Synopsis: All is quiet in the city of Rosewater as it expands on the back of the gargantuan alien Wormwood. Those who know the truth of the invasion keep the secret.
The government agent Aminat, the lover of the retired sensitive Kaaro, is at the forefront of the cold, silent conflict. She must capture a woman who is the key to the survival of the human race. But Aminat is stymied by the machinations of the Mayor of Rosewater and the emergence of an old enemy of Wormwood…
“In the darkened room with him there are sixteen reanimates, whom he brought along to be shields, to protect his body when he goes into the xenosphere. The room smells of desperate, unwashed humanity, and it is at times difficult to breathe, but there is a price to pay for everything.”
Rosewater, the first book in the Wormwood trilogy, was a top favorite for me last year. I loved it so fucking much! This delicious blend of aliens, science fiction, cyberpunk, Afropunk, aliens, future noir, diversity.. did I mention there were ALIENS?!
In my review, I talked about how much I adore Aminat & that I wanted a book with her backstory. Well, this sequel focuses mostly on Aminat, but it takes place after the events in the first installment. DON’T MIND IF I DO!!
If you haven’t yet read Rosewater, you must! GO!! I cannot promise that there won’t be slight spoilers with regards to the premise.
If you are okay with that, then by all means.. continue on!
Rosewater is a donut-shaped city in a future Nigeria that surrounds a 200-foot alien dome. Every year, the dome opens up & heals those that are in the vicinity of their health issues. Some people are even brought back from the dead. This event is called The Opening, which attracts visitors from all over. The way the aliens invaded Rosewater was by xenoforms, which slowly replace human cells with alien ones.
The narrative of Rosewater skipped through various decades, which was sometimes a bit hard to keep track of. Insurrection is easier to follow in that sense, because it doesn’t jump around quite as much. It’s still non-linear with multiple POV’s, though. Rosewater narrowed in on Kaaro as the protagonist. He is a sensitive, which is someone that is able to read thoughts & feelings of others while plugged into the xenosphere. We deviate from him in this, redirecting the main POV to his lover, Aminat. I was already a fan of Aminat in the first book, but damn. I completely fell for her in Insurrection! She is such a fully fleshed out character, one that easily handled the shifting of focus from more of a supporting character to stepping into the spotlight as the central role.
Aminat is a scientist & agent with the special services, tasked with locating a woman named Alyssa Sutcliffe, who is vital in saving the human race. Alyssa, a housewife that is going through amnesia memory gaps, is thought to be the first person to be more alien than human.
“Mangled corpses, body parts everywhere, blood mixing with the mud to form pink froth, structures flattened for fifty yards in every direction, debris mixed with organic matter. The ring is obliterated, the fighters gone. No crater, no fires. Compression bombs don’t leave any. They are essentially portal keys that open a bridge to a vacuum that sucks matter in, then closes rapidly, reversing the flow, spraying matter outwards. The victims’ bones are their own shrapnel.”
There are plenty of new characters introduced in Insurrection that help round out the story. One of the major players is Jack Jacques, the mayor of Rosewater who among other things, enjoys a scheduled morning blow job (as one does). He has declared independence & is met with resistance. There is a shit ton of conflict that erupts from this, including tension between Jacques & the president of Nigeria.
Two other characters that come in & out of the story are Femi, Aminat’s supervisor. He is the former head of the special services & has a hand in Jacques decision to split from the government. Then there’s an author who likes smoking weed & is supposed to be working on a book. But alas, that book only exists in his head for the time being.
Tade Thompson has done a brilliant job with the worldbuilding & has made Rosewater itself a wonderfully weird character. Sex bots, assassins, psychics, reanimates, aliens, warfare.. all form this highly claustrophobic, bonkers atmosphere! This is only the second of Thompson’s novels that I’ve read, but I am completely mesmerized by his storytelling in both instances. He has this ability to draw you in with familiarity, yet keeps you captivated with something insanely exhilarating. Something that feels like it belongs in it’s own box. It’s fucking glorious! Needless to say, I’m beyond excited to see how the finale of the Wormwood trilogy comes together!
(Big thanks to Orbit Books for sending me a copy!)