I am … honestly not sure what the point of this novel was.
Overall I liked it. Mostly. I thought it was an interesting way of thinking about reactions of first (or is it?) contact with aliens and the repercussions of that. But once I got to the end, I realised that it felt a bit more like a prologue to a novel, because narrative-wise really very little actually happened, except in the past, as told through flashbacks. And it didn’t feel like that – the past – was the point, which means… I’m not entirely sure what the point was.
Rosewater is in the name of a township that has grown up around an alien dome that plonked itself down in Nigeria in the mid-21st century. Kaaro lives there and works using his psychic skills to stop other psychics from pilfering knowledge from other people (I think?). The flashbacks are mostly about Kaaro’s life, weaving around his experiences and how his life has intersected with the coming of the alien dome. He’s not always been an upstanding member of the community, to put it mildly, but / and he’s also worked for a shady part of the government, using his ‘sensitivity’ in interrogations and the like. Kaaro is not a particularly nice person; in fact, especially early on he is actively unpleasant. And while he does grow up a bit, he never gets to be the sort of person I’d like to spend time with – and even his unpleasantness isn’t particularly interesting. In fact I didn’t really care for or about him at all.
The other characters around Kaaro are minimally developed. His boss from the government is pretty 2D – hard-nosed, no humour, doesn’t respond to his suggestive comments; the love interest is at least a bit mysterious and has some active agency of her own; most of the others are flash-in-the-pan, barely fleshed out ciphers. Even the renegade that pops in and out of Kaaro’s past (almost literally) has basically no back-story.
I got to the end of the book a bit confused that this could be the start of a series (a trilogy, I believe). On the one hand, as I said this all feels like it should be the build-up for something epic. On the other hand, the conclusion left me feeling like there was no epic to come. Clearly in an alien contact story there’s always something that can happen, good or bad, but I wasn’t left grasping for the rest of the story.
Maybe it was just me, and this book just wasn’t for me. I can cope with that.