The first two books in Ian McDonald’s Chaga series, the eponymous novel (called Evolution’s Shore in the US) and Kirinya, both feature white main characters dealing with a strange alien invasion in black Africa. While local characters do appear as secondary, it’s fair to say much of the concerns of the continent are filtered through Western eyes. Partially righting the imbalance is “Tendeleo’s Story” (2000), a novella set in the colorful, culturally tense milieu. Like another short work in the setting, “Recording Angel,” it more concisely expresses aspects of the series, but gains a significant degree of perspective from someone locally dealing with the creeping crystalline invasion.
Tendeleo, whose name means ‘early-evening-shortly-after-dinner’ in reference to her birth time, is the teenage daughter of the pastor at an Episcopalian church in rural Kenya. Village life comfortable, things are turned upside down, however, when a chaga meteorite lands a few kilometers from her home. Visiting the impact site with her little sister and given a tour by a few of the UNECTA scientists gathering data, Tendeleo has a part of her brain activated by the work, advanced technology, and mysteries she witnesses there. But she never has a chance to act on the interest. The chaga taking over her village a short time later, life is spun out of control as she and her family are placed in a squalorous refugee camp on the outskirts of Nairobi. Taking life in her own hands, the sacrifices Tendeleo subsequently makes break the heart, but prove worth it in the end.