When I was a pre-teen determined to read every book on the library shelves, I borrowed a book about a mission to Mars. It was nothing like The Martian. There were red sandstorms, evil beings, and flesh-eating plants, and the ending was not happy. Not surprisingly, it put me off science fiction; I rarely ever read it now. But when I read the review of Lagoon on OutlandishLit, I couldn’t resist. Aliens always land in the United States, but here, aliens have landed in Nigeria. Yes!
The story starts out with the chance meeting of three people at Bar Beach in Lagos: Adaora, a marine biologist; Agu, a soldier; and Anthony Dey Craze, a successful rapper. Shortly after they begin talking, there is an incredibly loud boom and they are abducted into the ocean. Below the water is where the aliens have made their home for now, surrounded by sea creatures that are drawn to them from near and far.
“Despite the FPSO Mystras’s loading hose leaking crude oil, the ocean water just outside Lagos, Nigeria, is now so clean that a cup of its salty-sweet goodness will heal the worst human illnesses and cause a hundred more illnesses not yet known to humankind. It is more alive than it has been in centuries, and it is teeming with aliens and monsters.”
When Adaora, Agu, and Anthony return to the beach, they are accompanied by an alien ambassador they call Ayodele who is there to get the president of Nigeria to meet the alien Elders. And with that, the reader is off on an entertaining romp through Lagos.
As one knows from most first-contact stories, it is always difficult to get the earthly leader to meet the aliens. It’s no different here. Why would and should the ailing president of Nigeria meet with Ayodele when no one can be sure whether the aliens are good or evil? How will three “normal” people get close to the president, especially when, in the age of cell phones and social media, the arrival of aliens can’t be kept low-key for very long and chaos quickly ensues. To further complicate the matter, the president is in Saudi Arabia recovering from secret heart surgery. Adaora has an estranged husband who is convinced she is a sea witch and wants his pastor to reform her. Agu has just beaten up his superior who is now out for revenge. And Anthony can’t go anywhere without being recognized by adoring fans. There is a lot going on, but it never sounds far-fetched. Since the book is not set in the future, it all feels very real, especially with so many contemporary references thrown in.
The chapters in this book are mostly short, and the perspective jumps around a lot. But there are enough unifying events that prevent the constant change from getting confusing. In fact, it adds to the quick pace of the story because the jumps challenge the reader to quickly figure out how everything is connected. There are some unusual perspectives mixed in; narrators include a bat, a swordfish, and a spider, to name just a few. And every now and then, there’s a magical touch to the story when Okorafor adds some mythological elements. It is quite a mix, but certainly a successful one.
This was a fast and fun read. It fit perfectly into my currently very hectic life. Plus, while my first exposure to sci fi has killed any desire in me to ever go to Mars, I would not be opposed to visit Lagos one day (provided there’s not really a giant spider living under the city).