Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

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Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Aliens arrive in Lagos providing us with a nuanced, metaphorical sci-fi that's also a darned entertaining read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444762754

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Three people walk along a Lagos beach as the world changes. Adaora is strolling to clear her head and try to understand why her husband hit her earlier tonight. Rap artist Anthony (known to his parents as Edgar) is having a post-gig wander. The third, Agu, is covered in blood. The fact that he's on the beach is immaterial; he just needs help. Then it happens. A boom, a bat falls stunned from the sky and then nothing is the same again. The strangers' futures all become one and the creature arrives; the creature they call Ayodele.

Nnedi Okorafor is a highly acclaimed Igbo Nigerian science fiction writer, having been awarded such glittering prizes as the Macmillan's Writer Prize and the World Fantasy Award. Lagoon is a great entry point for those of us who haven’t read her works before as well as a welcome acquaintance for those of us who are fans as it incorporates her usual entertaining story telling with a wry, absorbing, commentary on life.

This is a novel about many things lurking beneath the surface excitement centring on monsters. Don't let the layers put you off though – this works very well at face value but there are weft threads of real-life commentary in the finished narrative cloth for those who dare to look more closely. Although the stranger in our midst and the subsequent xenophobia/exploitation is a common theme, Nnedi's version is refreshingly different.

Apart from the three main characters, the first person who grabs our attention is a larger than life self-styled clergyman who is in the business for a lot more than the love of God. He's also a lover of Mammon and a case study in how tribal superstition co-exists with modern day Christianity in a horrifying cocktail of beliefs and outcomes.

The three heroes themselves have also been carefully chosen by Nnedi for a literary purpose. Adaora the Marine Biologist explains the scientific ramifications to us while through Agu (the soldier) we witness the state and disarray of the local army. In the case of rapper Anthony Nnedi raises some interesting thoughts about the place of rap in modern society, convincingly comparing the genre with medieval equivalents. There's also a rather clever reason as to why Lagos was chosen.

Not everyone in the book is human or, indeed, humanoid. Nnedi has studied entomology which comes in useful. However it doesn't fully explain her use of spiders. This goes back to my previous comments regarding her heritage. In West Africa spiders are purveyors of stories and yarns, an element she includes with great originality, creating a quirkiness that works.

Nnedi is indeed an original talent who provokes thought as much as she uses suspense. Therefore if she doesn't get us one way, she'll certainly manage it the other and I for one am not complaining in the slightest!

Thank you, Hodder & Stoughton for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If you enjoy the alien motif but fancy a different twist, try the clever, funny and touching Terra by Mitch Benn. If you prefer your sci-fi without the smiles, then perhaps the equally brilliant Being by Kevin Brooks is more your thing.

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Buy Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor at


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