Written by: C.
Aliens arrived on Earth and… “Wait!” you will tell me, “I’ve already read this. Like, a thousand times! Not to mention countless formulaic movies… Why would I read it?” Because it’s far removed from your typical “Aliens arrived on Earth” story and so well written that it’d be a real pity not to read it…
Kaaro is a sensitive: it means he can access the xenosphere where he reads other people’s minds. He works in a bank to protect customers from others sensitives–no one wants to have their PIN codes plucked from their thoughts. But this job is just a cover because he actually works for the Nigerian government. His city, Rosewater, is built around a mysterious alien dome that appeared on Earth some twenty years ago.
We follow Kaaro in a few non-linear threads from his past and his present. The storytelling is more like a slowly woven tapestry rather than a straightforward narrative. Rosewater slowly unfolds and requires patience from the reader, but it is balanced with a fair share of action scenes and lots of tantalizing mysteries that are revealed as you go along.
So, on the page, you end up with a non-linear story with telepathy, kind-of-zombies, aliens on Earth, governmental agencies, and mysterious mysteries. “Throw in the kitchen sink too, why don’t you!” you are thinking. But actually no–the rigorous world and plot building Rosewater has leads to an ending where everything makes sense. The ending may remind the reader of where Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler starts but with different options and different choices. Where Butler creates hope at a tremendous cost, Thompson replies with a different answer.
In the story, some things are just hinted at but convey the feel of the wider world, others are slowly explained, others are based on Nigerian current society. They all create a believable complex world.
Kaaro’s characterization is intelligently done, layer by layer revealed with the non-linear storytelling. He isn’t an all guns a-blazin’ character: Thompson chose to make him an anti-hero, and it’s easy to identify with some of his choices. There is something of Bérenger in him, the main character in Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros (with one major difference that’d be too spoilerish to reveal). Sadly, most of the other characters are much less developed. But, it is Kaaro’s story that is the focus of the novel, and the others are just supporting characters.
Rosewater is a science-fiction novel that doesn’t just re-use old tropes: it makes them fit a tightly wrought story which asks again, and in a talented way, the question of otherness and humanity, and what is worth fighting for. It’s definitely a sci-fi novel that shouldn’t be missed!
Tor will also publish a novella by Tade Thompson, The Murders of Molly Southbourne, in October 2017. You may find the author’s website here.
C. has been reading science-fiction and fantasy for about 30 years and tries to have a life in between books, though it’s often less interesting than fictional worlds. You can find more science-fiction and fantasy books reviews by C. on http://www.themiddleshelf.org
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