Rosewater by Tade Thompson

I got a complimentary ARC copy of this one from the agent of the author in exchange for an honest review – thank you!

Synopsis:

Kaaro, a man from the Yoruba tribe, lives in Rosewater. It’s a town shaped like a doughnut, surrounding another one, Utopicity, a place full of wonders,  unattainable for most of humans. Once a year wonders spill into Rosewater and people get cured from different ailments; still sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

Kaaro works in a bank but not as a clerk. He is a living, breathing, human firewall. As a  sensitive he can enter the xenosphere and see inside your mind, peruse your memories and retrieve faces you’ve seen. He also works for the local government officials as a kind of truth-finder. It is not an easy job. Sometimes the boundaries become blurred and he loses his own identity. Not surprisingly, he is also a bachelor. One happily married colleague, Bola, often invites him along trying to find a nice match for him but Kaaro doesn’t think dating is a good idea.

One time his superior, Femi, forces Kaaro to look into the mind of a man who killed his cheating wife, catching her in flagrante. The experience stays with Kaaro far longer than it should – he claims he is guilty and he misses his murdered wife, a woman he hasn’t known or seen in his life.

Then he is attacked by two zombies in one day and sensitives around him are dying. Why?

My impressions:

When I started reading this one I got one big surprise. How many sci-fi novels you’ve read are set in futuristic Africa, Nigeria to be more precise? How many of them featured mostly black characters including the main male and female leads? Close to zero? Zero even? My thoughts exactly.

So this one had an original setting and an original set of characters. The present tense first person limited narration wasn’t very bad although I took me a moment to get accustomed to it. I had more issues with the lack of linearity but I survived that as well because immediately I became curious about the main lead, Kaaro, and his unusual gift. When he spoke about his childhood and then his career path I was glad to tag after him because he was always willing to tell you the truth about himself even if it put him into a not-exactly-positive light. Yes, Kaaro was no saint – a huge asset in my view. More often than not saints make very boring heroes.

Then there is the world build and here I became a bit torn: while I generally liked it, I sometimes wished everything was explained smarter and better – yes, the ARC version I got had a bit too many infodumps. As I’ve already started complaining…the narrative could be smoothed over better, with less mistakes. The ones I found were mainly typos or unnecessary words left here and there after previous edits, but fortunately it’s an ARC, anything can happen (or I hope so). Finally let me regret that Kaaro reveals his dry sense of humour not often enough – I could do with more of dialogues like this one:

She massages her temples. ‘Reanimates don’t eat brains, you ignorant fuck.’

‘Well, they weren’t looking for a group hug,’ I say.”

Final verdict:

One of more original novels I’ve been sent for review this year; perhaps even the most original one, who knows. A bit of editing and it might be really good – do watch out for this author.

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6 Responses to Rosewater by Tade Thompson

  1. heidenkind says:

    I love the sound of the premise!

  2. Carole Rae says:

    Interesting location AND premise.

  3. Melfka says:

    ” How many sci-fi novels you’ve read are set in futuristic Africa, Nigeria to be more precise? How many of them featured mostly black characters including the main male and female leads? Close to zero? Zero even? My thoughts exactly.”
    First thought: Nnedi Okorafor’s “Lagoon” (ok, I know it’s cheating, because I haven’t read it yet)
    Second thought: Mike Resnick’s “Kirinyaga” (I loved the book when I was young)
    ;P
    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
    Also, I love how much hope you have for ARCs you get :). Most of the ARCs I know I sent out before the final round of proofreading, so except for some typos not much changes at this stage. But, in a way, I want to be hopeful with you, because the book sounds quite interesting. 🙂

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