A desperate villager’s quest to become Zimbabwe’s newest executioner kicks off this intriguing debut horror novel involving man-eating plants, organ harvesting and other uncanny oddities.
Abel Muranda is a devoted family man determined to do whatever it takes to feed his starving rural family, even if it means journeying far into the big city on foot in the hope of landing a job as the government’s hangman. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s ruling elite is in an uproar because someone has created a batch of carnivorous flame lilies capable of digging up the dead—and the government’s ghastly secrets, as the plants have been unearthing unmarked graves. Nothing is as it seems in Chiveneko’s science-fiction–tinged tale, which introduces readers to a lethal cast of bad guys and bad girls with tangled motivations. One intriguing subplot follows a man charged with creating a special gallows to be used for executions; he uses discarded weapons of war as his raw materials and would rather spend time cuddling up to his cold, metallic creation than to his warm, loving wife. At nearly 500 pages, this intricately woven novel is a disconcerting parable exploded to epic proportions. The author renders its many characters, from the mad genius responsible for the impending botanical apocalypse, to the prostitute/undercover operative who falls in love with Abel, to the seemingly simple Abel himself, with frightening subtlety and detail. One member of the elite, called Doll Eyes, is described as follows: “Planted into the lower part of his skull was a jaw of menacing proportions. If someone ever tried to mug him at gunpoint, all he had to do was clench it. This alone would demoralize the robber.” The boughs of this arboreal shocker threaten to creak under the weight of its ever-mounting plot, but they never quite crack. Instead, readers are left wondering just how deep the roots go.
A thought-provoking, singularly strange and absorbing novel.