Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi in my life.  It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really started exploring that genre.  So I don’t know if that makes me a good person to write a review of Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon or not.  I was drawn to this book because I’m interested in Nigeria, and this is set in Lagos.  I’d heard positive things about Ms. Okorafor’s other books like Binti and Who Fears Death.  I was also interested in the book’s premise:  shapeshifting aliens land in the waters off of Lagos – what do they want?  How are people going to react?

18753656A famous Ghanaian rapper, a female marine biologist, and a soldier are all on the beach when the massive BOOM rattles their ears and makes them drop to the ground.  Within minutes a massive wave rolls in from the sea and takes them into the water.  We never find out exactly what happens to them in the water, but they emerge with a mysterious woman.

There was something both attractive and repellent about the woman, and it addled Adaora’s senses.  Her hair was long – her many braids perfect and shiny, yet clearly her own hair.  She had piercing brown eyes that gave Adaora the same creepy feeling as when she looked at a large black spider.  Her mannerisms were too calm, fluid, and… alien.

Not surprisingly, once strange things start happening and word gets out, all hell breaks loose.  Some people want to get to this mysterious woman/creature.  Some people want to get the hell out of Lagos.  Others just want to exploit the chaos for their own gain.  What makes this novel interesting is the way in which Okorafor weaves Nigerian mythology and elements of magical realism into what could have been just another first contact story.  I admit that some of this went over my head but I still enjoyed it.  She also weaves in elements of feminism, environmentalism, and gay rights advocacy into the narrative.  She vividly depicts all different kinds of Lagosians, from the fundamentalist Christian priest who is mainly concerned with lining his pockets to the mute orphan boy who picks pockets until he witnesses the events unfolding on the beach.  There are even passages narrated by a swordfish and a spider.

9781481440875_custom-83c869fee28f9137f21e4e8c5eae3529468e813a-s300-c85I admit that the action in the first half of the book developed a little more slowly than I would have liked, and there are a TON of characters’ viewpoints, some of which aren’t explored very much and seem a little extraneous.  But these are tiny quibbles.  I liked Lagoon.  It was weird and intense and a heck of a lot of fun.  I am hungry for more from Nnedi Okorafor.

(Book 6 of 10 for my #10BooksofSummer, from Cathy’s #20BooksofSummer challenge.)

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15 thoughts on “Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

  1. I was really interested to see that you’d reviewed this book because I’m currently reading Who Fears Death and finding it deeply odd but strangely addictive. There’s a lot of feminist commentary in it too (some of it really disturbing).

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    1. She is an intriguing author. I’m not a natural fan of sci-fi but have been exploring it more the past few years. I think I’m going to try Binti next before I work up to Who Fear Death. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it, if you review it.

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  2. The multiple viewpoints reminds me of World War Z, which I loved as an audiobook. A few people have reviewed this book lately, and it keeps reminding me that there was a book about a murderous mermaid that was in the running for best horror on Goodreads that I need to check out!

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      1. World War Z, should you ever change your mind, MUST be experienced as an audiobook. Each character (there are A LOT because it’s interviews with people who lived through the war and not character-driven) is narrated by a different voice actor. The mermaid book is called Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant.

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  3. I’m not hugely fond of too many viewpoints – I kinda like to build up a relationship with one or two narrators. But I’ve heard so many good things about Okorafor that I’m sorely tempted. I think I’ll maybe try Binti first though – a bit of space travel in sci-fi always works for me!

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  4. I’ve heard lots of good things about Binti – I didn’t realize this book was written by the same author. I’ll be interested to see how you like this one compared to Binti, if you decide to read it!

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  5. Wow! I’m not a science fiction reader. It’s a goal to read more, but the whole setting for this book is so unique. Sci-fi authors of color are a rarity. What a great review!

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  6. More than half way done with your 10 Books of Summer! Woohoo 😀

    Lagos is such a fascinating city, metropolis, and cultural hot spot. I’d love to see how it’s depicted in this novel. I’m going to read Who Fears Death next but Lagoon will definitely come after.

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    1. Thanks, Naz – I think I just might read all ten! 🙂 It is fascinating. I’ve enjoyed learning more about Nigeria this year through reading. I can’t wait to hear what you think of Who Fears Death.

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  7. I so liked just how WEIRD Lagoon was. I wish I had reviewed it at the time! But it honestly is just so weird that I hardly knew what to say. That’s consistently been a strength of this author — sometimes she’s not as good with plot and strong character development, but she is endlessly creative and weird with these worlds she invents.

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