Narrator: Bayo Gbadamosi
Series: The Wormwood Trilogy #1
Published by Hachette Audio on September 18, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 13 hrs 37 mins
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Tade Thompson's Rosewater is the start of an award-winning, cutting edge trilogy set in Nigeria, by one of science fiction's most engaging new voices.
Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.
Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn't care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.
Set in the near future in Nigeria, Rosewater shows us a world where not much has changed. There are still the rough edges, violence, greed, poverty and prejudices. There are also aliens. Well, an alien. In 2012, a giant alien lifeform, known as “Wormwood,” landed in London and began moving through the Earth’s crust. America went “dark”, and in Nigeria a giant alien biodome popped up in 2055. It occasionally radiates healing rays that are also capable of raising the dead. A city, Rosewater, has grown up around the dome.
The story unfolds in three separate timelines that can get a bit confusing. It’s told throughout in the first person by Kaaro. He’s a psychic, a former thief who now works for a secret arm of the government. He can read minds, replay past events, and even manipulate people. Kaaro and few others like him can connect to the xenosphere – a psychic link to what appears to be the world’s stored consciousness. The existence of the xenosphere and the ability for some to tap into it is a direct consequence of the aliens and their “soft” invasion. Somehow certain people – the “sensitives” like Kaaro – can form links with the alien fungus-like organisms (“xenoforms”) that make up the xenosphere. The problem, or at least one of the problems, is that the sensitives are dying – or maybe being killed off. Kaaro needs to figure out why and how before he ends up dead too.
I loved Kaaro. He’s blunt and cynical and funny too. He has few illusions about the world; he’s middle-aged and has seen a lot during his life. Mostly, he’s concerned about himself, what he can gain from a situation, how he can survive. But that’s not entirely true. He does have a few people he cares about, at least by the end, and he can be occasionally idealistic.
The alternating timelines gave us bits and pieces of the world, and it took a while for it to come together for me. We see how the world changes and how Kaaro changes the more he learns and grows.
I listened to the audio. The narrator did a fabulous job, but it took me a few chapters to get used to the jumps in time. I’m not sure if it would have been a little easier in print, but I do enjoy a first-person narration on audio. It feels like the character is telling me his story, showing me his world.
Rosewater is clever, complex, and entertaining. It’s science fiction and it’s interesting how the various characters react to the alien in their midst. It’s not, at least in my opinion, hard-core sci-fi. There’s little technobabble – Kaaro doesn’t understand it or care about it. The concepts are unique and cool, but accessible.