Again, Nigerian, Tade Thompson, wins UK’s top sci-fi novel award

Ade Thompson saw off competition from 124 other eligible contenders to win the Arthur C Clarke Award regarded as  United Kingdom’s most prestigious prize for science fiction novels. LAOLU HAROLDS reports.

 

Rosewater, a novel by Nigeria-born British writer, Tade Thompson, has won the Arthur C Clarke Award, regarded as United Kingdom’s most prestigious prize for science fiction novels.

In his review for the Guardian, sci-fi author, Adam Roberts, described Rosewater as a “brilliant science fiction at the cutting edge of contemporary genre … Thompson expertly juggles all his disparate elements – alien encounter, cyberpunk-biopunk-Afropunk thriller, zombie-shocker, an off-kilter love story and an atmospheric portrait of a futuristic Nigeria.”

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Set in 2066, in the aftermath of an alien invasion that has left much of humanity powerless through airborne microscopic fungal spores, Rosewater is the name of a new town that forms on the outskirts of an alien biodome dropped in rural Nigeria.

The dome opens just once a year, heals all nearby sick people, gives new life to the dead and begins to influence people in unusual ways. The alien presence has also awakened telepathic skills among select humans, dubbed ‘sensitives’, and the novel follows one Kaaro, who investigates when other sensitives begin to die.

Chair of the prize judges, Andrew M Butler, said: “Alien invasion is always a political subject, and Tade Thompson … expertly explores the nature of the alien, global power structures and pervasive technologies with a winning combination of science fictional invention, gritty plotting and sly wit.”

Thompson, who works as a psychiatrist in the south of England, saw off competition from 124 other novels, the highest number ever submitted for the prize.

Rosewater was shortlisted alongside Iraqi novelist Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, which was nominated for the Man Booker International prize; debut US author Sue Burke’s Semiosis, a first contact novel; American author Yoon Ha Lee’s Revenant Gun, the concluding novel in his space opera series; Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag’s illustrated novel The Electric State; and British author Aliya Whiteley’s The Loosening Skin, set in a world where people shed their skin every seven years.

Thompson received a trophy and the £2,019 prize (the winnings are adjusted annually to match the year) at a ceremony last week Wednesday night in Foyles bookshop in central London. His agent Alexander Cochran collected the award on his behalf.

According to The Johannesburg Review of Books, Thompson is the second African author to win the esteemed award, which was founded in 1987. South African writer Lauren Beukes won the 2011 edition of the prize with her novel Zoo City, while Nigerian-American writer, Nnedi Okorafor, was shortlisted in 2016 for The Book of Phoenix.

Tade Thompson was born in London to Yoruba parents and grew up in Nigeria. He studied medicine and social anthropology, and went on to specialise in psychiatry.

His novels and short stories have been critically received. He was a Nommo Award and a Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award winner. Thompson is also a capable illustrator and artist. His novella, The Murders of Molly Southbourne, has been optioned for screen adaptation.

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