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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Lagoon: Alien First Contact in Nigeria

After having loved Nnedi Okorafor's fantasy novel, Who Fears Death, I've been reading more of her work.   I like the way she incorporates Nigerian folklore/spirituality.  Lagoon uses a traditional science fiction trope, alien first contact, to show us Lagos, Nigeria's largest city.


I read another first contact novel called The Blue African and reviewed it  here.  They both deal with alien first contact in Africa.  The Blue African is tightly focused on the viewpoint of the alien ambassador, Porter Tellez.  Lagoon takes a panoramic view of the lives of many characters in Lagos and how they are impacted by the arrival of the aliens.  The Blue African is historical, takes place in South Africa and contains a great deal of overt didacticism about the evils of apartheid. It also was pessimistic in its outlook on humanity and not quite as well written as I would like.  Lagoon  takes place in 21st century Nigeria and contains less preachiness.  Environmental degradation is the issue that concerns these aliens particularly water pollution.  The aliens in Lagoon are also optimistic about bringing positive change to Lagos.

My only area of disappointment with Lagoon is that the panoramic perspective doesn't lend itself to deep or complex characterization.   I wanted to know more about some of these characters than I got. 

The Nigerian folklore content doesn't quite make up for the characterization deficit.  There was less of it than I hoped.   Yet that small amount of folklore was fascinating.  I was particularly interested in the Ijele masked dancing ceremony.  I found a video about Ijele on You Tube.  I'd never heard of Ijele previously.

Lagoon was interesting even though it didn't meet all my expectations. I have a copy of Okorafor's more recent book, Binti, on my Kindle and I have high hopes for it.  


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