Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor
Why I read: Book club pick for June
Book Quote “A star falls from the sky. A woman rises from the sea. The world will never be the same.”
Book blurb: “When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.
Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.
‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’
This was an unusual book which played with the normal first encounter tropes. Shapeshifting water-loving aliens land in the waters of Lagos. The main alien is able to switch into varying shapes and gets named Ayodele. The book is filled with vivid and evocative imagery such as tentacled sea monsters. ” ..a three-tentacled sea beast leaped over them, spiralling wildly through the air. It splayed all its think purple fifty-foot tentacles wide for full effect, splashing loudly into the water.”
The story is told from a wide range of different viewpoints. With more of a folk tale/history vibe than that of a story. Unfortunately all these viewpoints come across as a mishmash of confusing views some of which seem to have no relevance to the plot and there was a lot crammed into the book that did not help the story along. Some parts were written in dialect and I did not discover the glossary at the end until I reached it (this would have made sections more coherent). That said I particularly enjoyed the perspectives of the creatures that gave short almost morality tales woven through the book.
I wanted to like this more than I did. Aliens are coming out of the ocean in contemporary Lagos, feminist women, the blend of folk law, sci-fi, eco-science, and speculative fiction are all right up my street. But unfortunately the entire story did not gel together for me. I’d have loved to have more featuring the main alien as she was a fascinating character.
I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys the combination of African fiction and sci-fi.