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Giles Foden
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Zanzibar
hard cover
390 pages
Insightfull Thriller on the very topical issue of terrorism. An author's note prefacing Giles Foden's third novel avers that it was largely written before the attacks on America of 11 September last year.

Based around the bombing of US embassies in Africa in August 1998, specifically that in Dar-es-Salaam, Zanzibar offers not only an excellent thriller but also some though provoking insights into the minds and reasonings of people on both sides of the war against terrorism.

With a great sense for place and history this thriller lends depth and perspective to a well balanced take on the darker doings of the modern mind.

It does take some persistence on the part of the reader to get into it however, as it starts of rather lacklustre. The first hundered pages or so are spent (waste..?) getting to know an embittered ex-CIA maverick with one arm, a young US marine biologist searching for some purpose to his life, a young Arab driven to extremism by the discovery of his parents' mysteriously butchered bodies, and a young graduate on her first assigment abroad as a US State Department ingenue.

There's surprisingly little connecting the whole tale to the island the book gets it's title from, Zanzibar. Apart from some atmospheric descriptions it could really have taken place anywhere. Perhaps the mythical connatations linked to the island are enough of an excuse to use it's name as the title for this book.. Either way the way it's portrayed in this novel certain don't do any harm to it's magical aura..

As per usual there's the obligatory Boy meets girl bussines, but it's not a mayor part of the story as such, and perhaps not necessarily with the expected results.

Foden does not shrink from pathological violence, nor from the anguished workings of the human heart. His female character is particularly well desribed, as are the insights into why a religious fundamentalist might be turned into an insensate killer.

Foden surely knows how to use individual lives to dramatise and explain external events that impact on us all. Which is one way of defining the purpose of high-minded but very compelling fiction. Although somewhat slow to start the rest more than makes up for it. There's a good balance between writing a good thriller and providing some intelligent insights into how people's lives are occuring around them. Certainly Recommended!
8/10
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