Red Lagoon Rising
By Anne Perry
Posted on September 25, 2014 in Books with tags Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor, Pierce Brown
Two incredible novels publish in paperback today: Red Rising, by Pierce Brown, and Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor. We’ve spent a lot of time here on Hodderscape talking about both – for example, we visited with Pierce to discuss your burning questions about the Red Rising trilogy and we spoke with Joey Hi-Fi, who produced the extraordinary coverart for Lagoon. (A quick dip into the archives will reveal many more gems, including Pierce Brown’s writing soundtrack and a taste of the many, many phenomonal reviews Lagoon has received.)
If you’ll excuse an extended sports* metaphor, the paperback publication of a book feels a bit like sliding into home plate. Publishing a book is a surprisingly lengthy process that begins when you fall in love with a submission, and ends… well, it never truly ends. But we impose an artifical cycle on how we publish individual books: we get the team fired up about a manuscript (that’s going up to bat) and try to acquire it (swinging for the fences); we acquire it (first base!) and edit it (rounding second!); we publish it in its first format (third base) and then, finally, the inning ends when we slide home on paperback publication day. It’s a joyous moment (and the crowd goes wild!)
* Caveat: it’s going to be an extended baseball metaphor. Sorry, English folks! But don’t worry; I find cricket as baffling as you find baseball.
Oliver Johnson acquired Red Rising before I started working at Hodder; it was the very first book he pressed into my hands the day I started with the instruction that I read it immediately. We were still more than a year away from publication, but the entire company was so excited about it. Working on Red Rising has been a wonderful experience, in no small part because of that incredible early enthusiasm. And one of the great pleasures of my job is that I get to meet our authors – Pierce Brown is as lovely in person as you might imagine.
And Red Rising is merely the first book of three. We have a little more time yet to spend in Darrow’s world – I can’t wait.
Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon was the second book I acquired after starting at Hodder. I remember reading the manuscript for the first time – I didn’t even have my own desk yet. Oliver was on holiday and I was using his computer, and I could not drag myself away from the screen – not for lunch, not for meetings (oops) and not even to go home. I read it in a single sitting. I’ve never forgotten how profoundly affecting I found the book from the very first sentence:
She slices through the water, imagining herself a deadly beam of black light.
Who is she? What is she? Why is she? Nnedi’s incredible talent for getting into the minds of her characters, for portraying them with precision and empathy, is obvious from the very first – as it turns out, the she is a swordfish, one of three animals used to bookend the three parts that make up the novel. Another of my favourite quotes from the book comes from the perspective of the second animal prologue:
There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And no pain.
It was like being thrown into the stars.
And the third animal prologue made me cry. Right there, in the office, in full sight of all my new colleagues.
As a fellow editor here puts it, ‘if you cry, buy.’ And so we are the proud publishers of Lagoon, and will be publishing two more novels by Nnedi in the next couple of years, and I could not be more pleased and delighted. Lagoon is a brilliant, spiky, poetic, profoundly moving novel that combines science fiction, fantasy, horror, Nollywood… and a hundred other genres I can’t think of to list. It’s genre fiction for the 21st century, a novel that combines tropes and ideas with incredible energy, a novel where technology and mythology, science and religion, the human and the inhuman intersect. The result is extraordinary.
Happy paperback publication day to Nnedi Okorafor and Pierce Brown. You guys make this job worth doing.