Review: THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION by Tade Thompson

Book Reviews

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
LOVED IT

***Spoilers for the first ROSEWATER book ahead – read the review here***

After the startling revelations of the previous book, the city of Rosewater is a powder keg ready to blow. Whereas ROSEWATER was told from a very tight first person perspective, INSURRECTION is told from multiple points of view, and that’s a great stylistic choice because shit gets blown wide open in this second book.

There’s no main character per se and I’d argue we’re actually following the turbulent story of the city of Rosewater itself, as seen through the eyes of some of its most important citizens. The story opens prior to the events of the previous book with a new POV character, a sensitive called Eric who is sent to assassinate Jack Jacques, a prominent politician in the newly-emerging city of Rosewater. Jacques was mentioned in the first book but is one of the main POV characters in the sequel and it’s through him that we get to witness the ever-increasing political instability of the city.

This was one of the most interesting themes of INSURRECTION for me. The Wormwood trilogy doesn’t present an optimistic picture of humanity and alien contact sparks more tension and conflict among humanity than it does direct confrontation with the alien itself. The takeaway perhaps being ‘What hope do we have for co-existing with extraterrestrials if we can’t even coexist among ourselves?’

Similarly, the aliens themselves are far from united and this is another aspect of Tade’s worldbuilding I love. Too often in science fiction we’re presented with homogenous alien races that display no individuality or even cultural and linguistic differences among themselves.

Not so here.

The conflict between Anthony and Molara from the previous book is still present and while the humans begin to fight among themselves, sentient alien flora begins to attack Wormwood, sparking a conflict between the different alien bioforms as well. These two parallel conflicts cause chaos in Rosewater and there are some exhilarating action scenes that raise the stakes but also double down by developing character and setting at the same time.

I’m very happy to say that Aminat, Kaaro’s girlfriend who was revealed to be an S45 field agent in the previous book, is also one of the POV characters. Despite not being front and centre in the first book, Aminat was a great character with hidden depth and Kaaro was overtly knocked down a peg or two when Femi told him that “Aminat has her own story; she is not a supporting character in yours”. Here we get to witness that story first hand when Femi assigns her to track down a woman with an abnormally high proportion of alien cells in her body.

Despite taking an active part in the escalating conflict though, Femi herself isn’t a POV character and this is another great decision by Tade. By denying us direct insight into her motivations and forcing us to rely on how she is perceived by others, Femi remains one of the most intriguing characters in the story and I constantly found myself wanting to know what she was up to and flip-flopping between rooting for her and disapproving of her actions.

I often find the mark of a good middle trilogy book is the author’s ability to crank up the stakes and not let the story sag. Tade does this well and the story is engaging at every turn but at the same time I don’t think INSURRECTION quite reaches the heights of ROSEWATER. Don’t take that as anything like serious criticism though because I still thought this was a bloody excellent book, I just felt that it perhaps wasn’t as tightly plotted as its predecessor. It’s definitely easier to follow as there’s much less jumping around in time and actively piecing things together as the story unfolds, but I thought that complexity was part of what made the first book so compelling. Having said that it’s like comparing apples to tea bags because INSURRECTION is telling a different kind of story and the stylistic choice absolutely works.

If you enjoyed the first book I think there’s an overwhelming chance you’ll love INSURRECTION as well. It gives us more of the stuff we loved and builds on it to expand the world of Rosewater with that signature imaginative weirdness Tade showed when he first set the science fiction genre alight with this series.

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Review: ROSEWATER by Tade Thompson

Book Reviews

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
LOVED IT

ROSEWATER is incredible. It’s a near-future biopunk sci-fi novel set in Nigeria featuring aliens, biotechnology, scientifically plausible telepaths, reanimated corpses, shady government agencies and a gritty underworld reminiscent of William Gibson’s best work. There’s a lot going on in this book and I’m so excited about all of it that it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll lead with the big picture.

Rosewater is a Nigerian city that has grown up around the edges of an alien biodome that periodically emits a mysterious healing energy. Consequently, it’s developed into a gritty hybrid of Mecca and Lourdes, a beacon for the sick, a ramshackle, unplanned society with a teeming criminal underworld and a hive of activity for secretive organisations that want to control it.

