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Review: Deep Sahara

This is my first review here in a few years. I hope to do much more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my new review policy.

Review summary: This is an impressive book, but not an easy read. If a reader is willing to make the effort to flow with this unusual story, I believe they will find themselves haunted by it, in the way only a fine novel can manage. I give it a 9/10. Details are below.

About this book: Klaus Werner travels to the Algerian Sahara to research a book on desert insects. He is billeted in a local monastery, but upon arrival he finds it empty of its inhabitants. He soon discovers that it is a recent crime scene.

About the author: Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman’s Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

Giveaway: Leslie will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win,

My full review: Leslie Croxford has written a book imbued with the feel of the desert and buoyed by his deep knowledge of the region. As I followed along on one man’s odyssey to find himself after the death of his wife, his personal mirages of the mind and heart competed in my head with those of the world’s most vast arid region.

What I liked best:

  1. I’m not generally big on description, but the contrast between the sparse, often brusque dialog and the vivid verbal painting of the Sahara made me feel like I was there, experiencing days of solitude punctuated by stark conversations with others who seldom spoke.
  2. The main character’s earnest search to understand his past and discover who he is are woven well into the action. The hero is perceptive and honest with himself, making him fine company for all 280 pages.
  3. Occasional clever observations about humanity add a much needed touch of subtle humor. A few of my favorites are at the end of this post.
  4. Bonus points have been given for the delicate yet effective handling of both the sex and violence.

What I liked least:

  1. One significant event in the narrative is never explained well enough for me, and the little explanation it does receive contradicts other parts of the plot. It’s a minor but irritating flaw.
  2. I’m definitely not a fan of the very end. I will not give anything away, but only say that there were several possible variations on it that would have fit the spirit of the story as well or better, in my opinion, and been more satisfying to and even respectful of the reader.

In spite of these two issues, the book is well worth reading for all those who yearn to experience other lives and stranger worlds inside the covers of the novels they choose.

Purchase this book: Available in paperback through Amazon, or at the Book Depository.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

January 25: Locks, Hooks and Books

February 1: Bookaholic

February 1: Journey of a Bookseller

February 8: Sharing Links and Wisdom

A few of my favorite quotes

  1. “… recounting the tale to myself, to that other beholding part of me standing in for the God in whom I no longer believe, but to whom I apparently continue to have things to say.”
  2. “Be that as it may, I kept no diary. What I had to say about myself today was the same as I would have said yesterday or what I shall say tomorrow …”
  3. “Wherever one is, Monsieur,” the officer said, looking directly at me, “one is actually in one’s own situation. That’s the case regardless of how alien one’s surroundings are.” He replaced his cap over his clear features and prepared to leave. “So one would do well to understand what that situation is. It might save one a lot of trouble in one’s new setting.”

A personal note: I come to this review with a bit of bias, as we all do. In my case, I, too have written a book (x0) about Africa (Nigeria) drawing on my professional background (as a geophysicist) so I wanted to like this novel. I was once employed by one of the major oil companies exploring for oil in Algeria (where Deep Sahara takes place). Although I never worked there, I heard plenty of stories and have an appreciation for the female geologist in this novel. (There aren’t that many of us.) I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2018 in Africa, oil industry, other authors

 

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Why in the world would you write a book about Nigeria?

Authors note: My third novel z2 is currently on blog tour through the fine folks at Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. The post below is part of that tour and it appeared a few days ago on Always Jo Art, a fun blog about books, motherhood, and product give-aways. My thoughts were inspired by a post I wrote here back in 2012, three whole books ago. A lot has changed for me since then, but apparently other things haven’t changed much at all.

http://nollywoodonline.info/?p=5After I finished my first novel, x0, I was told that writing about Nigeria was a poor choice because it just isn’t a place that particularly interests many readers. Paris or London would have been better. I found this funny. Lots of novels take place in Paris and London and it seemed to me that the world didn’t need one more. Nigeria, on the other hand, has a plethora of rich stories to tell which are far less known, at least in Texas where I live.

