Fever by Deon Meyer

The Blurb On The Back:

One man with a dream.

One boy with a gun.

Once chance to rebuild the world.

Nico Storm and his father Willem drive a truck through a desolate land.  They are among the few in South Africa – and the world, as far as they know – to have survived a devastating virus.

Willem Storm, a thinker and a leader, has a vision for a new community rebuilt from the ruins.  And so Amanzi is formed of a disparate group of survivors: there’s Melinda Swanevelder, rescued from brutal thugs, Hennie Flaai, with his vital Cessna plane, Beryl Fortuin with her ragtag group of orphans and Domingo, the man with the tattooed hand.  And then there is Sofia Bergman, the most beautiful girl that Nico has ever seen, who changes everything.

As the community grows, so do the challenges it must face – not just from external attacks, but also from within.  And Nico will have his strength and loyalty tested to their limits as he undergoes an extraordinary rite of passage in this brand new world.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

13-year-old Nico Storm and his father Willem are survivors of a global pandemic that has cut down 95% of the world’s population.  Together they travel in a large truck around South Africa, searching for a place where they can set up a new community and invite others to join them.  Over the next four years, Nico will see their community – called Amanzi – grow and feel himself pulled between Willem’s ideas of democracy and community and the more basic views of a man called Domingo (who heads up Amanzi’s defence force and views humans as being little better than animals).  He will also witness the struggle between Amanzi’s internal factions and its fight to survive against roving gangs who want to plunder its resources and he will fall in love with another survivor called Sofia Bergman, a farmer’s daughter who wants nothing to do with him.  Now at the age of 47, Nico feels ready to tell his story and how the creation of Ananzi led to his father’s murder …

Deon Meyer’s post-apocalyptic novel (translated from Afrikaans by K. L. Seegers) is an epic coming-of-age tale set in South Africa about Nico who’s torn between two fathers (Willem and Domingo) and although the murder device doesn’t really come off due to an anti-climatic pay-off and the framing device means that Nico is never in jeopardy, the story is well-researched, believable and had me completely engrossed from start to finish.

I was completely gripped by Nico’s feelings towards both his dad and Domingo and Meyer does very well at establishing the role each man plays in his life and how that shifts as events unfold – especially as Meyer frames it in the context of masculinity and traditional notions of what it means to be a man in a new and brutal world.  Meyer also does well in showing Nico growing up and I believed in the hard choices he’s forced to make in this post apocalyptic world (which interested me a great deal because of the South African setting – something that you don’t see often in this kind of book).

I thoroughly enjoyed the evolution of Amanzi, especially the politics as factions emerge on the ruling committee and the ambitious pastor, Nkosi Sebego seeks to challenge Willem’s authority (although I think the final pay-off there was a little disappointing).  I could have done with some more female characters (there’s a recurring notion of women being taken as sex slaves by the marauding gangs) but Sofia is strongly drawn enough to rise above being a mere love interest and I also liked Birdy (a physicist who gets Amanzi’s electric on line and who refuses to date Domingo).  I did wish that there was more from the main antagonists – the KTM gang – not least because they had a ruthless black female leader, which would have been an interesting counterpoint to Willem.

The novel’s framed around the idea of Nico recounting the events leading to his father’s murder and although that does create a sense of tension that runs throughout the book, the pay-off to it wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped for given the previous events and although Meyer seemed to be going for a tragedy, it did feel anti-climactic.  Also the fact that Nico is writing this 30 years later meant that I was never worried when he got into peril.

Meyer has clearly done a lot of research for this book and there’s an interesting bibliography at the back for anyone who wants to read more.  There’s also a glossary of Afrikaans words, which is helpful (although I didn’t personally need it given the context was usually clear).

Despite its faults, this book had me grabbed from beginning to end and I will definitely check out Meyer’s other work.

FEVER was released in the United Kingdom on 15th June 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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