The Old Drift
by Namwali Serpell

This inventive first novel by Serpell, a Caine Prize winner, spans two centuries in Zambian history, mixing styles from Gothic to Afrofuturist. She opens in 1850 with Scotsman David Livingstone encountering Mosi-oa-Tunya – ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ – and renaming it Victoria Falls. She tracks three Zambian families, descended from British, Indian and Italian immigrants who settled in Old Drift, the stillest waters of the Zambezi, home to mosquitos carrying malaria. A recurring chorus of mosquitoes narrates the tale. In a prologue, they describe “a tiny chaos” that triggers a destructive cycle spiralling across families for generations to come. Her finale involves a love triangle between activists in 2050, when individual lives are documented by embedded ‘Beads’ and swarms of man-made drones known as Moskeetoze spread disaster.

The Other Americans
by Laila Lalami

Driss Guerraoui closes up his diner in the Mojave one night, crosses the highway and is killed by a car that speeds on. Guerraoui’s death connects a varied cast of characters, all struggling to juggle love, family and work: his Moroccan-born daughter Nora, an Oakland-based jazz pianist; his wife, who yearns for home in Casablanca; Jeremy, an Iraq War veteran who was Nora’s high-school classmate; Coleman, the novice police investigator; Anderson, the old-timer who sees Driss’s diner as competition, and Efrain, the undocumented worker who is the sole witness to the crime. Lalami packs sibling rivalry, a crime investigation, a love story and family secrets into her propulsive plotline. By crafting a masterful and intimate polyphonic narrative, she unveils the inner lives of each character – including Driss himself.