on a seemingly weekly basis. The rest you know: I buy more books than I read, and when the initial FOM ...more
Brenda Waworga
Jun 20, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is dark and full of anger of the injustice towards black people which is very accurate with what happened around the world lately but As much as i understand this is an important book that sending message to it's reader i couldn't feel connected with the writing style and plot

There are 2 main characters on this book Ella and Kev, they are sibblings .. Ella has this "THING" a power to see feature, to fly and all the magical things, while Kev her brother went to prison and Ella tried to
Tori (InToriLex)
This book was is about a future where mass incarceration's unchecked progression, meets the power of black woman with a Thing who can manipulate the world around her. A memorable family story that reflects on police brutality and killing within black communities. I really enjoyed this quick and imaginative read.
The Nerd Daily
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth Mowbray

Riot Baby is the tale of siblings Ella and Kev who are gifted with tremendous powers. The book jumps back and forth across America, beginning on the West Coast where Kev is born amidst the 1992 Los Angeles riots, granting him the nickname “Riot Baby.” Although his sister is young, these riots and the atmosphere of the surrounding community are powerfully impactful for her.

The narrative next resumes with Ella and Kev after their mothe
Holly (The Grimdragon)
4.5 Stars~

"But I can't get enough of what's going on outside. My body warms with it, like a space heater in my bones. One of the cops reaches down and uncuffs the guys on the ground, and Havoc gets back up as the cops back away, shouting, "You see the address! Come back later, pussy!" And it's not this, but the growing crowd, some of them with cameras, that makes the cops shuffle away. And it feels like victory."

Riot Baby is the adult debut science fiction novel by Tochi Onyebuchi. It follows si
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020

Perfect book for the times we live in. The story is brimming with the anger of centuries of black people in America who have committed no other crime other than being black. It's harsh and powerful. I loved it. I wish it had been another 200 pages because I was thoroughly captured by the Tochi Onyebuchi's writing and didn't want it to end. I can't wait to read more by this author.
Kim Lockhart
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-books-2020
I am reminded of Charles Blow's epiphany that finding your voice means facing the past. You have to find the source of your pain, that "fire shut up in your bones."

Onyebuchi's powerful characters trace the cumulative effects of serial injustice and systemic racism. He delivers a visceral and compelling indictment of the intentionally evil as well as the willfully obtuse. And he injects all with the painful burning reminder that there is no redemption without blood, and no purification without fi
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
Ella and Kev are brother and sister, truly good kids, with a mom who loves them and works too hard. Ella has a Thing, an ability, but even being special doesn't give her power to change things. Instead she's barely there herself just taking in everyone else, a solitary witness. Kev on the other hand is too visible, over the course of a life he can't overcome a world out to notice his existence. Kev and Mama's experiences are Ella's catalyst to find their history.

This is a particularly timely and
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Thanks to Beverly who shared this great interview with the LFPC group. Well worth a read, and I sure hope my library has more copies coming in. The list is very very long already.

This is fabulous and terrifying. Started with a library book and realized very quickly as I reread the opening chapter aloud to my friend that I was going to want to share this, so I bought a copy. Gorgeously written but not at all pretentious. Reminded me at times of Victor LaVal
Rachel (Kalanadi)
3.5 stars? Not sure how to rate this one. It was powerful, raw, and angry, but also disjointed and thin on plot.
(6.9/10) - ⭐⭐⭐

Riot Baby achieves a lot for it 170-something pages, and would deserve all the praise it’s getting for that alone. There’s a lot explored within this book that gives so much food for thought, and the way this dystopian world parallels our real one is terrifying.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get on with the writing style much. While – judging by the reviews of others – this is most likely a me-problem, I had trouble following along at times. It was difficult for me to keep the time jumps
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 Just lovely from beginning to end.
The way this was written to be parallel to our trying modern times and also giving glimpses of the past showing a dystopian outlook that does not at all seem out of the realm of possibility while still being engaging and heartfelt. Wow. Just wow. And to write such a powerful sibling dynamic weaved throughout.
I could have easily read another 200 pages. Fantastic!
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Siblings Ella and Kev share unique powers and witness the racism and brutality throughout their lives that eventually leads to Kev’s incarceration. For eight years, Ella visits her brother in supernatural ways to share important events and memories.
Once paroled, Kev is living in a small community that seems almost too perfect with a chip implanted in his hand to keep his emotions under control and the outside world at a distance.
While vague about the limits of Ella’s and Kev’s powers, readers ar
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
A moving narrative about the black American experience. Read the synopsis then read the novella.
Riot Baby is one of the angriest books I have ever read. This is a novella length protest of the injustices African Americans suffer at the hands of the criminal justice system. From the LA Riots to future parole, this book demands readers confront systemic racial injustices head on.

The story follows Ella and Kev Jackson. It opens with Ella and her Mama witnessing the start of the LA Riots, and Mama going into labor with Kev. It then follows the family to Harlem, where Kev gets swept up by the p
Tiffany Bookwormgram
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Riot Baby
5/5 stars

Holy wow. This is 162 pages of gut punches.

Combining realism with dystopian with science-fiction, Riot Baby follows two gifted siblings through the history of the black American experience.

Somehow, in very few pages, Onyebuchi covers the vastness of structural racism in a way that you are present for. Taking on topics from the KKK to police brutality across generations. It’s a harsh and gut-wrenching look at the crime of being black in America.

Somehow, he also let’s us see i
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks.

I am the locusts and the frogs and the rivers of blood. I’m here now.

My reaction on finishing Riot Baby can be summed up with two simple words: Holy shit. This is a novella that I will have to reread at some point. Riot Baby is a humbling, visceral collage of two lives and the system that exists to crush them at every turn. It is a battle cry, a scream, and a sob for the black community. When people talk abo

Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-the-book
My first read by Onyebuchi. It was thought provoking and amazingly written. I had to read carefully and still some things went over my head. This book has a voice for black people and for me very insightful on how things can go in America. It is unfair/ frustrating and gives an opening on how in some parts racism works in extremes. This book has magical elements, our MC Ella has superpowers. She gets them at a young age and struggles a lot growing up, she has a lot of anger and is getting to kno ...more
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Tochi Onyebuchi is the author of Beasts Made of Night, its sequel Crown of Thunder, War Girls, and the upcoming Riot Baby, forthcoming from in January 2020. He has graduated from Yale University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Columbia Law School, and L’institut d’études politiques with a Masters degree in Global Business Law.

His short fiction has appeared in Asimov's Scie

Articles featuring this book

Science fiction and fantasy have spawned some of the most imaginative plots and settings in existence. Makes sense, given that these genres are...
242 likes · 100 comments
“It's not till she's outside that she realizes what she was looking for in there. What she's been looking for all these years. What she realizes now she no longer needs.
I am the locusts, Ella sends the thought out like a concussive wave, so that it hits every surveillance orb in the neighborhood, every wired cop, every crabtank in the nearby precinct. I am the locusts and the frogs and the rivers of blood.
I'm here now.”
“When you have a purpose that doesn't involve hurting someone else, it changes the way you walk.” 1 likes
More quotes…