Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

“If there were aliens, they certainly wouldn’t come to Nigeria. Or maybe they would.”


I finished this booka week ago and I still don’t know if I enjoyed it or not. I never read or watch as many book reviews of a novel before to try to figure out where I stand with it…

Lagoon is a story about aliens but mostly about humans. It follows three main characters, Adaora, a marine biologist, Agu, a soldier and Anthony a famous rapper who met at Bar Beach at the moment an alien ship crashes into the ocean. They happen to be the ones to meet, Ayodele, the alien ambassador.

In term of synopsis, I don’t want to say to much because I think that it is better to go into this book blind, however since it’s a first contact story, it deals with lots of themes like politics, religion and the fear of the unknown.

Lagoon is a strange book. Don’t go into it expecting a hard science book because it’s not what you are going to get. It would say that it is as much a fantasy novel than a sci-fi one. For me, aliens were more a pretext for the book than anything else, since the biggest problem in this book isn’t the alien invasion exactly but more the way humans react to what they don’t know.

Speaking of the aliens, I liked the fact that they could change into humans and that the only way to recognize them was by noticing the feeling of “oddness” that they had. It was an intriguing reflexion on what it meens to be different. This was a huge part of the book actually, not only the difference of species but of profession, education, genre,sexual orientation and origin.

This book is supposed to be Okorafor’s reaction to the film District 9 which is a SF movie with aliens set in Africa. I have not watch this movie but I hear heard that it depicts an horrible picture of Nigerian people. In Lagoon, I can’t say that Okorafor’s description of Lagos is really flattering but I don’t think that it was the purpose : Okorafor attempted to describe Lagos as it is, with its diversity and spirit.

However, I had several problems with this book. Four to be exact.

First of all, I struggled with the langage. Okorafor’s prose is interesting and unique, that’s for sure. This book included quite a few passages in Pidgin English which is a mix of Creole and English and those were difficult to get through which kind of pulled me off the story. Here again, I can completely understand why they’re in the story but because of them, I had difficulties to understand what the hell was going on.

My second problem with the book was its structure. The story was told through very short scenes which means that the moment you started to enjoy a character POV, a new one was coming. This structure might be explain by the fact that Lagoon was first a script for a Nollywood movie before being turned into a book. The constant switch of perspective created a feel of chaos in the story. Here again, I am 95% sure that it was done on purpose but it was sometimes overwhelming.

My third issue with book was the way it ended, as I said before the whole book was pretty chaotic but since it’s about an alien invasion, I can understand why. However, I did not expect the ending to be as convenient as it was, and for me, I did not suit the overall tone of the story.

My final problem with Lagoon was that it has a lot of elements of fantasy. I was expecting a story about an alien invasion which is for me science fiction.I wasn’t expecting a Stephenson type of story but still, this story had a lot of elements of myths and legends.

We read from the perspective of a god. We learn about a sentient road. A character assists to a fight between an alien and another god. And it’s just to talk about three examples because, the book is full of other ones.

I know that it may seems like I am a little too maniac and that I need to put everything in a box. It is partially true. 😛 The thing is, I like to know what I am going to read , if I had known beforehand that it was going to be a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, I think that it would not have bothered me this much. Weird I know, but I am like that.

However, even if I had issues with Lagoon, I can’t say that it is a bad book. The ideas, the setting, the diversity and the spirit of this book were all unique and fascinating.

It’s just that I did not “get it”, it has a lot of elements that I usually search in books but I had the feeling that those ideas flew over my head. I think that if I reread this book in a couple of years, I might enjoy it more.

I am definitely going to read other books by Okorafor though. I am quite intrigued by Binti and The Book of Phoenix and I really hope that if I read her other stuff I’ll get used to her writing style.




I don’t usually need to order my thoughts and feelings on paper before writing a review but I had a lot things to say about Lagoon. 😉


7 thoughts on “Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

  1. Small correction: District 9 is set in Johannesburg, South Africa. But it does indeed picture Nigerians in a negative way. Your review made me interested, I’ll add Lagoon to my TBR, thanks!


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