Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
I was unsure about this novel: a fantasy novel set in Lagos? With environmental themes? Could I possible enjoy this?
Three disparate strangers meet on a beach in Lagos: Adaora, a marine biologist. Anthony, a famous rapper from Ghana. Agu, a soldier in trouble with his superior.
When a meteorite hits the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three will find themselves bound together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars. They must race through Lagos in order to save the city, the world… and themselves.
First Impressions: The first few chapters were well written but I found the plot was a little stilted as the sea creature alien arrived and settled into Adaora’s house. As it is a fantasy novel and this was a vital plot development you sort of just had to go with it and I’m glad I did.
Highlights: There is so much to like about this novel! Never having been to Nigeria, I am guessing that Okorafor has created a perfect representation of Lagos. I wonder if her life in America has provided a good distance in which to make such accurate comments? I laughed to read that Aliens chose to land in Lagos as the corruption would mean they could exist undetected. I later found out that the author started this novel in response to everything she disliked in the South African Film District 9.
Many people talk about London as being an addictive place to live but I had never considered Lagos to have the same pull to its residents; people look for greener pastures but always return. I found all the different Lagosian groups and tensions that Okorafor includes incredibly interesting and naturally written about, particularly the Muslim-Christian anxieties. I have never included quotes in a review before but I think this perfectly sums up daily life for residents of Lagos:
Some blamed the Muslims of the north. Others blamed the Americans. Al-Quaeda. Sickness. The British. Bad luck. Devils. Poverty. Women. Fate. 419. Biafra. The bad roads. The military. Corruption. (page 61).
My favourite character by far was the
charlatan charismatic religious leader Father Oke. I also loved the underground LGBT group from the university; so unexpected yet a perfect addition to this novel. Along with other terms peculiar to Lagos such as ‘Area Boys’ and ‘face me, I face you’ apartments, Pidgin was used successfully in some chapters and I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I didn’t understand it all, which really surprised me. Juju and other superstitions are seamlessly integrated into the mindset of many of the characters including Adaora’s businessman husband who believes in the three types of witches: white, physical and marine.
If I was an editor: I would still be a fair-weather fantasy reader and would like the fact the fantasy elements don’t overwhelm the story. There are a few (needed for the plot) chapters with fantasy elements towards the end; any more and I may have begun to lose interest but the author obviously kept a good balance with these elements. It is, after all, a fantasy novel.
Overall: Lagos brought to life.
Lagoon: 5 Stars
Thank you to Bookbridgr for a copy of the novel to review.