Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor
Lagoon is everything I want in a first contact book, and everything I want in a book, period.
On the first contact end of things: The aliens are ALIEN. Like, they aren't just deely-bopper-wearing human beings in green suits. They can look human, but their movements are different, their perspective is different, their general energy is different. And they don't know everything there is to know about people—through their ambassador, they're learning about humankind.
Also on the first contact end of things: Okorafor goes into how people react to the news of first contact, as individuals, as groups, as nations. She introduces such a huge cast—some characters who appear throughout the book, others who only appear for a page or two—and every single person she creates feels entirely real. It's so cinematic and so emotionally and psychologically astute.
And now it seems that I've veered into the Everything Else portion of the program.
It's the story of a biologist, a soldier, a rapper, an alien ambassador; it's also the story of a city and a country and of the entire world. Okorafor tells it on a micro level and a macro level; she tells it through the filter of technology and the filter of myth.
The setting—Lagos, Nigeria—is very much a character unto itself. It feels real and vibrant and you can hear the sounds and smell the smells and Okorafor incorporates class—from people who have NOTHING to people who have EVERYTHING AND THEN SOME—and religion and sexuality and politics and code-switching and Nollywood. She writes from the perspective of multiple people as well as animals—and even a portion of a highway—and those perspectives all feel entirely different and again, emotionally complex and again, real. Some of the characters speak entirely in Nigerian pidgin English, and that adds to the ENTIRELY IMMERSIVE feel of the whole book.
*fans self* SO GOOD. SO GOOD.
Where I'M TOTALLY GOING TO GO from here:
Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor: This one is about twelve-year-old Sunny, the American daughter of Nigerian immigrants who move back to Nigeria. Sunny has albinism, is an outcast among her new peers... and then she discovers that she has magical powers.
AND AFTER I READ THAT I'M GOING TO WORK MY WAY THROUGH THE REST OF HER CATALOG.