Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Set in Nigeria in the 2050s and 60s, Rosewater is a hugely imaginative twist on alien invasion filled with psychics, angels, fungi and even a couple of refugees from what used to be the United States. This is the first book in a sci-fi trilogy by Tade Thompson and it has won a slew of awards, including the 2019 Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel. Awards aren’t always the best guides to books but, in this case, they got it right. This is a good book. Not perfect, but well worth a read.

I’ll be a little unfair and start with the book’s problems. First, the main character, Kaaro, is, at best, amoral and, at worst, a proper piece of crap. He rarely stops to consider who he’s either hurting or helping (and he helps out some pretty questionable characters). Thompson does a good job of keeping Kaaro interesting but if you’re not a fan of that kind of character, you may not be so keen on the story.

Second, the editing is pretty spotty, particularly early on, with odd ellipses and spacings scattered about in the text. This was annoying in the first quarter of the book but got less obtrusive as the novel progressed.

The only other weakness in the book is Thompson’s heavy use of flashbacks. The story has regular flashbacks of anything from a decade to just a couple of months in the past. Constantly. At times, I found it difficult to remember when different bits of the story had taken place. Even now, after finishing the book, I couldn’t tell you the events of the story in chronological order.

That said, the jumping about didn’t bother me too much. Thompson had good reason for telling the story that way and, overall, it worked. I think he could have organized it a little better and reduced the number and pace of jumps but don’t let that put you off. The multiple mysteries woven into the story will pull you along and help you make sense of everything.

Beyond that, the story is excellent. Thompson’s take on alien invasion is truly novel and the way he works out its ramifications is incredible. I won’t put any spoilers in here; I’ll let you read the book yourself if you want to find out more.

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