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THE ABSOLUTENESS AND ABSURDITY OF POWER IN ALEXANDER OCHOGWU’S SCARLET

The book is a fantasy set in Kenya that explores power struggle and the frailty of man and in some cases divinity. The book focuses on so many characters but each character is a reflection of another character which brings the concept of reincarnation to the fore. Though the reader concentrates on the family squabble between Otu and Seku, the book navigates different time spectrums and is set in the metaphysical and physical worlds.

Seku as a young boy is killed by his brother and lover, Otu and Denka respectively. He is however whisked away by Ngai through a white horse and basically stays in the realms of the gods till Ngai grants him authority to go back to Under the Sky and bring normalcy to the cruel reign of the Anote who is actually Otu. When Seku discovers Otu is the one who is Anote (King) he takes his own pound of flesh.

The story is engaging and quite imaginative. It explores deep issues that affects humanity generally despite its setting within the African space. It explores on a wide level, the absoluteness and the absurdity of power in African leadership. Africa has been plagued with very terrible dictators and leaders that has made the continent a place where suffering has chosen its residence. It is no longer news that the problem of Africa as a continent is in bad leadership; leadership that thrives on fear, propaganda and manipulation. Its absoluteness lies in the inability of people to successfully challenge bad leadership and its absurdity is the way the leaders use power for their own advantage coupled with the fact that the same old leaders come back with different promises to do better only to do worse.

Ochogwu’s use of the metaphysical also lends credence to the Africa’s undying loyalties to supreme beings and their need for some divine protection. It would also be ironic that every ‘messiah’ sent by Ngai to help the people turn out to despots. Maybe this points to the fact that Supreme beings may not be the solution to the myriad of problems Africa faces. But whatever the case, the story shows the constant recycling of leaders, from one despot to another. Leaders who also fight themselves just so they can hold the seat of power without any genuine interest in the welfare of the people.

However, the book still speaks on other themes like sibling rivalry, family squabbles, vengeance, betrayals etc. This book has a lot of vivid images that lets your imagination run wild. This book is also a welcome addition to the growing African fantasy genre but the author needs to build the characters more so that readers can identify with their strengths and weaknesses. The book needs more in terms of depth as the book speaks on deep issues that touch on the frailty of human nature.  The book will do well in letting the story move without the author trying hard to control the outcomes. If the characters are allowed to grow and negotiate their feelings and relationships, the story might do a lot better.

The time and spacial differences can be properly constructed and managed so that the reader understands how the story moves from one event to the next. I found that difficult to negotiate. Due to the peculiarity of the novel’s genre and style, these issues must be addressed. Also the characters are many and the reader has to remember who is who when a strange name comes up.  The reincarnation concept is beautiful as it is an African flavour to spice up the story but it is not as clear to the reader that it was what occurred with Seku or Rukumi.

In all, it is a good story and the author should be commended for mixing mythology, folktales and fiction to come out with a good story that will leave readers simply in awe.

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