ROSEWATER By TADE THOMPSON: A REVIEW

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So is it courage or strength,
And is that what I’m waiting for…

I once said Rosewater would make me wax lyrical. I was right.
These are not my lyrics though. Ha!

So, where do I start with Rosewater? I will start from the beginning, and do the best I can without revealing too much. I hope I can do that.

Rosewater is not just a story about Kaaro, the main character in the story, as it is a story about the town of Rosewater and the terrible secret it disguises within its bosom. Set in the future of 2066, the story easily traverses time, and space, and imagines a world where anything is possible and the aliens are among us, and are us.

Kaaro is a Sensitive (Quantum Extrapolator, but hey, enough with the big words, alright?). Actually what we would term psychic, a sensitive is a human consequence of aliens dwelling among us. With their connection to the Xenospehere (which is the atmosphere contaminated by alien micro-organisms) sensitives have access to not just the space/time continuum but also into the minds of others among other things, depending on your level of knowledge at manipulating it. And Kaaro is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful of his kind. Which makes him a target, not just of his government (whom he works for), but of the aliens. When he uses his powers, we see why.

Rosewater is home to Kaaro, and to Utopicity. Rosewater is another direct consequence of the alien invasion. It is a town that has organically grown around the alien city. It is a part of Utopicity as much as Utopicity is a part of Rosewater, maybe even more so. Closed to outsiders, Utopicity opens once a year to give healing to the pilgrims who make their way to the city, usually waking the dead in the process, or sometimes giving more than healing. And usually not in a good way. The people worship it as a god, while the scientists try all they can to appropriate it. Unknown to them all, Utopicity carries a terrifying secret that will change the world, one person at a time. And maybe remake it entirely.

Oyin Da…. The Bicycle Girl… Oyin Da is a genius wanted by the Government because she is seen as a threat. A young, free-spirited thinker, she first appears in a previous story, The Bicycle Girl, by the same author, is maybe the first person to crack open the Space/Time barrier, disappearing into it with her whole town. Now she is an enigma to the government. And when she encounters Kaaro, their journey will take them both to the edge of possibility and a choice.

Femi Alaagomeji is Kaaro’s handler within Section 45, or S45. Beautiful, brilliant and manipulative, she cares about getting the job done, but beneath her cool exterior, she looks out for Kaaro the best she can, for as long as she can.

I will let you discover these and other characters by yourself.

One of the greatest challenges in writing sci-fi has to be creating the world for your characters to live and act in. In some cases, the story feels like watching a movie with bad special effects. In Rosewater, Tade Thompson more than succeeds. Narrated by Kaaro, we are plunged into a world at once familiar and alien to us. We know the city. We have eschewed our mobile phones for implants. We live in smart homes for the most part, and we still have our ghettos. And when we meet Wormwood, we know he/it/them. We are he/it/them.

Rosewater is a very smart story, and it portrays its intelligence without being condescending. It is not a linear story; far from it. It is story which starts at a point in time, and then radiates into different places/times/possibilities. We see Kaaro as a child. We see Kaaro as a thieving teen. We see him scared. We see him as a government agent. We see him as an avenging angel. We see him as a coward. We see him as a stubborn man. We see him as all these things, and so much more. And as Kaaro takes a hold of our hands, hearts and minds and leads us through space and time rife with endlessness and the ghosts of decisions past, lyrics from the song ‘I Never Got To See The West Coast’ by EMERY comes to mind:

So is it courage or strength,
And is that what I’m waiting for?
If I could just kill myself,
Would it also kill the remorse?
I wanted so badly to catch a break,
But I’m only breaking down.
I’m still here and standing
But if it’s up to me
I don’t think I’ll be hanging around

Unfortunately though, it’s not up to me. It’s not up to us. Not at all. The choice was ripped from our hands and our hearts when Wormwood came and made a home on our Earth. And so as Kaaro says, for the end, we will all be present.
For this we will all have front row seats.

The drink slips down my throat
And the burn cures nice and slow
All the worst parts I wouldn’t want you to see
The only parts left of me
Now, here I am
Just a kid without a better plan.
But it’s the simple thoughts that haunt me the most.
I never got to see the west coast.

 

Rosewater was written by Tade Thompson and is published by Apex Publications and is slated for release November 15, 2016. Get it. Read it. You will not be disappointed.

No, you won’t.

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