I chose Nigeria originally because I wanted to write a tale of two very different women helping each other. About the same time that I started the book, I also started a new job exploring for oil in the Niger Delta and had the chance to work with many Nigerians. One day I asked my office mate, a Nigerian geologist, to describe to me how his tribe, the Igbo, were unique. He responded by telling me a legend about Igbo slaves coming to America. It startled me at first that he would even speak of such a thing, but in the end I was touched by both the moving story he told, and by the powerful way in that he told it. I tried to capture each of those when I retold this scene in x0.

95As I wrote, I discovered how much the fascinating details of a far off land appeal to me. That meant that I had to find a location for my second book, y1 that was even less well known. Once I found it, I was writing about the remote Pacific Island nation of Kiribati, exactly on the other side of the globe from my first story.

The plot of my third novel, z2, dictated that my characters not wander off too far from Texas, so instead I found a way to let my readers wander around in time. Although z2 never leaves North America, it includes visits to a Mayan village under siege in Guatemala and the camp of eighteenth-century lumberjacks on the coast of Belize.

image014No, I’m not done with my armchair travels yet. There are three more books in this collection and the one I’ve just finished, c3, takes place partly in the isolated Himalayan nation of Bhutan. The one I’m working on now is taking me to the far North, where I am learning fascinating things about Greenland and Iceland.

Why Nigeria? Why anywhere. Every spot on this earth is teeming with tales of its own and with great settings for new ones. These stories not only have the capacity to entertain us, but they can also give us new information and a fresh perspective.

 

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Nigeria

 

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Mission control

Most of us have been involved at least once in writing a “mission statement”.  This concise summary of what one is trying to do is usually an exercise in restating what ones boss wants to hear and is thus regarded by cynical employees as the time wasting nonsense that it is. Yet, the real question regarding why you are doing what you are doing remains a valid one. What is the point? What do you want to accomplish? Why not just take a nap?

To that end, today the blog “Face Painting for World Peace” is going to articulate its reason for being. I’ll start with the obvious.  I wish to sell my book x0.  I wish to entertain myself by writing, which I love to do, and in the best case I wish to entertain others with that writing.  I love to do that as well. I’d like to solicit more interaction here and am trying to figure out how because I wish to grow by hearing from others with ideas outside of my usual circle.

All good mission statements cover not only what is to be done, but also how.  At least at a very high level. So, I hope to do the above by writing about the aspects of x0 that most fascinate me. These include the relationship between telepathy and empathy and the way both relate to humans treating each other with compassion and respect. I subtitled my book (and named this blog) “Face Painting for World Peace” because my main character Lola realizes that she lost many of her racial and ethnic prejudices while painting children’s faces every year at the school carnival. She wonders if similar close interaction with the children of ones enemies would foster world peace. So, this blog will look at paintings about peace, art about peace, and music about peace.

I also hope to occasionally post about Nigeria, the fascinating country where half of the book occurs. There will sometimes be posts about the oil business, with an insiders perspective on the hunt for the hydrocarbons we rely on so heavily and yet know we need to rely on less And finally, I hope to feature other books of any genre that touch on any of these topics or on the theme of world peace. I will be more aggressively seeking out other authors and welcome all requests to do a guest post.

Mission accomplished? Hardly. But after about eight months of feeling my way along on this blog, and as I am about to cross the 2000 hit mark very soon, it feels good to say “mission begun”.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in art for peace, Nigeria, oil industry

 

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Why in the world would you write a book about Nigeria?

Recently I’ve gotten some feedback on my book from folks who did not particularly enjoy it.  That’s part of the process of writing, of course, and I accept these comments with all the good cheer I can manage.  After all, we all enjoy different things and I appreciate an honest review. But I’ve heard a few times now that writing about Nigeria was part of the problem. It has been suggested to me that it just isn’t a place that particularly interests many readers from the United States. So I’ve had to consider, after the fact, why in the world I picked such a “difficult” location for my first book. I mean, wouldn’t Paris or London have been better?

Much of x0 probably takes place in Nigeria simply because I began to write a tale of two very different women helping each other about the same time that I started a new job exploring for oil in the Niger Delta. Mind you, I do my exploring at a computer in Houston, twisting and turning 3-D images on a screen just like Lola does in the story. The fair-sized oil company that I work for bears little resemblance to Lola’s tiny focused employer, and as I began writing I promised myself that I would steadfastly resist the temptation to let any thing about my actual place of employment creep into the fictional world I was creating. Certainly I owed my employer that discretion.

