Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

38362809Verdict: Strange, hard work, really really cool.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Published by Little, Brown Book Group UK / Orbit

Find it on Goodreads.

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.

I am really unsure about my feelings for this one, except for this: it is pretty damn cool. And I cannot wait to see where Tade Thompson takes this story next.

Rosewater is a town in future Nigeria, built around an alien biodome which opens once a year to heal everybody in the vicinity of the opening. Since the aliens have landed, some people have started developing powers. One of those superpowered individuals, and possibly the strongest, is Kaaro, the main character of this brilliant novel. We follow Kaaro’s story, unchronologically and confusingly. I actually had to start the book over because I tend to not read chapter headings and had not realized that the book is set in different timelines.

Tade Thompson does not make it easy for the reader to follow the story – every timeline is told in present tense, even when Kaaro remembers doing something. There is a in-story reason for this stylistic choice (my favourite kind of stylistic choices are informed by the narrative, so I adored this) but this doesn’t make it any less confusing. The reader is along for the ride and either figures stuff out on their own or they don’t. For me, that worked really well – I like when authors trust their audience this way. And while I am still not completely certain to have grasped everything, what I understood of the story was quite brilliant.

I really liked how the framing of the story from Kaaro’s perspective colours the book – especially because he is not a particularly great person which only becomes obvious after a while. He does not feel the need to be a good person or to save the world or to do anything really, and as such he makes for a very interesting protagonist. The way other characters react to him shows more of his personality than his own narration  – which I just found so cool.

So yes, I thought that this was a lot of work but I found it very rewarding in the end. I enjoy Science Fiction that feels different and books told in interesting perspectives, so this was always going to work for me.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK in exchange for an honest review.