Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton. April 2014.
Genre: Science fiction
First Line: Welcome to Lagos, Nigeria.
ADD TO GOODREADS
BUY FROM INDIEBOUND
BUY FROM BOOK DEPOSITORY
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 expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself. - Goodreads
While Lagoon is a great science fiction read, I think what made it so special was that it's really a revealing, sometimes critical, but ultimately caring love letter to Lagos, Nigeria. This book exemplifies why I think everyone should read science fiction. These stories aren't just about aliens or robots or other sci-fi tropes. Those things are used to illuminate important truths about humanity and culture. Through Nnedi Okorafor's use of a first contact alien story, I learned so much about Nigeria and I'm really glad that I did.
Ayodele, the alien ambassador that asks the three main characters for help, walks out of the sea and promises that her people will bring positive change to humans. They just want some place to live. They seem to have incredible powers and technology allowing them to transform into many different things, amongst other talents. But when news of these aliens starts to get out, the change that takes place in Lagos is anything but positive. The city gets torn apart.
The three main characters (Adaora, Agu, and Anthony) are all strong and fascinating in different ways. They all bring something new and fresh to the table when they're confronted with the issue of having to hang out with an alien that has transformed herself to look like a human. The villains in this story are equally interesting in their motives and their behavior. I don't normally like books that jump between characters each chapter, but I think the technique really worked for Lagoon. It only further helped to paint a picture of the beauty and the problems in Nigeria today.
Something else that I really appreciated about this book was the Nigerian mythology that gets woven into the novel. It's surprising whenever it appears. I never expected it. But I do think it added a layer of richness to the story. I didn't understand all of it or why it was there, but that just has me excited to do some more research to understand these stories.
I personally wish that we had learned a little bit more about the aliens and why they were there, but I realize that's not the story Okorafor was trying to tell. If you're looking for a sci-fi read about aliens that gives you a great introduction to Nigeria, look no further.
Outlandishness Rating: 7/10
Aliens. And some of the chapters are told from the point of view of animals who basically gain super powers. So it's inherently a little weird.