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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nobody owns Lagos
Having read this book I still aren't entirely sure how I feel about it. Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death was a book I enjoyed very much but Lagoon is very different to that book. There is no central character in the book and from chapter to chapter the perspective shifts through a wide community of characters who are tied together by geographic proximity. All are based in...
Published 3 months ago by S. Bentley

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure whether this works ?
I am disappointed in only awarding three stars for this unusual book. I had not read many books by African authors before and was really looking forward to getting my teeth into a sci-fi with a good story outline. The book is challenging and I wish I knew more about the locale to relate it to its situ, or maybe my own ignorance of the populace showed through. the book's...
Published 2 months ago by rhosymynydd


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nobody owns Lagos, 18 April 2014
By 
S. Bentley "stuarthoratiobentley" (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
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Having read this book I still aren't entirely sure how I feel about it. Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death was a book I enjoyed very much but Lagoon is very different to that book. There is no central character in the book and from chapter to chapter the perspective shifts through a wide community of characters who are tied together by geographic proximity. All are based in Nigeria, and particularly Lagos, which means Lagoon, hence the title of the book. This in itself is necessary to the theme of the book but means that characters don't have as much space to live and breathe and become a particular set of characteristics pushed along by the plot, rather than influencing the plot themselves.

The plot seems, at first blush, to have been cribbed from old science fiction films. A trio of individuals, a marine biologist whose marriage is collapsing, a soldier who has assaulted a superior officer with justification, and a rapper, encounter an alien who is living in the sea. They are momentarily abducted and then return, with the alien, to Lagos. The alien has the ability to see into people's souls, more or less, and make pithy yet gnomic comments on people's lives. The people of Lagos respond to this with fear and loathing. And so it goes for a couple of hundred pages. Every prejudice, every human failing is displayed in Lagos, from a Christian minister who only seeks his own satisfaction through his position as demagogue, to a no-hoper boyfriend, a gullible husband, the military man who thinks might means right and on. There's nothing in the way of humour to leaven the effect, though some miracles are performed by the alien, who states she has come to change society and therefore draws an angry mob, who threaten her and her charges. As a result I was unsure if I was enjoying the book. I was certainly turning the pages, but the idea that didacticism was overtaking any drama in the story was sapping any sense of enjoyment and I think I just wanted to see if it would turn out exactly as I expected.

And then a few twists kicked in. The nature of Lagos is entwined very tightly around the narrative, particularly its corruption, but then some folklore elements muscle into the plot and suggest something more is going on in the story than some retread of the Day the Earth Stood Still or the Man Who Fell to Earth set in Nigeria. The three chosen ones have been chosen for a specific reason. Ultimately though, the story ends the way the formula dictates, which is disappointing.

What I find interesting is that in the afterword (and in interviews) Okorafor has mentioned that the novel was born from her anger at the way Nigerians are portrayed in District 9 but that the portrayal of Lagos is so unremittingly grim that it doesn't really counterbalance that. Again, it leaves me unsure how I ultimately feel about the book.

The book includes a glossary of the local dialect used in the book. I didn't see this until the end, but it's probably worth looking at before you go in. There's also a "deleted scene", the only part of the book that takes place outside Lagos, which acts as a nice epilogue and meta-commentary on the story.

In summation, I felt an urge to complete the book and there are many intriguing ideas in it. Whether it is a satisfying read, though, is something that I'm still debating. It lacks complex characters and the plot is like a bulldozer, rather than a symphony.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure whether this works ?, 21 May 2014
By 
rhosymynydd "liz" (west wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
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I am disappointed in only awarding three stars for this unusual book. I had not read many books by African authors before and was really looking forward to getting my teeth into a sci-fi with a good story outline. The book is challenging and I wish I knew more about the locale to relate it to its situ, or maybe my own ignorance of the populace showed through. the book's premise is sudden the arrival of aliens who send an ambassador from their massive craft, landing with some effect in the ocean off Lagos. Contact is made with a few gifted humans, called to the beach by some mysterious method- (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa musical elite, the troubled soldier). A fourth, alien body joins the trio washed onto the beach. There is wonderful detail of the area and local life that must not be ignored. There is a glossary at the back to translate the sometimes condfusing Nigerian Dialectic phraseology that is very helpful. However,the language is a little disconcerting, as again, my own ignorance included flipping back and forth.

The four new companions, -( the alien turns out to be a shapeshifting being who takes the form of a human woman, named Ayodele by Adaora, after a childhood friend) initially return to Adaora's home where they set up a lab to test various tests while they plan their next moves. They are worried about the local Witchcraft sects finding out and thinking them to be evil spirits from the sea.

