Friday, February 25, 2011

A review of Times of the Supermen by Tope Apoola(part 2)

From chapter two, the narrator explored the story as seen from a child’s point of view. He talked about his childhood and the Nigerian society in which he grew.

A place where many who tried to live tomorrow became stuck....
A country where every old man was King and every young man listened....
A world of laughter and drama that foreigners would gladly drop their money to watch.

He also speaks about his family; the tension between his parents due to the effect of his father’s job at the Institute of Special Studies. As the narrator grows up the real aim of the story emerges, as we come across more characters and unprecedented events start unfolding. Rumours and legends abound. Series of hypotheses start to emerge, partly in credit to Chekhov, the Russian naturalist who delivers series of seminars and hypothesized multiple universes and that the Black hole must have been the gateway to our universe, from where ethereal beings must have sneaked in, eons ago. Governments support his researches and the Nigerian President even made policies along his eugenic ideas, declaring in a highly eloquent speech that government should reserve the right to birth control.

The narrator’s experience culminates into a multilateral government project to send 24 young African astronauts to space. The narrator was chosen as part of the team. Book one ends with an accident, the Mars crew lost their way and all contacts with the Earth. They braced themselves for a long sojourn on the red planet.

Book two explores another timeline preceding book one. Here, instead of the narrator, the reader sees the story through the eyes of the book’s important characters; Olabode, the troubled bachelor who was also the narrator’s uncle, Sola Aderomoke; the elegant, adventurous female journalist, Lord; the intellectual pervert who leads a profane organization, Olanusi; the brilliant but senile psychiatrist. Each of them has their own story and yet all their stories are interwoven. Their lives are interwoven in a manner that contributed to the story line.

Sola is Olabode’s girlfriend, Olanusi is the mythical lord’s former psychiatrist. When Olabode starts to have schizophrenic problems, he approached Olanusi who helped unravel the significance of his hallucinations. Olabode would dream of another life in another age. He did not just dream, he sees life as it was, 30,000 years ago. He experiences the war of the primates, a long time ago in prehistoric England, when the modern Homo sapiens triumphed over the primitive, brutish Neanderthals. In this myth and dream he met a La kenu who turned out to be Sola, of his modern world. The plot thickens as lord and his neo-nihilist movement, the human renaissance plan to take over the world and usher a new age of the supermen, where superhuman abilities through genetic alteration will spurn the evolution of a new breed of men. Is there a grand conspiracy by the ancient lords here, those beings who left those genomic signs on the ancient rocks several years before, or is this twist of events just a mere coincidence? The fate of the world nonetheless appears to have been sealed

In the beginning of Book 3 the narrator returns from Mars with the rest of the crew in the year 2287, meeting a very different world that has advanced scientifically and technologically.
The saga culminates in the ultimate confrontation and defeat of evil, epitomised by the human renaissance organization’s plan to create a new world order that will eliminate what it considers ordinary men, as opposed to supermen, which they hope to create.
‘A time comes, when the mere man will seem to the superman, an embarrassment’

The book takes some philosophical issues pertinent to the origin of man, and his continuous search for his identity. Several questions are raised and focus brought on lingering, controversial matters such as evolution, abortion, racism, and religion. It is intricate in its description of events. The style of writing is also good, with frequent flash-backs and rapid plot. The story timeline actually commences in book two, goes back to book 1 and finally ends in book 3. The language is fascinating, it is the rich, biblical English typical with writers like J.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis. The author did a good job of blending together, the various complex characters of the book. Yet the book is without flaw. Spelling errors occur randomly on its pages. Atimes, the plot progresses two slowly and in such a complicated way that the reader may lose touch with the characters. The writer makes up for this in the rich dialogues embedded in the plot.
Altogether, I will say this is one of the most interesting Nigerian novels I’ve read. The theme and the plot have a way of captivating a reader’s interest in a way that one doesn’t get released until he reads to the end. It is expected that controversy will arise concerning the intricate issues raised by the book and some readers may find themselves averse to the opinions of the narrator. Tope Apoola deserves some commendation for putting forward this brilliant debut.

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