Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blood Safari

At lunchtime today I finished up the latest of my Amazon's "Vine" program books. I had selected Blood Safari by Deon Meyer because it is billed as a thriller taking place in modern day South Africa. Next month I will be taking a three-week long trip to South Africa so I thought it would be good to get a feel for the place, as I often like to do, through fiction.

The book was actually published in Britain in 2007 and is just now being published in the US. The author is an Afrikaner himself and this is the translated version from the original Afrikaaner version. Hats off to the translators I must say because you'd never know this book is not in the original language. There are a number of local terms used, but always italicized and never used such that you can't determine their meaning from the context of the sentence. I particularly enjoyed the plot elements surrounding the vulture sanctuary project and various anti-poaching efforts taking place.

The story revolves around Lemmer, a bodyguard assigned to protect a young woman, Emma, who is in danger. Lemmer is a complicated character, with a convoluted past that is slowly revealed throughout the course of the novel. The first part of the book is a fairly straight-forward mystery as Lemmer follows Emma in her attempts to locate her brother, a man most people thought was dead for these past 20 years. Mr Meyer uses an interesting writing tool in the book: most of it is written in 1st person POV (Lemmer) but parts of it are written in 3rd person. That has potential to be intrusive in the narrative thread but here it works great.

The second part of the story turns everything on its head. It's absolutely delightful to read a thriller/mystery that is unpredictable and also includes multi-dimensional characters that you come to care about. Add to that a smart dialogue, humerous yet real, and you've got a real page-turner on your hands. My only negative comment is that there are a lot of minor characters sprinkled throughout and I feel like I lost the handle on a few of them along the way. But that didn't seem to hinder the story telling much so I'm happy to have discovered this author.

Once again, I followed up this novel with another interesting short story from Stephen King's short story collection, Skeleton Crew. "Gramma" demonstrates a lot of what King does best, bringing us back to our childhood and tap dancing all over our memories, especially those that are not so comforting. The plot is fiendishly cleaver but not at all "in-your-face." Subtle horror is the best kind. "Gramma" was later turned into a Twilight Zone episode, penned by Harlan Ellison.

Next up: the last of the second "Warrior's" series, Sunset.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire