Title: Lagoon | Author: Nnedi Okorafor | Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton | Pub. Date: 2014-4-10 | Pages: 306 | ISBN13: 9781444762754 | Genres: Fantasy & Sci-Fi | Language: English / Nigerian Pidgin | Triggers: Child Death | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Library |
When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.
Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.
‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’
Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon had the potential to be awesome and instead fell just short of even being interesting. The first seventy percent of the novel is an unorganized mess. It feels like she started writing it without having a firm idea of the direction it was going to go in. I’ve been getting back into knitting lately, so let me put it like this: It’s like she was using all her scrap yarn on a project, and then realized halfway through she wanted to make it into something awesome. Except, she didn’t want to go back and re-do the beginning with a good yarn, so she just left it as it was and prettied up the end.
I struggled to get through Lagoon. The only reason I didn’t give up on it was because it’s a planned read for book club. I couldn’t connect with the characters. The random story threads that were just in there for a particular reason left me unimpressed. And I don’t know why she felt the urge to describe certain things the exact same way without ever actually describing them at all. (Ie: Nollywood woman)
My understanding is that the author wrote Lagoon because she wanted to write about Nigeria. I can appreciate that. I didn’t think so in the beginning, but by the end of the book, I have a pretty clear impression of what the country (or Lagos, at least) is like. It’s definitely a culture much different from the one I’m used to. I do wish the author hadn’t been so heavy-handed with the pidgin-speaking. Or at least put the glossary in the front of the book. If I have to spend a couple of minutes trying to figure out exactly what your character just said, you’ve pulled me out of the story. That’s not a good thing.
Lagoon is one of those books that blurs the lines between genres. I was willing to give it a go because it was listed as a science fiction novel. That seems to be only because it included aliens. Because this isn’t really a science fiction novel. It’s fantasy, folktales, and culture, with a dash of a science fiction element to it. The mixture is not an appealing one, unfortunately. I think it would have been better served to make it definitively one or the other.
I’m sure Nnedi Okorafor has talent. I mean, the lady won a Hugo award! However, I don’t see any evidence of that talent in Lagoon. I might give her work another try at some point, but it probably won’t be anytime soon.