Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Review: Rosewater by Tade ThompsonRosewater by Tade Thompson

Published by Orbit on September 18th 2018
Also by this author: Far from the Light of Heaven
Pages: 432
Format: ebook

Tade Thompson's Rosewater is the start of an award-winning, cutting edge trilogy set in Nigeria, by one of science fiction's most engaging new voices.

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn't care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

I’ve waited way too long before reading this but when one of the bookclubs on r/fantasy selected Rosewater by Tade Thompson as the book of the month, I knew I had to take part. Mostly to get my hard mode bingo square for a book club read. If not, I would’ve read it for a different square. Possibly first contact.

Rosewater is a giant step out of my comfort zone. It’s a science fiction book set in Nigeria and I had no idea what kind of writing to expect from Tade Thompson. I know he’s an awesome person based on his Twitter, but beyond that… I hadn’t read anything by him yet. So I dove in knowing basically nothing. Going blind into a book has upsides and downsides. The biggest downside is that it might take you longer to get into. This time it was four or five chapters before I was really hooked. If I was more familiar with the genre, the second chapter might have done that. The upside is that the book doesn’t have to live up to any expectations.

The story follows Kaaro through multiple timelines as he learns more about himself and the alien visitors. I didn’t like him: he’s a thief, misused his powers, and sacrificed his girlfriend to a mob. His attitude can be frustrating at times but throughout the story, you understand why he is the way he is. Why he distrusts people. This sense of survival is key and maybe the only reason he makes the end of the book.

The worldbuilding is great but it’s hard for me to compare. I’ve never been to Nigeria and don’t know much about it, but the world Thompson created felt real, dangerous, and vivid. I saw the colours of the cover in the story. The large contrasts between the different areas, and the presence of the dome. He gave just enough detail to make the lineart, but you as reader still had space to colour it in yourself. The concepts he used in his story are new to me although mushrooms seem to be more supernatural than I thought.

I give Rosewater by Tade Thompson 4 stars. I was pleasantly surprised by this wonderful story and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. Sometimes it really pays off to read outside your comfort zone. I highly recommend Rosewater to any science fiction fans, but also readers who are interested in African centred stories. I’ll be checking out more Afrofuturism stories from now on.

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