Perhaps some of my friends and fellow bibliophiles remember a tag I participated in earlier this year. One of my questions on the tag was "what are three benefits to modern fiction?"
"Because they are set during current events."
The person who thought up that answer--two people, actually--really answered brilliantly.
Think about it: Dickens wrote modern fiction. Gaskell wrote modern fiction. Gene Stratton-Porter wrote modern fiction. John Buchan wrote modern fiction. Oh, granted, it's old and historical to us, but to them it was real and current. Real historical fiction is the stuff of George MacDonald and H. Rider Haggard--but Dickens and Doyle were London Times Bestsellers. (ahem!)
Gives pause for thought, doesn't it?
I enjoy a piece of current fiction every once in a while. Granted, I haven't found many, but every once in a while I find a gem.
Bunn is a conundrum in the writing world. He's one of the authors that I've watched grow in his writing talent, and seen improve greatly. Once he found that his genre was political thrillers rather than modern romances, he really took off, and I was intrigued to check him out further. He's travelled all over the world, so he really knows the places he writes about. And he's gone from laying the emotions all out on the table (i.e. Hullo--here's a girl. Let's have a wedding!) to making his love interests much more subtle and realistic. I don't like all his books, but here and there I find one worth a re-read. Rare Earth was one of them.
A Word Before I Begin
Rare Earth is the sequel to Lion of Babylon, which I read, enjoyed, and recommend. While both stories can stand alone, they are best read in sequence.
Bunn writes in fast-action style rather than slow psychological revelations. He's a fun read to knock out in a entire day, and especially good when one needs something lighter to read after just finishing Dicken's Bleak House. In other words, while I wouldn't center my whole reading diet around Davis Bunn's style, he's a nice filler read to bridge the gap between one heavy read and another.
Marc Royce has returned from Baghdad with purpose. (Lion of Babylon) He's not quite sure where his life is headed, but now that he has healed from the passing of his wife, he has come to a crossroads. Is he ready to move on? Can he take the risk of committing again, and watching part of his life slip away from his control? He's not sure.
But he's tired of being a bookkeeper in an official Washington corporation, and something needs to happen soon.
Then his employer, Ambassador Walton, calls him to a secret meeting with a UN official, to talk about a dangerous situation in Kenya. With the country fractured by recent volcano eruptions, and tribes trapped in refugee camps, the opportunity for corruption and bribe is begging to be taken. An independent UN security provider, Lodestone Associates, has increased turnover tenfold in ten months, and no-one understands why.On top of that, one Israeli doctor, Serge Korban, has gone missing from a refugee camp. With Lodestone security forces on the ground in Kenya, and profit pouring in to their company, top Washington diplomats suspect illegal operations going on. But they have no idea what or why. So they send in trained and talented Agent Royce to discover what's really going on. And to do that, they find him a place in the Lodestone company.
When he arrives at the Kenyan Refugee camp where Serge Korban worked, he meets Korban's sister Kitra, a nurse who worked with her brother among the suffering Africans. She is convinced that Lodestone is behind her brother's disappearance, and will have nothing to do with Marc when she finds he is working from this same company. But with his love of Christ and quiet diplomacy, he gradually restores order to the chaotic mass of people, and wins the respect of the camp elders. Then he makes Kitra tell him what she knows. With his job well executed, he catches the eye of the UN administrator of the district, Fredrick Uhuru, who promotes him to the position of making sure three camps are supplied with necessities instead of one. And he bases him in Nairobi instead of the refugee camp. The two men who transfer Marc to Nairobi are Lodestone employees, both seemingly good men, and giving indication that they can find the information that Marc needs.
With official permission from Walton, Marc lets Boyd Crowder and his aide in on his secret investigation. Together, they discover that something much bigger than kidnapping is going on. In Marc's investigations in Nairobi slums, tribe elders tell him of UN officials who evacuate whole camps and send them off of their tribal inheritance. The evacuations are in random places, and obviously taking place under fraudulent UN sanction.
Then Lodestone catches wind of his investigation, and transfers him immediately. He has 72 hours of leave to conclude his mission. It's not enough, and he buys a little more time with a fake passport.
Slowly the pieces pull together. But questions remain. Why did Kitra and Serge come to Africa? What is so valuable about the land these officials are seizing? Will Marc be able to rescue the kidnapped Israeli?
And what will he give to preserve a miracle amongst the African people?
You'll have to read Rare Earth to find out.
Bunn's plot is terse and concise, with better character development than you'll often find in the current writing market. Royce's inner struggles build up with good momentum and proper intensity, climaxing with a conclusion that is not cliche. I appreciate his character--thought there is light romantic attraction, it's not dripping with physical drives, and they have to love each other in actions and in truth.
Though Bunn's main protagonists are pretty much the same in their penchant for self-defense moves, they are likeable enough to draw you in to their adventure. Most of his plots are similar to each other, but the different countries and personalities give it the necessary variety. After all, each author has his fingerprint, and Dickens is pretty much the same too if you read enough of him.
Bunn's grammar leaves a little to be desired. He hasn't yet overcome the choppy sentences found in earlier works. But when I come away with a quotable line, I'm willing to compromise on a few incomplete phrases. After all "He just walked out with third-degree burns covering his entire ego" isn't something you run across every day.
Most of his characters are men, with a couple of female government employees here and there. While I would make the point that our society needs to return to the biblical roles of men and women, Bunn has a fair portrayal of what a man working in today's marketplace would face.
You may find a few phrases here and there that are influenced by politically correct ideas of politics and society, but nothing major. Bunn's central focus is on uniting divided cultures in the name of Jesus Christ, and his stories always put the main focus on the power of the cross.
He keeps me coming back, because he has more than I'll usually find in today's bestselling authors. Well-executed emotional conflict and male/female interests that are delicately implied rather than saturating the text are laudable parts of Rare Earth. It's a great book to relax with, and I do anticipate the sequel.
At least, I assume there will be one. I really need to find out what happens with...
But I'll let you read it for yourself. ;)
This book was provided to me for free by Bethany House blogger program. I was not compensated for this, or required to give a favorable opinion. I have given my honest opinion of this book in the above review.