Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection (2019) is the sequel to Rosewater (2016), a stunningly imaginative, structurally complex, and beautifully written novel that Kate and I loved. It’s about an alien presence called Wormwood that tunnels under the surface of our planet and has sprouted a dome in Nigeria. Because the dome has healing properties, a ramshackle city called Rosewater has grown up around it where people with various ailments live, hoping to benefit from the healing. Sometimes this goes badly awry, though, such as when dead bodies are reanimated but no longer carry the souls they once did.
Rosewater is weird and wonderful and you should read it before you pick up The Rosewater Insurrection. There may be some mild spoilers for some of Rosewater’s plot in this review, so there’s your fair warning.
This second novel about Wormwood and the city of Rosewater introduces some new characters and we get to view the story from multiple perspectives (this is different from Rosewater, where we heard the story mainly from the perspective of Kaaro, a Section 45 agent).
Eric is a new agent at Section 45 and he’s been instructed to find and assassinate a charismatic politician who goes by the name of Jack Jacques. This man wants to become the mayor of Rosewater, but Section 45, a government agency, wants him dead.
This instigates a war between Rosewater and the Nigerian government at a time when the city (and the country, the continent, and the entire world) is at risk of being taken over by the alien presence (à la The Puppet Masters). What S45 doesn’t know is that Wormwood is sick, its healing properties are rapidly declining, and it is quite vulnerable at the moment.
Another major new character is Alyssa, a wife and mother who is the first human being to have enough alien cells that she is ready to be (unwittingly) taken over by the aliens who plan to make Earth their new home. But the transfer of the alien mind, which involves quantum entanglement, doesn’t work correctly, probably because of Wormwood’s weakness. So Alyssa wakes up one day and has no memory of her life at all and no feeling for her husband and daughter. Fortunately, Aminat from S45 finds Alyssa and teams up with her.
There are several new minor characters, too. I loved the sexbot-turned-administrative-assistant and the journalist who fell in love with her. Don’t worry, though; Kaaro, our protagonist from Rosewater, is still around. He retired from Section 45, but he is still involved in the struggle between Rosewater, Nigeria, and Wormwood.
Structurally, The Rosewater Insurrection is not as complex (and therefore not quite as impressive) as Rosewater. It’s got a more linear structure (though it does employ flashbacks) and, being the second book in the trilogy, we are already familiar with the background and most of the characters and institutions, so it’s a much easier read. But it’s just as imaginative and beautifully written as Rosewater.
I was surprised by the end of The Rosewater Insurrection and I’m eager to find out what happens in The Rosewater Redemption, the third and final book in the WORMWOOD trilogy, which will be released in October. Will the aliens take over Earth and, if they do, will it be better? Or will humans defeat them? Or will we come to some sort of truce? I have no idea.
The audiobook versions of the WORMWOOD trilogy are produced by Hachette Audio and narrated by Bayo Gbadamosi who is perfectly cast for this series and who I now have a voice-crush on.