Nnedi Okorafor
Lagoon Cover

A big picture novel


I don't know if it is coincidence or a trand for SFF, but lately I've read several books that tell a story from a cross-section perspective. There isn't just one or two protagonists who tell their story, though there typically is a few characters who are protagonists, but sections told from the perspective of minor characters and sometimes tangential characters (i.e. people whose story crosses the story being told at only one point). I'm not sure how to feel about this. On the one one hand it can be wonderful to have a new perspective on an event. It also keeps the focus on the themes and the broad strokes of a story rather than on an individual character's fate. On the other, it can be disorienting and make it difficult to connect with a book. After all, humans are social and we connect most easily to people/characters instead of events, themes, and places.

Lagoon falls on the end of the spectrum where this is a (mostly) effective technique. We follow three humans and an alien for most of the book as they go from first contact on a beach to worldwide exposure on YouTube. But the story isn't really about those characters or even the aliens, it's about Lagos and how it reacts to extraordinary circumstances. It isn't about how any individual behaved, it is about how a city full of people behaved. So getting a larger cross-section of perspectives made sense and worked once I had gotten to the point in the book where I realized that those side stories were equally important to the point of the book as the main characters. It's that transition in my own mind needing to be made that made this book less enjoyable than if I had understood from the beginning. I might have seen some of the less connected characters early on less as digressions and more as mosaic tiles.

In all, I enjoyed the book more when it was finished than I enjoyed listening to it in some of the middle parts, but will definitely be picking up more books by this author. Now that I know to go into her books with fewer expectations about pacing and structure, I think I will enjoy them more.