We see the story through the eyes of Kaaro, a powerful ‘sensitive’ with a rare ability to access the xenosphere, a pseudo-psychic realm seeded by alien biotech where sensitives can access and manipulate the thoughts and perceptions of others. He works for S45, a secretive government agency involved in telepathic interrogation and counter-terrorism. Kaaro is a fascinating character, if not particularly likeable, and I was intrigued by his (justifiably) cynical take on how the world responds to alien contact.

The story is an eclectic mix of biopunk noir spy thriller, alien invasion, murder mystery and zombie horror and Tade weaves these disparate elements together masterfully in a non-linear structure that isn’t always easy to follow, but makes for an incredibly rewarding reading experience. The ‘main’ storyline takes place in 2066 and follows Kaaro as he tries to uncover the mystery of why his fellow sensitives are dying or, as he suspects, being killed off. This is interspersed with flashback chapters that slowly unravel Kaaro’s criminal past, his recruitment by S45 and development as a sensitive, along with his formative encounter with Bicycle Girl, the revolutionary activist he was tasked with hunting down.

This type of structure is difficult to pull off, but Tade nails it. It’s a masterclass in character development and worldbuilding, giving us just enough information at exactly the right moments while constantly raising more questions that compel you to carry on reading. Nothing is over-explained and there’s a stylistic similarity with Willam Gibson in that Tade throws you in at the deep end and just expects you to keep up, which makes for a thrilling and revelatory ride.

There’s also a definite Gibson-esque vibe to the society that has developed in Rosewater and as a huge Gibson fan I enjoyed this immensely. One of my favourite pieces of worldbuilding in the book were ‘the reconstructed’, humans who deliberately injure themselves in the hope of being healed in ways that biologically enhance their bodies. One character is described as having ‘latched hawk wings to cuts in his back and the xenoforms smoothed it over, probably built muscle and blood vessels to make it work’. This reminded me of the quote from Burning Chrome where Automatic Jack asserts that ‘the street finds its own uses for things’, which went on to form a central pillar of cyberpunk fiction. We don’t get much screen time with him, but one of my favourite characters was Bad Fish, an underground biohacker who does an incredible amount to organically flesh out that ‘street’ world of Lagos in 2066.

“Bad Fish fiddles with a machine. He works in a Celestial Church white robe. Olusosun used to host a thriving market with a tiny rubbish dump beside it. The dump grew and the market failed. As it covered a larger area, scavengers moved in – a growing local economy. The tech scavengers can be seen everywhere in Africa, picking bits and bobs of retrieved technology and repurposing laptops and implants, performing identity hacks, building illegal new configurations of what already exists.”

The rest of the characters are incredibly well developed as well. Femi, Kaaro’s boss at S45 is a force of nature and Aminat, with whom he has a somewhat unconventional romantic relationship, is more than she seems and Kaaro is explicitly told at one point that she “has her own story; she is not a supporting character in yours”. More mystery.

Another thing I want to note my appreciation for are the smatterings of cultural references and snippets of Nigerian history that Tade weaves into the story. There are western references ranging from Watchmen and The Dead Zone to Shakespeare and Walt Whitman, which felt like little Easter eggs every time I noticed one. I’m certain there are more that I missed and it makes me want to re-read the book again for that reason alone. More interestingly though, there are also references to Yoruba culture and snippets of Nigerian history, such as the Yoruba naming traditions (twins are often named Taiwo and Kehinde among Yoruba people) and Femi’s possession of a gun used by the Oyenusi gang in their 1972 crime spree.

I genuinely think ROSEWATER breaks new ground and Tade Thompson is at the cutting edge of science fiction right now. It’s certainly the best alien invasion book since The Three Body Problem, though I wouldn’t compare them in any other way, as this is a unique story that has blown the whole genre wide open. Tade Thompson has, without doubt, established himself as a giant of modern science fiction and I can’t wait to see where he goes next with this series.

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Hey! Watcha Readin’: 09/10/19

Updates

Another week, another batch of books to talk about! Thanks for stopping by for this week’s Hey! Watcha Readin’ and as ever I’ll be using WWW Wednesday hosted by Taking on a World of Words. If you want to take part answer the questions below and get chatting about the books we’re all reading.

