Friday, November 13, 2015

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

It sounds like the opening of a joke: marine biologist, soldier and famous rapper are all on a beach… These three strangers are all walking on a Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria when they are interrupted by the sound of an explosion followed by a rising wall of water from the ocean.  The three are sucked out to sea and miraculously, re-deposited on the sand later unharmed.  Then, the unthinkable happens: the representative of an alien race makes first contact with Earth. 

The story of the three strangers picks up pace as we meet the alien envoy herself: a being who can change her appearance at will; a “woman” the biologist names Ayodele.  Soon, everyone is trying to meet the alien and use her for their own ends: young men hoping for money, priests who want to “convert” the entire alien race, crazies who are convinced the world is ending.  Panic engulfs the masses and we see the three strangers and Ayodele fighting to convince people that the aliens are here because they love the potential of Nigeria and they want to live among humans. 

Okorafor does a great job of describing the invisible anxiety that lies underneath all of Lagos in these new, uncertain times.  She describes people from all walks of life who are just living their lives and then have to figure out how to live now that everything has suddenly changed.  The pages of this book are charged with superstition and old-world magic; with the unknown and unknowable.  This is an examination of contemporary society under the guise of a science fiction novel.

Lagoon is available now.