When Ive had a long day at work, I like to read big fat histories on World War I or the Civil War. The subject matter may be weighty, but it excites my passions. Thats when I pulled Wilbur Smiths Monsoon down off the sagging bookshelf that holds all my unread books. (In my defense, there are a lot of books in the world. I had randomly read one of his books, Triumph of the Sun, enjoyed it, and had picked up Monsoon on the advice of some Wilbur Smith fans. It should be noted that Monsoon is not the first book in the series. The plots are self-contained, and though I may be missing out on a bit of psychological shading, I feel confident expressing the notion that Smiths novels are not fueled by deep-seeded character traits. Monsoon tells the story of Hal Courtney, the hero of an earlier novel, Birds of Prey. This is a 600 page novel, plus change, and there are a lot of things going on in it. And in a book like this, moral worth correlates strongly to plot outcomes. If theres trouble, the main characters are likely to wriggle out. This is the kind of book I could read right before bed and never have to fight to put down. Smiths novels are punctuated by graphic, over-the-top violence, occasional sex (not nearly as graphic), and several scenes designed to be deliberately provocative (an adolescent boy gets circumcised; a woman is tortured by having packets of chili powder inserted into well you get the picture). The good Muslims dont have much agency, besides being helpful to the English characters. One thing Ive noticed in both the Smith novels Ive read is the effort that Smith has gone to in creating them. Im not likely to sit down and read Smiths entire series any time soon.
Rating: 4* of five The Book Report: Second chronologically in the Courtney family saga, Monsoon covers Hal Courtney and his sons' efforts to end the scourge of piracy plaguing the East India Company, and their inexorable, inevitable removal from an England too small and too meager to hold the family's talents, abilities, and personalities, to a colonial future in the Cape Colony. Their family dynamic, a violent and competitive and bitter one, is brought to several surprisingly exciting climaxes...it's not like one can't see the events coming, but Smith's ability to tell a tale is such that the inevitable feels like a shipwreck in progress.
That was one hell of a novel I just finished reading. I felt like I am too voyaging with them while reading word to word which was so eloquently presented.
I would have love to live my life as Tom Courtney, it must have been amazing.
Courtney has four sons from a few marriages: William, twins Tom and Guy, as well as Dorian. This leaves Tom and Dorian, who become the central characters in the novel and whose lives prove fundamental. Years pass and Dorian has become extremely acclimated to the Muslim way of life, which does not bode well when Tom Courtney returns to finish the mission on which Hal was originally sent. The battle of the twins over one woman foreshadows the storyline of Sean and Garrick Courtney in the first collection of novels, which will likely also play a role in future novels, should the child be raised in India under Guy's tutelage. The ties and animosity developed throughout this novel between Tom and Dorian will play an interesting role in upcoming novels, especially as they head to the African continent. Smith's trademark use of Africa as a backdrop also comes to pass in small part throughout the novel, which will soon develop into a major setting for future novels, as the Courtneys settle on the continent and begin making a name for themselves.
This is the followup novel to Birds of Prey which I read a couple of years ago. I'll be looking forward to reading more in this series and I would recommend Smith to anyone who likes adventure with their history.
Even just on its own this book is worth reading even if you haven't read Birds of Prey yet.
His other books include Those in Peril, River God, Warlock, The Seventh Scroll, and The Sunbird.