In the Sudan less than one hundred years ago, spears triumphed over Remington rifles and even machine guns, at least for a while."" This is the story of a native uprising, led by a man born Mohammed Ahmed but known as El Mahdi, the messiah, who seized the Sudan from the English. El Mahdi, with his twin program of hating the foreigner and pursuing ""the Way,"" united the Sudanese and created the first independent African nation. Author Farwell follows his rise, charts the English moves against him suspended when Gordon fell at Khartoum. The Mahdi dead, the Khalifa Abdullahi ruled during the long hiatus which found three Europeans in extraordinary duress as prisoners: Rudolf Slatin, a soldier, who became the Khalifa's personal slave; Joseph Orwalder, a priest; and Charles Neufeld, a merchant whose defiance kept him in chains for ten years. Their experiences form the main section of the book and a final one deals with the reconquest of the Sudan under Kitchener, while an epilogue covers its government up to today under the rule of the Mahdi's grandson... Regardless of Mr. Farwell's disclaimer of the characteristic ""vagueness"" of the Sudan and its history, there is nothing vague about his command of military fact and of character--his portrait of Gordon is incisive... Another superior job by the author of The Man Who Presumed and Burton.