Violence viciously erupts at intervals throughout Gavin Chait’s Nigerian-set novel, which sees a Skyman fall to Earth. Chait excels at capturing the life of the agricultural community who exist beside militia and extremists.
Samara has travelled from space to end ties between his world of Achenia and the USA. When his task ends in a ferocious brawl, he takes refuge in the village of Ewuru. The inhabitants are in awe of his ways, his form and the way in which he weaves a good yarn, and when he meets the village leader Joshua, his wife Esther and other villagers Daniel, Abishai, Gideon and Miriam, they agree to help him on his dangerous mission home.
Descriptions of the characters’ fear and courage are richly drawn, yet we never really get to know any of them too intimately, which makes it difficult to become fully engaged in their quest. He’s more interested in the bigger picture, with discussions about trade disputes, unlawful incarceration and the difficulties involved in the struggle for independence. We meet warlords who have long since forgotten their humanity, and aliens who are ruled by what they consider an unbiased justice system.
Despite all the unnerving violent acts, Chait never really delves deep enough into the psychology of brutality. He draws inspiration from modern-day atrocities, such as acts of terrorism and retaliatory torture tactics that may make you feel sick to your stomach, and he also magnificently mulls over the problems of achieving a just and fair society.
Chait has crafted a smart, idea-driven novel, but at times the sheer volume of notions it tackles makes it inaccessible. There’s also a strange disconnect between the sumptuous description of the West African backdrop and the basic dialogue that breaks the atmosphere from time to time. Nevertheless, this is still a promising and ambitious debut.