Rosewater by Tade Thompson

A strange but compelling book.

Set in Nigeria in 2066 this follows our only POV Kaaro as he goes about his daily routines working for a bank, and his other job as an agent for a secret government group called Section 45. Kaaro is a sensitive who can find things and people by basically reading their minds. His gift, and people like him is due to an alien presence that first landed in London in the early 2000’s and then created a biodome in Nigeria in 2055. This biodome periodically opens up and releases elements that can heal people (amongst other things) and because of this a town has grown up around it; Rosewater.

Kaaro is an interesting individual. He is by no means likeable but I couldn’t help wishing him well. When we meet him in 2066 he is cold and aloof but, as the storyline jumps all over the place, we see him when he’s younger where he’s quite different, totally selfish and materialistic. When he first finds out he has the gift he uses it to steal to fund a lavish life of clothes, clubs, booze and girls even though his family is not lacking money. He also leaves his girlfriend to a mob meant for him where she gets necklaced (shudders), so really not a nice person. But somehow he does grow on you as he doesn’t really mean any harm, he’s just pretty self-centered.

The story is told in a non linear fashion with constant time jumps from the present day to early parts of his life, though it mostly revolves around 2066 and his training with Section 45 both before and after the creation of the biodome in 2055. This can be a bit frustrating as you’re trying to place where he is but it does get easier as it goes along.

There is more than a hint of the new weird about this as well. We have flaming angels, a butterfly woman succubi as well as reanimates and alien demon like creatures. It makes for a pretty crazy mix even though the world on offer is ours. There are hints throughout about the impact these alien events have had on the world as a whole, with the US in particular being very intriguing but this story at least is all set pretty much in Rosewater and towns and cities close by. It makes for a very personal story of what is basically a first contact book.

It does take a bit to get going but to be fair there’s a lot to set up. The short chapters and constant time jumps are annoying and the main reason I dropped it a star but once it gets going it is really good and I would recommend it as something a bit different though if unlikeable protagonists are not for you then it might not suit.

4 stars out of 5

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