nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
Title: Lagoon
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Obtained: from tombola lot at Worldcon from either BSFA or a London SF group
Reasons for reviewing: science fiction written by an American of Nigerian descent, which is set in Nigeria
Author Website: Nnedi.Com—which looking at says she has won a number of fantasy awards for some of her other books (I'm now embarassed that I haven't read more of her fiction and will rectify this).

Lagoon can be obtained from Amazon.co.uk and Amazom.com; I've also seen it in Waterstones, so hopefully is generally around in bookstores and libraries, do check locally

Book blurb: When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Lagoon is a first contact novel set in Nigeria. A former housemate of mine came from Nigeria, but that's the closest I've been. This means that I have to take on faith that Lagos is like the description, but that doesn't matter—until I came to London, London was fictional— the Lagos of the book is an engaging and interesting place. It was fascinating reading the descriptions and trying to picture it in my head, feeling the energy and busyness of the place. Readers may also note the prevalent use of mobile phones; I gather this is true for much of Nigeria.

It is very clear from the beginning that Lagos is as much a character in the novel as the main POV characters. Ditto the sea for that matter; in many ways the book revolves around contact with the sea. But in brief, aliens come to earth. They would like a nice environment to live, one which their neighbours like too. Seriously, why would you land in the US or the UK where you would get found and probably locked up for scientific experiments by the government, when you could land in Nigerian waters where there is no such strong governmental control? The three main characters meet the alien, and events escalate and then rapidly spiral out of control. Not all the events are bad, not all are good. Overall, there is rapid and swift change, as well as resistance to change, before coming to a final conclusion which ultimately ends on a positive note for society as a whole.

One of the interesting things about this book, although there are three 'main' point of view characters, there are many minor points of view, most of whom only turn up once or twice. These include a road, a priest, an accountant and a singer amongst many others. In addition, there are quick perspective switches just after something major has happened in the book (I was particularly fond of the road and the tarantula). The characters do drop into pidgen English and some of the several other languages spoken in Lagos besides English are also used (generally with a translation and there is also a glossary at the end if you are the sort of person who reads those). Sometimes the use of multiple languages can be an author being clever, but in this case, it's a reflection of the city. It's the same of the points of view aspect: it's an example of authorial control and intent, rather than carelessness. All the point of view shifts tell the readers add an element or piece information.

In terms of pacing, which I am rubbish at describing, the first time I read this it kept me engaged the whole way (I wanted to know what happened next). The reread for this review took me a little while to get past the slower prologue, into the increasingly energetic rest of the book, but once I had, I raced through and quickly reached the can't-put-down point. Structure wise, I think it's relatively standard for a novel (from my dimly remembered high-school English classes), but there is nothing wrong with that. The narrative style and the location are more interesting about this book.

Overall, and without wanting to give anything away, this story is about change, both internal and external. And hopeful change at that. Even though some of the events in the book are quite awful, if not particularly graphic, the end is hoping for a positive future for Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

If you liked The Lego Movie, Pyramids (or other early works) by Terry Pratchett, or Farscape, give Lagoon a go. It's worth it. (Also, I was trying to come up with first contact books or TV that had positive change endings for this bit and really struggled!) I have reasons for choosing each of these comparisons, so if you find them a bit odd I'm happy to discuss.

Rating: 8/10

Next up: I haven't decided yet but am currently contemplating The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu or Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho.

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