Amy Goldschlager Reviews Rosewater Audiobook by Tade Thompson

Rosewater, Tade Thompson; Bayo Gbada­mosi (Hachette Audio 978-1-54917090-4, $25.98, digital download, 13.5 hr., un­abridged) September 2018.

This first in a trilogy is set in an alternate mid-21st-century Nigeria, in which aliens have landed on Earth multiple times and seeded the atmosphere with mysterious, fungi-like microorganisms. The remaining alien is now permanently located in Nige­ria, surrounded by a biodome which, when it opens, grants miraculous healing powers, causes mysterious biological alterations, and reanimates recent corpses as mindless, and sometimes violent, zombies.

Kaaro is a self-involved former thief who was forcibly inducted into a government agency, using his alien-gifted psychic powers to gather intelligence and assist in interrogations. In 2066, Kaaro becomes simultaneously involved with an enigmatic woman and a strange but seductive psychic presence, even as he struggles to sever his ties to the agency and try to figure out why all of his fellow psychics are suddenly dying from a previously unknown illness. That plotline is intercut with flashbacks of Kaaro’s past; in particular, his search for the charismatic sci­ence genius and activist known as Bicycle Girl, and how that search dovetailed into an encounter with the alien’s human avatar.

British actor Bayo Gbadamosi was chillingly ex­cellent as the almost (but not entirely) amoral Kaaro. I am not actually familiar with how a Nigerian might speak Yoruban-accented English, so I can’t judge if the lovely cadence he employed was accurate, but I certainly enjoyed hearing it, particularly the charm­ing and distinctive way that the long-A sound became a diphthong. Many narrators who have to maintain an accent not their own for a whole book usually show signs of letting it slip at some point, but Gbadamosi never did, which supported the story’s integrity.

Even aliens tire of New York and London eventu­ally, and need a change of scenery. I agree with them on that point, even if we don’t quite see eye to eye on that world-domination thing.

This review and more like it in the January 2019 issue of Locus.

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