Rosewater is a science fiction masterpiece, highlighting a deeply personal narrative amidst a brilliantly rendered world in the near future. It’s part supernatural, part alien invasion, part societal collapse, and part spy novel, all rolled into one. It’s easy to get pulled into Thompson’s inventive storytelling and, when you’re done, you’ll be happy to find the newly released sequel waiting in the wings.
This is masterful storytelling, made so by the connection we have with the protagonist. Nothing is hidden from the reader, we see everything floating around in his mind as he seeks to discover what’s happening to his world. We know his past and the defining moments of his journey to the highly secretive service he’s employed by. Through him, we get to know secondary characters more than we normally would. By illustrating this unfettered connection with the human mind, the narrative opens up and makes you want to know everything about this version of the future.
With these unexplained abilities at the forefront, Rosewater becomes a superhero story of sorts, though our protagonist doesn’t use those powers to save the world for most of his life. This is the journey we don’t often see in superhero narratives. In his adolescence, he uses his powers to steal and cheat, gaining wealth, cars, and a girlfriend who’s attracted to his money. It’s not until much later, when his consciousness grows, that he realizes what he could be doing with his abilities. It’s a flawed, deeply human journey that feels more realistic than anything we’d see on the big screen.
World building is Thompson’s most impressive feat. Rosewater is a fascinating place, the result of an alien incursion that was explosive for a hot minute. We see the growth of this tiny, tentative establishment, moving from tent encampment to village to full-blown city with class structures, corruption, and somewhat tame zombies. The alien structure is always nearby and the flat acceptance by the masses makes for an enticing mystery to the reader. You desperately want to know what’s inside, why this is all happening, but that just isn’t of much interest to the characters.
If you haven’t experienced Rosewater, there’s no time like the present. You’ll be entranced, excited, and eager to find out what happens next.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
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