The Last Savanna ISBN: 9781627040082 Mandevilla Press (Earlier published by Headline Book Publishing [London] in slightly different form as The Ivory Hunters), an e-book by Mike Bond,
Plot: MacAdams is one of those long-time immigrant residents from England who could never leave Africa. His wife, Dorothy, an alcoholic and no longer able to take it, leaves for England where their two sons now reside when Mac decides to again aid the government. He joins his long-time friend Nehemiah to attempt to save the wildlife from the illegal poachers – a new breed armed with AK-47’s. On a foray they are partially successful, but he obtains a chest wound and several broken ribs when charged by a cape buffalo. It is discovered that three of the Somali poachers who escaped with ivory also had killed most of an archeological group and kidnapped a woman member, with whom he retained strong emotional ties after an earlier clandestine love attachment. In spite of his severe injuries, he decides to attempt to rescue her and the story follows in detail the ensuing chase ending as might well be expected.
Discussion: The entire tale is perhaps one of the most complete word pictures of a country/persons, this reviewer ever has read. Africa and its inhabitants are depicted simultaneously with all of the beauty, ugliness and both necessary and seemingly often unnecessary cruelty generated within its boundaries by its various life forms. An Elan gradually approaches a stream to quench its thirst. It is killed by an old lioness, who in turn suffers the same fate from a magnificent young beast, only to be killed by a native’s spear because the hide will provide enough to pay for his two boy’s schooling. Regrettably, he too is killed by a raiding Somali’s AK-47. All of this action along with accompanying thoughts interestingly and quite minutely described. The author further beautifully presents the totally engulfing hold that the continent seems to exert on some individuals. “On the equator the days pass one like the next. You come here young, marry, raise a family, die and leave no tracks. Occasionally you go “home”, to London and the Cotswold mists….. After a few weeks you wake up one day and decide to go back to Africa – the rest is just a game. Like malaria, Africa. Once bitten you can never shake it. Yet Africa is dying, taking the fever with it. Have no attachments, MacAdam knew the Maasai said: see the world as it passes, not siding with lion or gazelle. A century ago the whites came, ploughed and fenced the savanna, cut the forests, grazed their ignorant cattle where the wildebeest had roamed. They killed the warriors and made the docile ones clerks, told them we nailed God to a tree because he threatened to free us from our sins. What are sins?” the Maasai answered. God is the land, the trees, the mountains, the animals, the sky, the rivers and the rain. How do you nail this to a tree?” Now the land, the trees, the animals are gone: the whites were right – God’s not so hard to kill.
And now most of the whites had gone, too, leaving behind them a plague to finish off what they had begun …allowed the week to survive, populations to explode, the limitless savannas and jungles cut into tiny shambas where swollen families burnt and hacked the vegetation, then clung to the malnourished soil till it eroded to bedrock” and nothing is but dust. In other words, the author has provided a story that is sad but factual, full of suspense and action but with much about which to ruminate. It is well-written. Probably could have profited from judicious editing but then again such action could interfere with the ruminations to which the material could lead the contemplative reader. The more pragmatic reader probably will find too much that is too difficult to accept.
Summary: A most unusual and descriptively detailed story some readers will discover to be most intriguing.
4* 5* Intriguing for some; 3* flawed, possibly extensively, for others as described.