The narration continues on and is also idone by fish and other marine animals. One Pike especially hates humans!. Meantime the Military want to destroy them., the religious want to murder and torture, A drug load wants to kidnap them and Adaora's husband, a sick president is also jealously planning criminal activities.

The whole book is very convoluted and added to an assumed prior knowledge of some African, specifically Nigerian mythology, I felt I was out of my depth. It appeared to me a harmonious disarray of events. I am sure this is in line for many literary prizes but for me, It was a step to far for me to really enjoy the book for what it was worth. I give the author full credit for an ingenious dialogue but wish I had had more African education to be able to enjoy this to its full extent. The main conclusion is that people are basically looking for something they cannot get, they do not understand that aliens can be good and man does not accept them for what they are. In the event of a first encounter, I am sure we will all have the same line of thought.

Only disappointing for me but think this will be enjoyed by those who have a deeper understanding of African literature, and for those who find the glossary first!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if a little basic., 20 July 2014
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
This title is a book that will fulfil what a lot of old Sci-Fi B Movie fans look for in a title. It has an interesting premise , a simple yet sound set of questions and of course has the reader questioning events as they occur within. It’s a real page turner and whilst in some respects it’s a good commentary on social political aspects of modern society it’s a book that hits out at the spirit of man as seen through another species.

Whilst the characters are pretty basic I did quite enjoy the title purely as I’m a huge fan of what the author did within the pages. All round a solid enough book and one that deserves some recognition time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but could have been a little longer., 29 Jun 2014
This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
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Loved "Who Fears Death" so was already looking forward to this.

It's a novel, set in Lagos (meaning Lagoon) in Nigeria, told from the perspective of Anthony, a rap star, Adaora, a marine biologist and Agu, a soldier. Their paths cross and they get caught up with Ayodele, a shape-shifting alien, who needs to be taken to the Nigerian president.

Their journey is told from their varying perspectives and also takes in their back story and their differing problems. The themes of the novel are many, taking in corruption, environmental damage, imperialism amongst other things, as well as the characters growth. The only problem is - and I didn't expect to say this - the novel could possibly be a bit longer. There are many ideas and themes within it, but it has an (admittedly pleasant) light touch. The only issue is that it does perhaps feel that not everything has been fully explored.

That's not an awful thing, though, so I still recommend this.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vividly imagined mix of fantasy and science fiction with a distinctly Nigerian flavour, 11 Jun 2014
This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
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On 8th January 2010, three people converge on Bar Beach in Lagos at exactly the same moment. Adaora is a marine biologist re-evaluating her marriage to born-again Christian Chris after he slaps her. Anthony is a famous Ghanaian rapper seeking some peace and quiet after performing at a sold-out concert. Agu is a soldier who’s just tried to stop his platoon from raping a drunken young woman and been badly beaten for his trouble. Their meeting coincides with the moment a sonic boom strikes at Lagos, bringing with it a tidal wave that sweeps them out to sea.

When they arrive back on the beach, they accompanied by Ayodele (an alien able to shape shift her body and affect the physical world around her) who’s promising to bring change. Adaora, Anthony and Agu must get her to the Nigerian president but that’s not easy when Lagos starts to fall apart …

Nnedi Okorafor’s novel marries fantasy with science fiction in a vividly imagined (if slim) novel that was written partly as a response to DISTRICT 9. I thoroughly enjoyed the way it marries the old SF trope of alien’s arriving on Earth with Nigerian mythology and the way Okorafor depicts the complicated mix of poverty, greed, superstition, religion, crime and corruption that drives modern-day Lagos together with the effect that’s had on the country’s environment. There’s some great writing here – my favourite chapters being where Okorafor writes from the perspectives of different sea creatures, all of which are being transformed by the aliens – and while there’s a lot of dialogue in Pidgin English, it’s pretty obvious what’s being said from the context and there’s a glossary at the back to deal with any unclear words. However the story itself is very slim and there’s a large cast with the result that some (particularly Anthony) remain underdeveloped, while the novel stops just when things are really starting to build up and I’m not sure if this is a set up for a sequel (which I would definitely read).

The book is strongest in combining its fantasy and SF elements. This is particularly effective in those scenes where the alien visitors meet Nigeria’s age-old deities with a scene involving a bloodthirsty road god being particularly chilling. While it’s not a perfect book, it’s definitely worth checking out for anyone who’s bored with reading SF&F told from only a western point of view.
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4.0 out of 5 stars WHEN CHALLENGES THREATEN TO OVERWHELM, 11 Jun 2014
By 
Mr. D. L. Rees "LEE DAVID" (DORSET) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
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2010, Lagos. Aliens set up base in deep water beyond the city's Bar Beach. There for reasons they do not understand, three strangers witness the arrival. The trio have special powers and play a vital part in all that follows....

