Tuesday, 10 March 2015

What’s the big deal about Satans & Shaitans?

Book in Review:         SATANS & SHAITANS
Author                        Obinna Udenwe
Publisher                    AMAB BOOKS 2016 (First published: JACARANDA BOOKS, 2014.)
No of Pages               292

If a fellowship of masters of intrigue in Nigerian literature exists, Obinna Udenwe should definitely be a senior fellow. His dexterity at infusing crime fiction with this tale of terrorism is truly ingenious.

The book SATANS AND SHAITANS, is a page turner that kept me on the edge of my seat (or table; as the case was at some points), and had me holding my breath in anticipation till the last page.

The story has an intense plot, with shriek-inducing twists that shocked me no end; I felt myself guessing the next move unsuccessfully, and being pleasantly surprised— chapter after chapter.
S & S AMAB Cover

Power, a pernicious occult movement, and the quest to overthrow the government of the day form a dangerous triad in this novel. This tripod is the basis upon which killings and attacks are carried out; all under the guise of forming an Islamic state in a country as multi cultural and multi religious as Nigeria. In this instance, the author may have hit too close to home, and may run the risk of inciting further mistrust from his people, but then, do we not all learn that art mirrors life?

The Sacred Order has members from all over the world and in Nigeria, their top officials include the world renowned Evangelist Chris Chuba, the extremely wealthy industrialist Chief Amaechi and a couple of people in government. The order does not smile at members who disagree with status quo, so killings are rife. Deadly as they are though, they are unable to envisage that the jihadist movement which they set in motion will turn around with an agenda of its own. This author is very adept at showing that human nature is the most slippery substance. Not to be trusted and definitely not to be underestimated.

Beneath all the dark machinations of terrorism is a painfully beautiful love story, between the young children of two senior members of The Sacred order. Children who have each endured sheltered lives till their eyes meet and love pushes them to break down the barricades meant to ensure physical and social order, but which have nothing on their hearts. But, in the words of the poet Toni Kan, ‘What is temptation, if you do not fall?’

Their love is so beautiful— as the young couple falls, you fall along with them and hope their love never ends. But this is a rather hazy dream because the book starts with a painful discovery that the girl is missing. Your nerves are not calmed either when you read that her head is wanted by the order as requirement for her father’s continued rise. But the order does not have her, so you keep wondering; who does? And so the suspense continues, you keep hoping Adeline will appear and continue her love with Donaldo, and then you find out she was killed – and in unbelievable circumstances too.

Obinna Udenwe sure knows how to twist a tale!
This is one fast paced story and even though this novel is quite ambitious, the writer’s ability to pace the story well and create unforeseeable plot twists adds immensely to the suspense and joy of reading.

Early in the book, I recognized one thing; this author has a thing for hair.  If this craze did not come to the fore with mostly male characters, this reviewer would have declared it a ‘fetish’. Well, maybe it is a fetish afterall.

Of Chief Amaechi, we read in page 165 ‘… his full hair was well combed’. In page 51, we read ‘A big man with fine combed, bushy hair and a clean shaven face was standing beside the sheik’. The instances go on with other characters in the book.

The assassination of the Minister of Justice left me in doubt though. It came off too easy, with no resistance from armed security personnel who were not said to be part of the plan. It is highly implausible that one man could bore a hole big enough to contain an adult male, into a concrete fence in the quiet of the night without arousing any interest, or that a handsaw would work its way through a metal grille without the sounds waking anyone up. But hey, maybe I’ve seen too many spy movies.

 S and S Jacaranda cover
The book is interspersed with quotes from the Holy Bible and references from the Holy Qur’an. Suffice to say it is difficult to place the author’s religious allegiances- if any- judging from the book.
Have I mentioned that the author is blood happy? So many characters die in the book (and no, I don’t mean victims of bombings or other acts of terrorism). I suppose in certain ways this could be a plus. Not many writers have the surgical capacity to kill off a character when they outlive their usefulness, or to buttress the fact of another character’s psychological state.

Now that the book has finally been published in Nigeria and thus made more accessible to the Nigerian reading public, I hope you all go out there and buy it. It is a must read!

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