In the oil-rich and environmentally devastated Nigerian Delta, a British oil executive's wife has been kidnapped. Two journalists - a young upstart, Rufus, and a once-great, now disillusioned veteran, Zaq - are sent to find her.
In a story rich with atmosphere and taut with suspense, Oil on Water explores the conflict between idealism and cynical disillusionment in a journey full of danger and unintended consequences. As Rufus and Zaq navigate polluted rivers flanked by exploded and dormant oil wells, they must contend with the brutality of both government soldiers and militants. Assailed by irresolvable versions of the "truth" about the woman's disappearance, dependent on the kindness of strangers of unknowable loyalties, their journalistic objectivity will prove unsustainable, but other values might yet salvage their human dignity.
©2011 Helon Habila (P)2011 Dreamscape Media, LLC
"A cinematic adventure and a remarkably tense race against the clock…rendered with insight and sensitivity, but also an unsparing sense of irony; indeed, it’s a credit to Habila’s storytelling that his mournful vision of the world never eclipses its fragile beauty, or its humanity." (Publishers Weekly)
"In a beautiful, almost cinematic style, Habila moves back and forth in time to tell a story swathed in the cynicism of modern global development and the mysteries of human longing." (Booklist)
"[R]eaders will find much to appreciate here." (Library Journal)
Helon Habila is a favorite African novelist and Nigerian writer for me at this time. Oil on Water follows Waiting for an Angel about life under Abacha in the 1990s and Measuring Time following the lives of twin brothers in West Africa. I follow Habila because in the 1990s I worked for Nigerians venturing to the Delta Region, Lagos, and Port Hacourt and environs where this story takes place. I saw the oil industry up close there and I find the region, people, and history very interesting. Oil on Water is a fictional trip into the Niger Delta related through the eyes and voice of a young Nigerian journalist and photographer. The story is one about misuse of pristine lands, but in this novel there is plenty of blame to go around. The reporter tells how villages have changed as a result of oil exploration. Along the way he comes to report on a kidnapping which puts him into contact with rebel factions and, well, you will have to read the novel. Rich descriptions, subplots, and characters make this novel well worthwhile. Richard Allen reads well and picks up the Nigerian pronounciation well.
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