Originally published: February 2017 (This edition September 2019)
Author: Tade Thompson
Published by: Orbit Books
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 390 pages
Reading dates: 25-30 January 2020
Set in Nigeria in 2066, in the aftermath of an alien invasion that wiped out London, Rosewater is a town that has sprung up around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, a dome that opens once a year and restores healing to those that need it.
Kaaro is what is known as a sensitive – he has psychic powers that have been enhanced by the microscopic fungal spores which have been released in the air by the aliens to create a xenosphere. As a teenager he used his special gift to steal, and having had to run for his life from an angry mob led by his own mother, he ends up being recruited for a secret government agency known as S45 who use telepathy to interrogate suspects.
The story starts on “Opening Day” in 2066 where Kaaro is invited to spend the evening his colleague, her husband and another woman Aminat, who is essentially his blind date for the evening.
Before long, Kaaro finds all the sensitives like himself are dying out and he needs to face his past in order to survive.
When people ask me what I like to read, my stock answer is everything except sci-fi so I approached this read, which was chosen for our January book club with a sense of trepidation. But I have been surprised how much I have liked some of our book club choices in the past so I was willing to give this a go. And to start off with, I really enjoyed it. I liked Kaaro as a character and I liked the love story that developed between himself and Aminat. I also liked Kaaro’s relationship with his handler at S45 – him lustful, her mostly annoyed! I also liked the fact that it was set in Nigeria and covered some of the cultural aspects of the country.
I didn’t entirely understand what was going on the whole time to begin with but that was fine as I was enjoying the story. The story jumps around in time quite a bit and while I usually don’t mind reading a story that is told in the wrong order, this added to my confusion. But as I got to the last third or so, I realised I didn’t really know what was going on after all and maybe I should have made more effort to understand some of the science in the beginning! I do have a theory about this! Much like some people’s brains are wired to be effortlessly good at maths, I think some people just would get this book! One of our book club members works in science and she thought very highly of this book and really enjoyed it. I just don’t think my brain is wired for this type of story!
I do genuinely think this is a good book – after all in won the 2019 Arthur C Clarke award which is given for the best Science Fiction novel published in the UK – and I’ve really loved some of the previous winners, including Station Eleven and The Underground Railroad. I think it would make a great Netflix series, which I would watch if it ever got made. I just don’t think the book was for me.
About the author:
Thompson was born in London to Yoruba parents and grew up in Nigeria. His family left the United Kingdom around 1976. He studied medicine and social anthropology. He went on to specialise in psychiatry. He writes novels and short stories which have been critically received. Thompson was a Nommo Award and a Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award winner. He was a John W. Campbell Award finalist as well as nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, the British Science Fiction Award, and the Nommo Award, a year when he didn’t win. Thompson is also a capable illustrator and artist. His novella The Murders of Molly Southbourne has been optioned for screen adaptation. His novel Rosewater won the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2019, the most prestigious UK award for Science Fiction.
Thompson returned to the UK in 1998. He left again to spend a year working in Samoa. He now works on the south coast of England.