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Post apocalyptic thriller set in South Africa

15th June 2017

Fever by Deon Meyer – post apocalyptic thriller set in South Africa (translated from the Afrikaans by K L Seegers).

 

95% of the globe’s population has been wiped out by a deadly virus, and we are living in a post apocalyptic world. In South Africa, Willem Storm and his son 13 year old Nico survived. They are on the road looking for a safe place to live and, hopefully, to begin to build a new community. They come to Vanderkloof – a settlement by the dam of the same name on the Orange River, and decide to make it home. Some come to join them and some they go out to recruit. There is ‘Birdy’ Canary – an electrical engineer who hopes to get the generator working again, Nero ‘Lucky’ Dlamini, a psychologist from Johannesburg, Nkosi Sebego, a fire brand pastor, Hennie Fly, a pilot with an old (but invaluable) Cessna aircraft – and Domingo, a mysterious addition who clearly has a military background and whose expertise and experience is vital to fight off the marauding gangs that plague the country. Thousands join them… bakers, bricklayers – all the trades you need to build a viable community. They substitute petrol with bio-diesel to power their vehicles. They re-christen the settlement Amanzi (the Zulu and Xhosa word for water).

The story is about survival, comradeship, shared hardships and shared values. These are not the values of much of our modern society. Anonymous Facebook friendships are replaced by real friendships. People don’t ignore people they don’t know begging on street corners – because everyone knows everyone, and because there are no beggars in the communal society that is created. It is a far cry from where we are today. It is a simple and non-complicated life. But it is also a life fraught with danger – what has been created in Amanzi is far too tempting for the lawless people out there on the plains. The battles for survival are often military ones. Death defending the settlement becomes a way of life.

So far, so very good. I would, though, have been tempted to leave the story there (or thereabouts). Without giving a spoiler, the last chapters, and the denouement, do not add to the epic tale. In my view, they detract from what is the essence of the book – by making it more of a crime thriller than an essay in survivalist skills and community living.

That, though, is perhaps hardly surprising. Deon Meyer is a pre-eminent writer of modern day thrillers set in South Africa. He may have been tempted to stray into pastures familiar. Notwithstanding, Fever is a extremely well written and well thought through book. It is absorbing and thought provoking. The bibliography at the end, and the acknowledgments, show us just how well and carefully researched the whole project was. All 532 pages in the edition I read flew by.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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