Book: Rosewater and Rosewater: Insurrection by Tade Thompson
Here I was about to start writing my review for Rosewater: Insurrection when I realised that Rosewater was one of the books I read before I properly got going on my blog so I don’t actually have a review up for that so instead I am putting two reviews together into one post (not unlike what I did when I was catching up with my reviews of Emma Newman’s Planetfall series).
I will still be trying to keep spoilers hidden so anything like that should be hidden under a cut as normal. Hopefully this won’t be too fiddly to work out since I am doing it for two reviews, but I shall do my best to make sure that nothing is spoilered unless someone intends it to be.
“I can read minds but I still don’t understand women. Or men. Humans. I don’t understand humans.”
I first heard Tade talk about this book at SFXCon 2 in November last year I think it was and I was instantly fascinated and wanted to buy it. A science-fiction book set in Nigeria and dealing with a very unusual take on an alien invasion.
Though one of the things that peaked my interest was the answer Tade gave to a conversation about what the first things you know about a character are and he talked about how they dealt with bodily fluids. Not an answer I was expecting and made me fascinated to see what effect that way of thinking would have on character development and writing.
Anyway, to briefly explain the premise of the book, an entity known as Rosewater has come to Earth from somewhere else, first burying under England but after being driven away reappears in Nigeria. The entity create a biodome there and a city springs up around it, people drawn for all sorts of reasons including the healing powers of the dome.
The main character is a man called Kaaro who has psychic powers and uses them in the employ of a government department who deals with things connected to the alien in the dome. He has a shady past and we learn more about that past and how it connects to the events unfolding now and what they might mean for humanity as a whole.
The book is spendidly written and interweaves stories from the past and current timelines in an excellent fashion. The main character is kinda unlikeable in some ways, he’s a bit of a sexist douchebag at times, but the way he is shown also shows us those qualities as bad and he does have some good points too.
This is one of the most unique science-fiction books I have read in a while and the fact that it has been up for so many awards is well deserved in my opinion. I highly recommend it and honestly it very nearly made it to 5 stars for me, but Kaaro is such an ass that I couldn’t quite bring myself to do so.
“Welcome to Rosewater. It stinks less than it used to.”
After how much I enjoyed the first one, I ended up pre-ordering the second one (no hardbacks makes me very happy I will admit, means I get to read things quicker!) I devoured this one just as quickly as the first and honestly I do think it is, on the whole, a better book.
I will admit part of the reason for that is that this book focuses more on the character of Aminat, who meet in the first book as she is involved with Kaaro. In the book she has to guard a woman whose wellbeing is tied to the future of Rosewater as the city comes under threat from things both without and within it.
The story is not told solely from Aminat’s perspective, we get to see how the events unfolding affect a number of people associated with Rosewater and it vastly increases our understanding of what is going on within the city.
Several of the point of view characters are women though and they are women done well, they all have their own motivations, personality and quirks that come through very strongly. They are not always the “strong female character” trope and have more depth than that and I honestly really liked them and how they were portrayed.
These books are fabulous pieces of work and I highly recommend people to read them, I hope that you will not be disappointed. This sort of a unique science-fiction story is one of the reasons I love the genre so much. Not just unique because of being set in Nigeria, but the way the characters and setting are done is not the normal way we might expect and that is honestly refreshing and excellent to read.
Now my friendly spoiler warning.
The only thing I found slightly jarring about the book was at one point a point of view character turns up, has a long section to himself and then promptly dies without having a massive impact on the story that I could see and I found that a bit weird. I am guessing that it may come back in the third book in some way where I find out what the point of it was. It was only a minor point though and nothing close to knocking the book down from it’s 5 star pedestal.
One of the things I am adoring about this series is that the people in the story do not react to an alien invasion in the typical ways we expect to see. Generally alien stories are either a) the aliens are entirely benevolent and there are some government types who don’t see that and try and hurt them or b) the aliens are malevolent and and violently trying to wipe out humanity.
In this case the aliens are trying to take over the planet but they are doing by adapting the planet to what they need it to be and also turning humans into something that they can then inhabit. And despite that being the case they do not hate humans, it’s just a matter of survival and in the end they manage to come up with another solution to the problem, though given there is another book in the series to come I am sure that there are problems ahead for that solution.
I need to pre-order the third book because I cannot wait to see how this is going to wrap up. I should try and get hold of Tade’s novellas as well, they sound fascinating and I definitely look forward to whatever his new project is.