In the end though, I made one exception. One day I asked my office mate, a Nigerian geologist, to describe to me how his tribe, the Igbo, were unique. He responded by telling me a legend about Igbo slaves coming to America. It startled me at first that he would even speak of such a thing, but in the end I was touched by both the moving story he told, and by the powerful way in that he told it.  I tried to capture each of those when I retold this scene in my book.

Nana Asma’u
Click here to visit the website for Wise Muslim Women.org to learn more

Nigeria, it turns out, has a plethora of rich stories to tell, and as an outsider I am poorly equipped to speak of even the few that I know. Yet as I kept writing I filled myself with all the history, culture and geography I could find on the internet. Somewhere along the way I became a fan of Nana Asma’u, a proponent of education for her fellow Muslim women and a poet and scholar herself.  She lived in northern Nigeria in the early 1800’s.

Why Nigeria?  Why anywhere. Every spot on this earth is teeming with tales of heroes and feats that will never make it to our ears. Why listen to these tales? Why tell them again? When young Pakistani Malala Yousufzai was shot by the Taliban a few weeks ago for advocating education for girls, I thought of Malala’s noble predecessor of 200 years ago, and I had a perspective that I would once have totally lacked.

Why Nigeria?  Because when I started writing this book, there probably wasn’t a place on earth that I knew less about. That’s not true anymore. I get that the fascinating details of a far off land don’t appeal to everyone, but they do to me. I had to look hard to find a location for my second book that was even less known to me. I found it. And I hope that some of you will also enjoy reading about the remote Pacific Island nation of Kiribati.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Nigeria, oil industry

 

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Welcome to the World of x0

Somewhere between fanciful places and the world one knows is the universe of x0, where an ancient organization prefers to stay hidden while seven billion people lead normal lives and seven hundred or so do not. This latter group includes Lola, a Texan geophysicist who doesn’t believe in nonsense, and Somadina, a young Nigerian who thinks her abilities are perfectly normal. These women have at least two important things in common, and they are about to learn how well that will forge a powerful link.

When Somadina’s sister becomes a captive, the young Igbo woman draws upon her power to find an ally.  Across an ocean, an unexpected lay-off and a near fatal accident combine to reintroduce into Lola’s mind a rather disturbing phenomenon. Lola disregards it. Medicates it. Analyzes it. Sips more wine on her porch. However, the changes taking place inside her will not be ignored.

While the rest of the world lives out a perfectly normal 2009, Somadina accepts that her sister has become a strategic pawn in a larger and more dangerous game and that she must get the attention of this kindred, uncooperative lady.

x0 reluctantly emerges from the shadows, because somebody really needs to intervene. Both women are far more powerful than they realize, and to make matters worse, a fringe fanatic may be on the verge of altering a nation’s future.

.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in x0

 

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Welcome to the World of x0

Somewhere between fanciful places and the world one knows is the universe of x0, where an ancient organization prefers to stay hidden while seven billion people lead normal lives and seven hundred or so do not. This latter group includes Lola, a Texan geophysicist who doesn’t believe in nonsense, and Somadina, a young Nigerian who thinks her abilities are perfectly normal. These women have at least two important things in common, and they are about to learn how well that will forge a powerful link.

When Somadina’s sister becomes a captive, the young Igbo woman draws upon her power to find an ally.  Across an ocean, an unexpected lay-off and a near fatal accident combine to reintroduce into Lola’s mind a rather disturbing phenomenon. Lola disregards it. Medicates it. Analyzes it. Sips more wine on her porch. However, the changes taking place inside her will not be ignored.

While the rest of the world lives out a perfectly normal 2009, Somadina accepts that her sister has become a strategic pawn in a larger and more dangerous game and that she must get the attention of this kindred, uncooperative lady.

x0 reluctantly emerges from the shadows, because somebody really needs to intervene. Both women are far more powerful than they realize, and to make matters worse, a fringe fanatic may be on the verge of altering a nation’s future.

.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 2, 2012 in x0

 

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