What did you recently finish reading?
What are you currently reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Recently Finished: THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION by Tade Thompson
I hadn’t realised quite how much time had passed since this was released and was horrified (but excited) to see that the final instalment of the Wormwood series was set for release on October 15th and I hadn’t got round to THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION yet! These books are a ground-breakingly imaginative take on the alien invasion genre with so much going on, from scientifically plausible telepathy, biopunk noir spy thrills and reanimated pseudo-zombies it’s hard not to go off about everything I love about them right now. Keep an eye out for full reviews of both ROSEWATER and THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION during Wormwood Weekend, this Saturday and Sunday!

Currently Reading: PET SEMATARY by Stephen King
This was my girlfriend’s book club book this month and I’ve used that as an opportunity to dip my toes further into the horror genre at this, the spookiest time of year. If you’ve read any of my previous updates you’ll know I was raised on a steady diet of inappropriately terrifying horror films from a young age, but that never really crossed over into reading horror books and I’ve been making some effort to put that to rights lately. I recently read the first issue of the graphic novel LOCKE AND KEY, which was fantastic and had me clamouring for more horror literature. I’m enjoying PET SEMATARY, zooming through it at an alarming rate. I read CARRIE earlier this year and thought it was an interesting story, if not very well executed, but with PET SEMATARY you can tell King had improved as a writer, even if I’d still liken it to literary candy floss. I can definitely see why he’s such a commercially successful writer.

Fun fact: Joe Hill is actually Stephen King’s son

Next Read: SWORD OF DESTINY by Andrzej Sapkowski
This is a late bonus addition to my reading plan this month because I have the ambitious goal of reading all The Witcher books before the upcoming Netflix series is released in December. Including SWORD OF DESTINY, I have five more to read before then, so good luck to me. This book is a second run of short stories about the adventures of the monster hunter Geralt of Rivia and follows on from the first collection called THE LAST WISH (read the review here), which I had a few issues with, but definitely enjoyed enough to keep me reading.

That’s all for now. I’m still looking for great horror reads so hit me up with your best Halloween horror recommendations!

That’s what I’ve got planned this week.
What are you folks reading?

Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned?
Get involved with WWW Wednesday either on your own blog or in the comments!

Look ahead to October

Updates

What I’m reading this month

I should have done this last week and I’ve read two books already this month, but in an attempt to organise my TBR I’m posting this with a better late than never mentality. So here’s my plan for the the rest of October. Let me know what you’re reading this month in the comments and, as always, if you have any book recommendations (especially horror right now) please please don’t be shy in letting me know 🙂

HIS DARK MATERIALS TRILOGY by Philip Pullman
I’m so excited for the TV series at the start of November that I’ll be reading NORTHERN LIGHTS, THE SUBTLE KNIFE and THE AMBER SPYGLASS this month for what I think will be the fourth time now. I used to think of The Hobbit as the book that got me into fantasy until I realised that fantasy didn’t just mean elves, goblins and wizards. It was actually this wonderful series that was my gateway to the genre and it will always have a special place in my heart. The film adaptation released as The Golden Compass in 2007 was a major disappointment for me, but the new TV series looks genuinely amazing! I got chills watching this trailer.

Whoever was in charge of casting, take a bow.

FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
I’ve added this in here because it’s a short read that has been on my TBR for years; I’m trying to work my way through some of the backlog of books I already own in an attempt to rein in my depraved urges to continue buying books I won’t get round to reading for months*.
*years

THE ROSEWATER REDEMPTION by Tade Thompson
The final instalment of the Wormwood trilogy is set for release on Monday the 15th! If you haven’t read the first two books yet I highly recommend them. Tade Thompson is breaking new ground with the alien invasion genre and this is the most genre-shattering series since The Three Body Problem. I’m running a ‘Wormwood Weekend’ this Saturday and Sunday where I’ll be dropping reviews of ROSEWATER and THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION, so keep your eye out for that if you’re still on the fence about whether to pick these books up.

PET SEMATARY by Stephen King
It’s officially Spooky Season so it would feel wrong not to read some horror this month! I have an auntie who raised me on a steady diet of horror films as a child and I remember watching Pet Sematary when I was about ten years old and being delightfully terrified. My girlfriend also just read the book and was aggrieved to find that the used copy she bought online had the final page ripped out! Someone out there just wants to watch the world burn.

