KIRKUS Review 2/12: An epoch-spanning thriller that’s part academic mystery and part historical fantasy. This time-traversing story opens in 11,000 B.C. with a first-person tale rendered in high archaic fashion but with clear psychological self-awareness. Ayuba, a clansman shepherd from a time just outside of recorded history, relates the terrible destruction of his family and his herd. Ayuba’s story continues throughout, but it is the discovery of this man’s poem (the oldest writing in the world) that incites the events in 2004. Flashing forward 13,000 years to an Iraqi academic’s bedroom, the novel’s modern thriller-style plot begins. Dr. Elman Darshi is trying to convince his wife that Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist agents are not in fact coming for them in the night. The sudden jump in time and tone is remarkably compelling rather than jarring and gives this novel its unique literary fascination. Ancient tablets containing the Song of Ayuba lead to information that is not only threatening to Hussein’s small empire of megalomania, but to established history and cultural orthodoxy. After Darshi is eliminated for his years of research and toil, his daughter, Alex, picks up the torch and reads the translation to the world on satellite television. The song itself is yet another layer in the literary quality of the novel and works as the novel’s philosophical centerpiece. The poem is lyrical, mystical and shockingly secular—this in particular causes a great deal of controversy once the poem is rendered for the Arabic-speaking world. Ayuba’s narrative is essentially a fantastic hero story. After the dissolution of his people, he travels into the Beyond relating his experiences and the strange encounters of a world lost to history. Schwartz deftly weaves the romantic experiences of a pre-historical shepherd into an extended homily that punctuates the trials of the Middle East as the contemporary narrative plunges along in the best page-turner fashion. Not only linked well rhetorically, the prose here is something to behold and is evocative without sacrificing concision, an absolute demand of the thriller genre. Many readers will be convinced that a literary discovery of this magnitude really might change the course of contemporary politics, so confident and convincing is the vision of the novel. A wonderfully written, provocative novel that utilizes two distinct genres to promote progressive cultural messages.
About John M. Schwartz
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Published August 16, 2011
by JOSS International Inc..
Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure.