Friday, February 6, 2009
Eclipse by Richard North Patterson
Oil and it's production around the world is certainly a very timely subject. The lengths that corporations and governments and individuals will go to for that black gold, in a volatile world, with huge amount of money at stake, is at the heart of the story of Eclipse.
Damon Pierce is a very successful lawyer whose marriage is over, he and his wife seeming to have just drifted apart. And at the same time, he seems to be drifting away from his work as a lawyer, having lost a sense of purpose in his work. When into this rather soulless life comes a cry for help from a woman he once, and perhaps still loves, he can't help but respond. Marissa e-mails him to say that her husband, Bobby Okari, has been arrested and charged with murder of three oil company workers in his West African country of Luandia and to ask for Damon's help. Her husband, who she met when he was speaking at colleges in the USA years ago, is the leader of a populist movement that is trying to affect chance in his homeland, but branded a terrorist by the corrupt government of Luandia. Her only hope to save Bobby from almost certain execution, she thinks, is to appeal to someone outside the country that can bring to bear some political and diplomatic influence and bring world attention to her husband's plight.
Luandia is a country in chaos, an environmental nightmare, it's people in appalling poverty, led by a madman, General Savior Karama. People that speak up against the government simply disappear, as we find out, to suffer some truly horrible fates. It is into this world, a terribly dangerous world, that Damon flies, driven both by his affection for Marissa but also because of a great admiration for Bobby and a hope that he can somehow help save both Marissa and her husband. The situation seems hopeless and Damon knows that he may well lose his own life in the attempt.
According to what I have read, the story is based in no small part on the actual history of Nigeria and a very disturbing story it is. The book starts off very well and, for example, an early scene of a massacre in a village where Bobby had just spoken, while horrifying, is extreme well written and moving. The description of the destruction of the delta and the destruction of the lifestyle of the tribal people living there is vivid. But sadly, the rest of the book is not as compelling. Once Bobby is arrested and Damon starts his investigation, the book seems to lapse into a series of clandestine meetings and a lot of rather pompous, preachy speeches with stilted dialogue. Also none of the characters are ever really fully developed enough to really make the reader care about them. As I have said before, for me, the appeal of fiction ultimately comes down to, in no small part, compelling characters.
The book bills itself as a thriller, a piece of fictional entertainment, even if it is based on true events and is trying to present a certain message. I don't mind a book with a message nor am I saying that I disagree with the message, but I am saying that I don't want to be hit over the head with it and be well aware that I am being hit over the head with it. If I am, I think the author has failed his primary task, which is to present us with a compelling story and with characters we care about.
A few wonderful, gripping scenes in what I found was ultimately a rather disappointing book.
Available From Amazon
for another opinion, check out...