Rosewater by Tade Thompson (book review).

December 14, 2016 | By | Reply More

I like alien invasion stories as they present the opportunity for displaying the best side of humanity while introducing weird aliens and technologies. ‘Rosewater’ by Tade Thompson doesn’t present the best side of humanity but is the better book for not doing so. It is quite simply one of best books I have read for quite some time, although part of this might be down to it being set in Nigeria. The author uses his knowledge of Nigerian people, customs and beliefs to build a completely believable near future environment for the story to unfold.

Rosewater is a place not too far from Lagos which becomes notable after an alien presence forms a large impenetrable dome. A town forms around the dome once it becomes evident that once a year when an opening appears and any illnesses in the local population are cured. It does, unfortunately, have the effect of reanimating any recently deceased people though. They are not killer zombies but there’s a special unit of the local police that helps them return to being dead just in case.

The central character of the story is a man called Kaaro and its just ‘Kaaro’ with no surname or first name. Kaaro is a sensitive who starts to develop his special skills at about eight or nine years-old. Unfortunately, his abilities coupled with his poor background provide just the right leverage to tip him into a life of thievery. Kaaro can read people’s minds and what stands out are their thoughts about valuable items. He’s able to trawl their memories and discover the places where they are hidden.

We learn about Kaaro’s early life during flashbacks prior to the story’s current time in the year 2066. Each chapter name, as listed in the table of contents, is followed by the year of when it happened except for the ‘Interlude:’ sections. These do have the year in the chapter’s initial page so you can piece together when the events are happening. The current event chapters are interspersed with chapters from earlier times and the interludes. It sounds complicated but it works well but does show up the limitation of an e-book reader. In a physical paperback, its trivial to flip back a few pages to the chapter start to check the date. Trying that on an e-book reader is a pain in the proverbial.

Kaaro’s special abilities are a side-effect of the alien macro and microorganisms introduced into the Earth’s atmosphere when the alien entity known as Wormwood crashes into the Earth. They were originally deployed to aid in the alien’s study of Earths fauna and flora which, of course, includes us humans. Not everyone gets mind-reading abilities, just a very few ‘sensitives’ who also get access to a xenosphere. This can be thought of a mental dimension were the sensitives can take different forms and interact with each other.

Not surprisingly, Kaaro comes to the attention of Nigeria’s government agency S45, who recruits sensitives as agents in their fight against organised crime and political opponents. Being forced into S45 and having to undertake rather dodgy assignments does nothing for Kaaro’s disposition. He could be said to be an anti-hero as he doesn’t like violence, won’t carry a gun and appears to not like most of the people he has to interact with.

The book artfully depicts Kaaro’s early life, S45 missions and his growing awareness of what is really happening to him and the world in general. Being set in Nigeria and calling on the varied traditions and beliefs of the country give the story a completely different aspect which is refreshing. Trade Thompson’s writing is brisk with the story having multiple layers. I found it quite hard to put down as there’s always something going on. The ending, when it comes, isn’t obvious. While it is a complete book with a proper ending, there is the possibility that there might be more tales from Rosewater.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes a very good Science Fiction story. Its only after you have read it and think about the aliens and the technologies used do you really appreciate how much trouble the world is in. I’m going to re-read this book at some point which indicates just how much I rate it. Tade Thompson is also on my list of authors to watch out for. I’m interested to see what he releases next.

Andy Whitaker

December 2016

(pub: Apex Publications. 364 pages. eBook edition: Price: £ 5.55 (UK). ASIN: B01N8VTS76. Paperback: Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-937009-29-8)

check out website: www.apex-magazine.com

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Category: Books, MEDIA, Scifi

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About the Author ()

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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