Review: “Lagoon” by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor
Saga Press, 2015, originally published 2014.

Earlier this year, K. Tempest Bradford attracted a lot of flak asking readers to not read works by cis white males for a year. While I haven’t fully committed to the “Tempest Challenge,” I have noticed I’ve been reading a lot of work by women and minority authors.


Original British cover for Lagoon.

I think it’s out a nature desire to discover something outside my comfort zone. And if I hadn’t pushed my boundaries I wouldn’t have discovered this gem by Nigerian/American author Nnedi Okorafor. Originally published outside the U.S. in 2014, Lagoon has finally reached these shores on Simon and Schuster’s new sci-fi/fantasy imprint, Saga Press.

Lagoon is based on the premise that first contact doesn’t occur in a First World city like New York or London, but rather in the African metropolis of Lagos. And through elegant prose intermingled with Nigerian Pidgin English, Okorafor examines how the poverty-stricken city would respond to the contact. Okorafor wrote the novel as a response to the movie District 9, portraying another vision of aliens in Africa.

Three humans — a biologist, a soldier and a rap star meet on Bar Beach in Lagos when a mysterious tidal wave washes them into the lagoon. They surface spiritually transformed, along with Ayodele, the mysterious liaison from the aliens who wants the three to help her contact the President of Nigeria to discuss peace between the aliens and humanity.

Of course the poverty-stricken populace of Lagos has different ideas as gangsters, soldiers, activists and religious fanatics all seek to kill or kidnap Ayodele for their own purpose. Riots break out and soon the city is on fire.

But hope eventually emerges from the chaos, along with other, older things. Ancient African gods are awakened by the encounter in this masterful blend of myth, magical realism and science fiction.

The text can be tricky as Okorafor switches between the lower class Pidgin and English, but that only adds authenticity to the story. An unusual, thought-provoking novel.

Read my full review at “The Nameless Zine.”

—Michael Senft

Buy Lagoon

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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