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?
A 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.
I 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.)