Friday, January 17, 2014

Contemporary Fiction: The Last Savanna by Mike Bond

As part of the blog tour for Mike Bond's latest novel, I was sent a copy of The Last Savanna for review. Just a month ago I covered Bond's Saving Paradise, a thriller set in Hawaii that followed a man as he attempted to uncover the truth behind a reporter's death, while keeping himself alive in the process. Now, in The Last Savanna, we follow a man as he hunts down poachers in modern day Africa.

The Situation: Ian MacAdam reluctantly agrees to help a friend track ivory poachers who are killing the last of Africa's elephants. To complicate matters, his wife has finally decided to leave him and return to London, something she has been wanting to do for a long time now, and he knows it. MacAdam also wonders about his own place on the dark continent, but knows he could never leave it as he loves it too much. So he sets out with his friend Nehemiah as they seek to save yet another African species that is in danger of being wiped out completely.

The Problem: As if his wife leaving him and the inherent danger that he knows comes with hunting poachers wasn't enough, MacAdam also finds out that the poachers have kidnapped Rebecca, a young archeologist with whom MacAdam once had a love affair. Now, MacAdam not only has Africa's elephants to save, but what could potentially have been the love of his life as well. And as his team dwindles in numbers and the poachers head towards borders that would make things even more difficult than they already are, MacAdam realizes time is just one of the many things that is no longer on his side.

Genre, Themes, History: Like Bond's other books, The Last Savanna has been categorized as an existential thriller. First and foremost seems to be the theme of survival. The elephants are trying to survive, as are the poachers, and Mike's team, not to mention the other animals in the African wilderness, which includes lions, hyenas, camels, etc. Pretty much every character spends a great amount of time incredibly thirsty, searching for water, while simultaneously looking over their shoulder for potential threats. Bond begins the book by showing how practically every being in the African wilderness is being hunted by something bigger and stronger, and naturally, the trail ends with human beings. The book also switches points of view between MacAdam, Rebecca, and a Somali poacher named Warwar. The story is based Bond's own experiences pursuing elephant poachers, and the very real dangers that come with such a job.

My Verdict: I said the same thing concerning Bond's Saving Paradise, but I'm going to say it again here anyway: this book is just not for me. The book is incredibly well-written and Bond describes the African setting beautifully, but the actual plot behind the story is just not something I would normally be drawn to. The characters, while well-rounded enough, just weren't relatable to me, and I had a hard time caring about what happened to them, mostly because none of them were great people. I found myself actually kind of hoping they would all meet their own demise. It felt like there was no hero, although I am fairly certain that is what MacAdam was supposed to be. And something about the native African being the ruthless poacher, killer, and kidnapper just didn't sit right with me.

Favorite Moment: When MacAdam decided to spare the lives of poachers he managed to capture, even if it meant they would just be executed by the government a few days later.

Favorite Character: As I said, I didn't care for any of them, so I couldn't pick a favorite. 

Recommended Reading: I actually liked Bond's Saving Paradise much better. Maybe it was the setting, or the fact that the story was more of a mystery and thriller as opposed to just a thriller, but I recommend it if The Last Savanna is your kind of book.

Interested in winning an Adventure/Survival Kit as part of The Last Savanna blog tour? Email with the title of the first book to appear in the blog (hint: the post is dated January 13, 2012) and you'll have a chance to win. The Adventure/Survival Kit includes a copy of The Last Savannah by Mike Bond, camping items, water purification tablets, energy bars, and much more. Good luck! 

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