Sometimes life is littered with crazy coincidences… I was reading up on Madagascar’s “miracle cure” for the coronavirus derived from the Artemisia Annua plant. Artemisia Annua is also known as wormwood, due to its bitter taste, a name which has roots in the New Testament book of Revelations:
“The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter.”Rev 8:10–11
The word wormwood was rattling about in my head when the book series The Wormwood Trilogy landed on the lap of my awareness, courtesy of Mable. Even if I had not had the word at the tip of my thoughts I would have read the books since I trust Mable’s taste in literature because apparently my love for Speculative African Fantasy is infectious.
Most African literature reads like fictional biographies, literary works firmly grounded in reality that they feel like a story that could have happened to you or someone you know, relatable and familiar. The Wormwood series is not such a tale it’s a futuristic, science fiction fantasy that will require you to suspend disbelief and conjure up from your imagination to immerse yourself in the world of Rosewater at the frontier of a space invasion, yes, aliens in Africa. There’s something you do not read everyday.
The books have been shortlisted and won several literary awards like making the final list for the 2020 Best Series in the Hugo Awards and Rosewater winning the Arthur C Clark award for its “winning combination of science fictional invention and sly wit“…
The Wormwood Series
What its about
The Wormwood Trilogy written by Tade Thompson is a set of three books set in futuristic Nigeria that chronicle the saga of Rosewater, a city that grows from a tiny outpost to becoming an independent state and the frontline battle against invasion, colonization and annihilation of the human race by an invading alien horde…
The first book in the series published in 2016 and revised in 2018 and winner of The Arthur C. Clarke Award for The 2019 Science Fiction Book Of The Year
Rosewater introduces you to the future set in a timeline between 2055 and 2066 and following a non-linear sequence you will jump from present to past to present following 3 main timelines that will make your head spin. A few chapters in I almost had to start reading again as I was not paying attention to the dates written in the chapter headlines one second you are in 2066 turn page you are in 2055.
Rosewater is a U shaped town with an alien bio-dome at its heart and once a year an Opening happens and everyone in the vicinity gets healed…..
The storyline mostly follows a central character Kaaro who is a “sensitive” that is to say has some kind of telepathic/psychic abilities by accessing the xenosphere an organic information network which is unlike a universe of itself… and of course there’s the aliens!!!
The Rosewater Insurrection
The second book in the series published 2019
Rosewater Insurrection continues the story from just a little while after where the first book ends. Although in this book’s timeline is somewhat more linear it follows the viewpoints of several central characters. A couple of new characters enter the mix while some familiar characters now get more spotlight on their story arcs.
Insurrection as the title suggests is a chaotic uprising on three fronts of man vs man, man vs alien and alien vs man as Rosewater battles to be an independent state from the federal government of Nigeria.
Rosewater Insurrection is a violent fight for survival where unlikely alliances are formed and betrayal a page away.
The explosive climax to the Wormwood Trilogy published 2019
Rosewater Redemption follows the story closely after the last book. The story is told by Oyin Da a timetraveller who will tell you from the very first page they are the wrong person to tell the story but nobody else is willing…
Set in the aftermath of the civil war, this book is about consequences; alliances are formed and reformed as allegiances are broken in this conclusive quest for survival where no one’s side is clear and each page turn, shifts dynamics and objectives; where there can be only them or us…
What I loved
Its an immersive read with incredible world building. The characters are remarkable and the moral compass is going around in circles a lot while you are trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong and the price people will pay for their choices.
Wormwood may be a speculative fiction but it explores very real life themes such as race, identity, politics and colonization(mental and terrestial) as mirrored by the alien invasion.
What I did not like so much
The switching between timelines particularly in the first book really hurts the brain especially when coupled with that you have no idea with what is going on… as you read more it gets better since you have a better picture of what’s happening and keep track of the multiple timelines.
Its an addictive read, once I started I could not get myself to stop, I had hoped to pace myself, maybe read one book a week (hahahaha) but finished all three books in under a five days.
The series is a creative blend of real life and fiction and I had to constantly checkout some interesting tidbits of information like for example The Lijadu Sisters: Taiwo and Kehinde twin sisters who were a Nigerian music duo popular mid-1960s to 1980s. The interesting convention in the naming of twins, like how Kehinde is short for Omokehindelegbon which means the second twin is older, sending the younger one first into the world as an outrider.
Or the story of Naeris Green the slave who taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey.
The Wormwood series is a science fiction, speculative, afro futurism fantasy which fits neatly into my favourite genre My Beautiful Dark And Twisted Afro Fantasy
I asked Tade if the tale ends here (because I keep thinking of these books as the Wormwood series than simply wormwood trilogy there’s room to keep going)…. Maybe there’s more wormwood adventures to follow.