Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rare Earth: Book Review

(This will be the first of two book reviews this week, since I am privileged to review both of Davis Bunn’s newly released novels, Rare Earth and Hidden in Dreams. Check back Wednesday for my review of Hidden in Dreams!)


Africa is alive…barely.

Marc Royce, former Baltimore accountant, arrives in Kenya with a new job title—American relief worker, carrying supplies to a refugee camp near Kitale. His first view of his new job? An image of death.

A drought devastates the land, a volcanic eruption coats villages with ash like snow, and vultures move in for the spoils. Under the ash and the fear, however, Marc finds that the people of Africa—and the land itself—are still vibrant with life. Then Marc realizes that some of the disasters are man-made, and not all of the displaced refugees should be refugees.

And so Marc finds he has yet another job, with love and death waiting in the wings as he searches through the African dust for answers to his questions.

I would rate Davis Bunn’s action novel Rare Earth four stars out of five for an intriguing story, amazing setting, but some choppy opening scenes. The book continues Marc Royce’s story from the 2011 novel Lion of Babylon, moving his work from war-torn Iraq to disaster-plagued Africa. I haven’t read the first book in the series, but Rare Earth is written as a stand-alone story, and I had no problem picking up the story. I did struggle initially to figure out what Marc’s real mission in Africa meant, beyond the big clue in the title. By the book’s mid-point, however, I was ready to stay up late to finish the story.

Marc’s challenges include the land itself, as well as many of the people he meets along the way, from the UN workers and private contractors who bet on his chances of survival, to the African pastor Charles and the Israeli nurse Kitra who should be helping him in his search, but raise questions of their own. The characters themselves develop a little through the course of the story, and I wasn’t much surprised by the book’s ending, but I enjoyed the journey all the same—Africa feels real in this book, and it is an amazing, vibrant encounter.

I would recommend this book for teens and adults, and especially anyone who likes faith-based action stories.

For more information, you can check out Davis Bunn's website at www.davisbunn.com, or read the first three chapters of Rare Earth here.

[My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book I received. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.]


Bonus Q & A from Davis Bunn:

What type of research did you do for this series?
I worked in Africa for four years early in my adult life. I was not a believer at that time. I came to faith four years later. I taught in Kenya last year, the first time I had been back to sub-Sahara Africa in almost twenty years. Going back to Africa now, as a believer, has opened my eyes to many things. Seeing with the compassion of sharing faith and seeking to serve means that I do not merely observe, I share with them. I hope this comes across in my story.
Research is a huge component of all of my stories. But with Lion of Babylon and Rare Earth, the situation was quite different. In both these Royce novels, I was combining knowledge gained in my previous business life with the perspective gained from my walk in faith. It has been quite a fulfilling experience, personally, to revisit these lands and see them through the eyes of our compassionate God.

What was your favorite scene to write in Rare Earth?
It is very rare that a first scene holds such a powerful connection for me. Generally it is one where there is a revelation between characters, or a defining moment when a person’s eyes are truly opened to the eternal for the first time.
But in Rare Earth, when I shut my eyes and envision the story, it is that first scene that blazes into light. Travelling on the UN chopper from Nairobi, watching the volcano take shape upon the horizon. Marc Royce has been sent out there to fail. And to die. I really am pleased with that opening sequence.

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