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2012 PEN Open Book Award Runner-up
While searching for a foreign hostage, two reporters witness the despoliation of Nigeria in Habila's (Measuring Time, 2007, etc.) latest, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize.
The stink of oil and the orange light of gas flares emanate from this graphic account of a nation ruined by the extraction of its natural resources, in a narrative that is part political diatribe, part detective story. The quest to find Isabel Floode, the kidnapped wife of a white petroleum engineer, lures journalist Rufus and his older colleague Zaq out of Port Harcourt into the liquid landscape of the Niger delta, where beauty and subsistence have fallen victim to ecological nightmare and the violent clash between the military and the militants. Rufus is the lens through which Habila exposes the horrific landscape of poisoned wildlife and deserted villages, and the hopelessness of the people, robbed of their land, squeezed between avaricious forces. Witnessing scenes of massacre, migration and strange worship, Rufus remains unscathed even when abducted by a crazed soldier named the Major and then the rebel leader, the Professor. Finding Isabel, and also a love interest for himself, his journey ends in unconvincing optimism.
Dreamy, criss-crossed with flashbacks and pipelines, a memorable if heavily delineated parable of the dispossessed.
Starred Review. "A cinematic adventure and a remarkably tense race against the clock…rendered with insight and sensitivity, but also an unsparing sense of irony; indeed, it’s a credit to Habila’s storytelling that his mournful vision of the world never eclipses its fragile beauty, or its humanity." - Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. "In a beautiful, almost cinematic style, Habila moves back and forth in time to tell a story swathed in the cynicism of modern global development and the mysteries of human longing." - Booklist
"Richard Allen’s deep, rich voice makes the characters come to life...his pacing is perfect, and his diction always clear. This is a compelling story well read and worth hearing." - AudioFile
"The narration from multiple Audie Award-nominated Richard Allen has an almost lyrical quality, immersing readers in the tale." - Library Journal
"[A] thrilling, fast paced read and also an elegiac meditation on the destructive force of greed and the fragility of hope...Habila is a skilful narrator and a master of structure." - The Telegraph
"Habila's primary characters breathe and his plot mesmerizes...what leaves the most profound impression is his stunning evocation of this violated landscape...a powerful work, one that reaffirms that art done well is always big enough to contain politics, too." - Orion Magazine
"[A] powerful, accomplished third novel." - The Observer
"[A] lean, evocative novel… a classic coming-of-age narrative." - The Daily Mail
"…an excellent piece of literature…definitely worth buying." - The Socialist
"Habila has a filmic ability to etch scenes on the imagination." - The Independent
"...topical and urgent...powerful..." - The Guardian
"The new generation of twenty-first-century African writers have now come of age. Without a doubt Habila is one of the best." - Emmanuela Dongla