Anyway that’s what I’m planning on reading in October. There really aren’t that many new releases on the list this month, but there are so many old books I haven’t got round to yet or just want to re-read. I have a feeling November will largely be the same as I’m taking part in a readalong of DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT (hosted by Jason from Off the TBR – please join us), I want to read the final two books of THE FIRST LAW trilogy and start on THE BROKEN EARTH series.

Wish me luck 😀

Hey! Watcha Readin’: 02/10/19

Updates

Happy Spooky Season one and all! Thanks for stopping by for another weekly check in. WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words and if you want to take part just answer these three questions and get chatting about the books you’re reading!

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION by Tade Thompson:
I haven’t technically opened this book up yet as I’ve just finished re-reading the first book in the Wormwood series while I eagerly await the final instalment being released this month. If ROSEWATER is any indication of quality though, then I’m absolutely certain I’m going to love this book. I honestly think Tade Thompson is breaking new ground in modern science fiction, basically reinventing and reinvigorating the alien invasion genre.

Recently Finished: ROSEWATER by Tade Thompson
ROSEWATER is a near future biopunk sci-fi novel set in Nigeria. It tells the story of Kaaro, a ‘sensitive’ who is recruited by a secretive government agency because of his ability to access the xenosphere, allowing him to read and manipulate people’s thoughts to find hidden and lost objects. There’s so much going on in this book that this little snippet doesn’t do it justice but I’ll be putting out full reviews for both ROSEWATER and THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION in the next couple of weeks where I fully expect to gush praise for them both.

Next Read: PET SEMATARY by Stephen King
I don’t read enough horror full stop and I’ve always wanted to read more Stephen King. Luckily the spookfest that is the entirety of October gives me the perfect excuse to dive in. I’d love to hear your horror recommendations this Halloween cos it’s a genre I don’t know enough about, despite growing up on a steady diet of horror films, thanks to my beloved yet twisted auntie who sat me down in front of The Exorcist when I was nine haha.

That’s what I’ve got planned this week.
What are you folks reading?

Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned?
Get involved with WWW Wednesday either on your own blog or in the comments!

Hey! Watcha Readin’: 25/09/19

Updates

So I just read Caitlin’s Weekly Reading Check-In over at Realms of My Mind and I love the idea of a weekly reading update as a way to boost some beloved book talk!

There’s this great thing called WWW Wednesday hosted by Taking on a World of Words that I urge you to check out.

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy
I picked this up cos I was having a bad day and was actually looking through my TBR for something lighthearted and uplifting (haha I know right?). Anyway, looking through that list made me realise I barely read any lighthearted and uplifting fiction. My book world is full of cynical, jaded characters sometimes trying to do good things in bleak, grim as fuck settings. So I thought “Whatever, I may as well lean into it and hey, my day could be worse – I could be one of these guys!” I’m not very far into The Road, but can confirm this is about as bleak as it gets. Good book so far, more thoughts to follow no doubt.

Recently Finished: THE LAST WISH by Andrzej Sapkowski
This is the first instalment in The Witcher series. I’m hoping to read as many of the books before the Netflix series hits our screens (which I am BEYOND excited about by the way). If you’re not familiar with The Witcher franchise, the stories follow the exploits of a monster hunter called Geralt of Rivia as he travels the lands seeking out the beasts and fiends that plague the realm. The Last Wish is a series of short stories that introduce us to the key people and places of Geralt’s world, offering tantalising bits of worldbuilding that have me hooked even if this isn’t one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ll have a full review up later this week, but I’m excited to read the next instalment.

Next Read: ROSEWATER by Tade Thompson
This will be a re-read for me in the wake of the final book in Tade’s Wormwood trilogy set for release in October. If you haven’t read Rosewater yet then OMG what on earth are you doing reading my inane ramblings? Just go buy it now and come back to thank me later. One of my favourite reads of 2018, Rosewater is on the cutting edge of science fiction and tells the story of Kaaro, a Nigerian government agent with a criminal past living in a town grown up around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome. It’s honestly sublime and I’m even more excited to read it a second time.

What are you folks reading?
Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned?
Get involved with WWW Wednesday either on your own blog or in the comments!