Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nobody’s Slave ~ Tim Vicary

I really enjoyed this fictional account of survival and friendship between Tom (a young English sailor) and Madu (a young black slave) set amidst the back drop of Francis Drake’s third voyage to obtain slaves from Africa to sell to the Spaniards.

I feel that I have an affinity with Francis Drake as I originally hail from Plymouth in South Devon and, before his retirement from the Royal Navy, my late father was based at HMS Drake in Devonport and my wedding reception was held there too.  However, after reading this novel and Tim’s blog post Queen Elizabeth's Slave Trader my illusions about Francis Drake have been slightly shattered, though Tim does remind us that Drake was a man of his time and should not be judged too harshly.

Many of the events depicted in Nobody’s Slave actually happened, and I liked the way that we were shown the aspirations of Madu before his captivity, the manhood test required by his tribe and his desire to be accepted by his stern step father.  We see Madu as a human being with hopes and dreams and not as a commodity to be bought and sold.

Madu and Tom’s destinies become intertwined and their friendship, which begins on rocky ground, strengthens as fate reverses their fortunes.  This is a coming of age story for Madu and Tom, as well as a nautical adventure story, and a bit of a history lesson too.

The narration is straight forward and easy to read though (my only criticism) there were some scenes which would have benefitted from more descriptive writing to portray the intensity of the action taking place instead of keeping all the narration on an even keel.  But, overall, it was an enjoyable read.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

That Feeling I Love to Hate

Just lately I have been working my way through Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novels, and I mean they really are graphic!  Lots of blood, guts, gore, zombies and the merciless slaying of key characters.  It’s all hugely enjoyable (I often wonder if I need help) and, despite all the graphic images, it is currently my staple bed-time diet before sweet dreams.

But, enter one little factual book titled Zombies, A Field Guide to the Walking Dead by Dr Bob Curran and my bed time equilibrium has definitely been disturbed.  I barely read the first chapter last night when I felt that creeping feeling in the pit of my stomach that developed into a metallic prickling chill that ran up my spine to the back of my neck and down through my arms.  I love that feeling, but I hate that feeling!  I almost (but not quite) needed to sleep with the light on, however I retrieved my cat Tenshi from the lounge and placed her on my bed for security instead!  It was just a few paragraphs really, a story related by an Irishman about an event in his childhood, but it did the trick.

Quote: "As a boy, almost 80 years prior, he remembered his grandfather, who had been dead for less than a year, coming back to the house to sit at the fire and enjoy a pipe of tobacco, just as he had done in life.  This had occurred at Halloween, when the dead were traditionally expected to return".  

The old man further related that although his grandfather didn't (or couldn't) speak, he ate heartily with the family, and he remembered that he climbed onto the cadaver's knee and that the skin felt 'very cold'.  The cadaver was left to enjoy his pipe whilst the family went to bed and in the morning he had 'gone back to the tomb'.

Zombies, A Field Guide to the Walking Dead explores the origins of the zombie myth/legend/lore, whatever you like to call it, through the ages from Babylonian times to modern day Haiti, and whilst I don’t believe the Irishman’s tale (or perhaps I am afraid to), it certainly gave me that thrill which I have been searching for.

So, bring it on!