An awesome start - lyrical, mystical and involving. Interesting characters - marine biologist Adaora, pop star Anthony and disillusioned soldier Agu. Most intriguing of all is shapeshifting Ayodele. Can she be believed when she promises peace and lasting benefits?

Lagos has a choice: descent into nightmare, or rid itself of endemic corruption, this necessary if to become great. All depends on how its people react to revelations about visitors from space.

Understandably crowds converge, eager to learn more. Prominent amongst them is Bishop Oke. For years lucrative brainwashing has been his speciality. He senses rich pickings, opportunities to convert. No surprise is the attitude of the military, fingers twitching to squeeze triggers. With so many clustered together and tension so high, clashes and escalating horror would seem inevitable.

For much of the way I was hooked, until everything grew seriously out of hand. "This was too much weirdness for me!" declares one character. My thoughts exactly. It was a relief when so many wild and whirling events calmed down a bit.

The writing is powerful (impact reduced when trying to make sense of the Pidgin English). Coming across strongly are messages not to pollute the world we live in but to seek ways of harmonizing with nature. One senses wistful thinking on the part of the writer - a longing for the city she loves to break free from problems that shackle, instead to find unity, prosperity and happiness. Possible without aliens? One can always hope.

At times a challenging read, but all the way through imaginatively different.
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2.0 out of 5 stars In Deep Water, 29 May 2014
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This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
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There are alien places to be found on Earth without having to leave the confines of our planet; the deep ocean is full of mysteries, there are cultures that are so different to my own, languages and slang that differs. Nnedi Okorafor combines all of these together with an alien threat in ‘Lagoon’, a book that had far too much confusion going on for me to enjoy.

The setting of Lagos in Nigeria initially filled me with a sense of excitement as it is not somewhere I know much about. However, rather than setting the reader into a rhythm and telling them about the place, Okorafor instead jumps straight into a fantastical story. This same issue happens with the characters; we meet, but never really get to know Adaora, Anthony and Agu. If learning 3 similar sounding characters was not hard enough, Okorafor then throws in an additional character called Ayodele. I find differentiating names hard at the best of times without them all starting with A.

The inability to decipher names must be placed at my feet, but many of the other issues are of Okorafor’s doing. Okorafor uses ‘Lagoon’ to not only tell a first contact story, but also comment on the environment, Nigeria’s standing in the world, politics, the role of women, religion, the military and many other areas. She throws in the whole lot and it all sticks together in one messy and unfathomable blob.

Things are not aided by the use of Pidgin English. Phonetics is always a bugbear of mine as I do not think they are needed in literature. Some of the characters in ‘Lagoon’ speak in Pidgin English and it is hard to read. Why say ‘Dey Spek in Pidgin’, when you can they ‘They Speak in Pidgin’, said the character in their Pidgin English. This has worked for centuries and I find using phonetics is rarely justified, and it is not here.

‘Lagoon’ was a hard book for me to enjoy as too much was going on, too many areas touched upon, but never explored. The setting of Laos remains an interesting one, just a setting that was not explored fully.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual attention holding sci-fi story, 19 May 2014
By 
P. A. Pendrey - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
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On Bar, Beach, Lagos three people are walking. Agu, a soldier injured after being involved in a fight, Anthony, a well known and popular rapper and Adaora,a marine scientist, weeping because her husband had hit her. Although not together their paths will cross

A loud boom is heard and the trio throw themselves onto the sand. The ocean becomes disturbed and the water begins to creep over the shore. People are frightened and Agu, Anthony and Adaora begin to run away, but a wave follows them, overtakes them and they are sucked into the deep ocean.

How much times has passed they do not know, but the three are now lying stunned on the sand. A female voice speaks to Adaora. A beautiful woman stands beside her and tells her of a change about to come to the world and how her people are already on earth. The aliens love the flowers, trees and beauty of earth, but that the oceans are being polluted.

As the waters continue to rise people flee the city and the local gangs begin to loot and fight, bringing chaos to the city.

Adaora, Agu and Anthony have gone to Adaora's house where she has a laboratory containing a sizeable aquarium of sea creatures. The alien woman is with them and they give her the name Ayodele. The husband, Chris, and the children of Adaola come into the laboratory and the children after a while like the serene alien, but Chris accuses his wife of being a witch, is angry and demands to know who the people are. Ayodele changes her shape to that of Chris, who is frightened by this shape changing alien.

