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Black Earth, White Bones

Nadine Isler



The temptation to add a bit of ‘dark and twisty’ (a la Meredith Grey) to this otherwise fantastic read was obviously too great for Chris Else. Beautiful setting, dynamic plot – but just a little too sinister for me.
Kiwi author Chris Else explains on his website: “When you are writing a book, expect the unexpected. Storylines can take off in unforeseen directions. Characters can develop traits or engage in seemingly trivial and innocent actions that have surprising consequences. In the case of Black Earth, White Bones, this was especially so.” This is apparent in the final product. The narrative reads like a story straining at the seams with ideas that simply don’t fit.
The story is set in the fictional pacific island of Ventiak, described so meticulously it feels real (go to www.ventiak.com for a travel guide – it even includes a guide to restaurants on the island!).
The protagonist, Kit Wallace, has lived on the top floor of the Royal Albert Hotel for far too long, drinking whisky and writing poetry. His tooth is a central topic (you’ll have to read it – I’m not giving anything away!) and he is forced to confront himself, and his beliefs, when he is offered a dodgy opportunity to defraud the Ventiakans of millions of dollars. He can no longer simply exist in his self-created vacuum and is forced into action.
The rest of the cast of misfits all have their own deep, dark issues; using a range of vices to subdue their misery; and are all eventually forced to confront their demons. One of the many themes struggling for attention in the story is the price we pay for our abuse of nature. All of the various parts of the story do eventually align, although they culminate in ‘The Rage’ – a periodic rampage of the island by enormous ants. It doesn’t get much more dark and twisty than that.