Tade Thompson’s WORMWOOD TRILOGY, which is a delightfully Weird take on the Humans vs Aliens trope, ends with The Rosewater Redemption (2019). You’ll need to read the first two novels first: Rosewater and The Rosewater Insurrection. I’ll assume that you have. (If you haven’t, I highly recommend them.)
It’s 2068 and, at this point in the story, nobody knows what to expect from the alien presence named Wormwood. It is trying to take over the earth, but in a gradual, insidious way. Most of humanity is unaware of this and many are enjoying the healing and technological benefits that Wormwood provides.
But our heroes (Kaaro, Aminat, Bicycle Girl, Femi, Eric, Jack Jacques, Laura, Layi, and even Bad Fish), who are in the thick of it, have a more cynical view. While they’re dealing with the alien intelligence of Wormwood, which is hard enough, they’ve got political pressures, too — the leaders of Nigeria want Rosewater back and are willing to fight for it.
The plot of The Rosewater Redemption is complex, twisty, and not always easy to follow. Thompson doesn’t always bother to remind us of who everybody is, what they’ve done in the past, and what their current motivations are. Readers must use their memories, concentration, and wits to stay on top of it. For this reason, it’d be best to start The Rosewater Redemption soon after finishing The Rosewater Insurrection.
Thompson’s world-building is rich and inventive — it’s one of the best features of this trilogy. Whereas the events of Rosewater and The Rosewater Insurrection took place in Nigeria (which makes a wonderful setting), we get to travel a little (in both space and time) in The Rosewater Redemption. I love the way Thompson talks about time travel. We get to see London and America, which has been walled off since the arrival of Wormwood. The story isn’t linear, making it sometimes challenging to follow.
Thompson’s characters are also built well. They are original and multi-faceted. They have flaws. Some have hidden agendas. Some are more than slightly corrupt, but also loveable at the same time. Likewise, the alien intent is not totally clear. This is not a simple good vs evil fantasy tale where the heroes and villains are starkly contrasted and easy to love and hate respectively. Sometimes this is unsettling.
The WORMWOOD TRILOGY is great science fiction. One of the sci-fi themes, particularly in this last novel, concerns memory and consciousness — a hot topic in neuroscience these days. If we someday have the technology to upload our memories and consciousness and store them in the cloud, are we still a person? Would it be ethical to delete those files? Or, if our consciousness and memories are downloaded into a different body, who would that body be? The person it used to be, or the person whose memories now inhabit it? Would it be ethical to use a dead body as a vehicle for somebody else’s consciousness? And, assuming that a copy of the memories is left on the server as a back-up, which is the real person — the one in the body or the one on the server? And, are these copies now aliens? These are questions that science may someday have to deal with. Another new neuroscience concept that Thompson employs is that of brain organoids. These recently discovered research tools will also require some serious ethical oversight.
As much as I loved the WORMWOOD TRILOGY, my experience was greatly enhanced by listening to Hachette Audio’s editions which were fabulously performed by Bayo Gbadamosi. This is a trilogy that I’ll listen to again (rare!) and I can’t wait to see what Tade Thompson does next.