The three people know that their lives have changed and that they saw something marvellous beneath the sea and spoke to the alien beings.

Adoyele, protected by the three, appears on all TV, mobile phone and computer screens and delivers her message not of conquest but of help from the elders of her people.

There is more panic and more fighting. On a gridlocked highway the road begins to heave as in an earthquake, but this is only the beginning for those on land and for the creatures of the ocean.

This is a well written story with elements of danger and excitement. Each of the principal characters is given his or her own section and we understand what type of people they are, what they have experienced and we can understand them. There is an interesting combination of sci-fi, local customs and beliefs, which works well.

A very readable novel, with perhaps a simple message from the aliens of how we should be taking care of our planet.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully told blend of magic and science fiction, 15 May 2014
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lagoon (Paperback)
Three people, who each find themselves for different reasons on Bar Beach, Lagos, are swept into the sea during the aftermath of an impact into the ocean, which is of such magnitude that its shock blast brings birds falling to the earth like stones. When Adoara (a marine biologist), Agu (a sodier) and Anthony (a famous rapper from Ghana) are washed back onto the beach, there is another figure with them - a nameless female that Adoara calls Ayodele, after a childhood friend. Ayodele is not human. She is an ambassador of her species, an alien that can shift shape, and whose mission is to negotiate with humans, warning them of what is to come. The three people accept the roles of intermediaries and they escort Ayodele into Lagos, a city that must deal with the revelation of first contact in all its many ways.

Lagoon is a beautifully told story, as much about Lagos as it is about Ayodele and her message for humanity. The narrative moves between people and places, even between animals and things. This is a world in which spirituality and life are interconnected, not always positively, as can be seen by Father Oke who uses his influence to collect money from his flock or by Chris, Adora's husband, who calls his wife a `marine witch'. On the other side of this are the animals, some of whom are briefly given a voice here, who are self-aware and know that they will be reborn as other animals. The arrival of the aliens doesn't just have an enormous impact on humans, it also transforms sea creatures, allowing them to develop as they wish in waters now cleansed of oil and other human contamination. Humans themselves are now no longer welcome in the sea. But there are big surprises in Lagoon other than the transformation of sea life - a notorious Nigerian road is revealed as alive and hungry. Absurd this might be but it is also terrifying.

It is refreshing to read a novel that treats first contact from such an unusual perspective, also setting it in a place less familiar to many readers, including this one. Lagos is depicted in all its vibrancy, colour and corruption. The story mixes with fable and legend, just as fantasy and science fiction mingle. Everyone wants the alien Ayodele for their own reasons and Ayodele is given plenty of opportunities to re-evaluate her opinion of her human hosts. Meanwhile, there is the mystery of the alien invasion itself. What does it mean?

There are sections of Lagoon that are immensely memorable and powerful, including segments in the first person towards the middle that recall where the speaker was when these events took place. I particularly loved the scenes in which animals revel in new found confidence and self-awareness, whether in the seas, the skies or creeping on the ground. The transience of their lives, the destruction caused by human beings, is evoked in such a rich and meaningful way. As a result, the novel's message to care for the planet is all the more powerful.

As for the human characters, there are some intriguing stories here, some of which are just lightly touched upon while others are given more time. Adoara and her family are the most fully realised characters and as such I felt more connected with them than with the others. Agu and Anthony, as well as the President and his wives, are fascinating and I would have liked to have known more about them. Some dialogue is written in Nigerian and Pidgin English and, although there is a glossary at the back, this did interrupt the flow - a failing of this reader rather than of the book. These factors did lead to some detachment from the spirit and story of the novel.

There is both hope and dread in Lagoon, just as there is beauty and ugliness. Not all of my questions were answered but what I was given was a beautifully poetic novel that comes to life, especially during the second half, and tackles a favourite science fiction theme in an original and rather magical way. I'm grateful for the review copy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent piece of sci-fi set in Nigeria, 2 May 2014
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This review is from: Lagoon (Kindle Edition)
Lagoon is a cracking yarn that demonstrates the sparkling imagination of its author, Nnedi Okorafor.

I picked it up in part because of the beautiful cover, but also because I've long felt that sci-fi/fantasy is sorely under-represented in contemporary African fiction (Lauren Beukes and a few others excepted) and was delighted to see a tale focusing on first contact taking place in Lagos.

The novel brings out the chaos of Lagos beautifully, as all of the human strengths and weaknesses are exaggerated in the wake of the life-changing arrival of a mysterious alien species.

The prose is short and sharp, and the story unfolds quickly with no flab. I read it in a few days and absolutely loved it.
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Lagoon
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (Paperback - 10 April 2014)
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