Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon was my pick for the Cannonball Read Sci Fi Book Club selection. The description of Lagoon grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I listened to the Audible version narrated by Adjoa Andoh and Ben Onwukwe. I highly recommend it. I did like Doomsday Book more than most of you, so take that into consideration.
It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador—and prevent mass extinction—in this novel that blends magical realism with high-stakes action.
After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues. Soon the military, religious leaders, thieves, and crackpots are trying to control the message on YouTube and on the streets. Meanwhile, the earth’s political superpowers are considering a preemptive nuclear launch to eradicate the intruders. All that stands between seventeen million anarchic residents and death is an alien ambassador, a biologist, a rapper, a soldier, and a myth that may be the size of a giant spider, or a god revealed.
Lagoon is a sprawling, chaotic narrative. It is not as hijinxy as the description implies. There are hijinx and there are moments of humor, but it’s all grounded in sadness, loss, fear and tragedy. As I thought about it, it seems as likely a scenario for first contact as any. Why not Lagos? It’s one of the largest cities on Earth. Why not Africa? It is the cradle of life. The people of Legos react in the way one would expect any people to react – with a strange mix of fear, violence and kindness. Before the aliens make contact and after, people react with violence to the things they fear. They lash out in violence and break the things they love.
Along side the violence, is kindness. The complex chaos of humanity is shown and not told. In the end, not all of the story is told.