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What Comes From The Earth would not have been my first choice based purely on my own personal genre preferences. However, had I not read it, I would have missed out on a fascinating look into a post-apartheid South African mining community with complex characters and a well driven plot featuring corruption, power struggles, violence and sacrifice.
What Comes of the Earth is an engaging read, a story that moves quickly and easily forward, and characters so alive you can practically hear them breathing between the pages. The protagonist, Sithi, is immediately relatable and sympathetic. His plight throughout the story only adds more personal tension for the reader as he sinks deeper and deeper into the dark intrigue and violence surrounding him. His reactions are very human, despite being often wrong or cowardly, and in that I think he makes a very excellent protagonist.
The side characters were all equally as impressive in their range and realism, particularly Ade and Baako, but more than these –excellent as they were- I’d like to specifically make mention of Boipelo. My concern for her came from a place of experience in the land of books, as her brief, early appearances lay a large question mark in my mind as to her role in the story. She is what you might consider at first glance the typical damsel in distress; a beautiful, strong, wilful female character surrounded by pages and pages of men. I groaned inwardly at the potential for her to suffer great violence in order to further Sithi’s own narrative, and expected her fate to be that of a cowed and hog-tied prize for our hero at the end of the book.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn’t her fate at all, and in fact she was afforded great courtesy, humanity, and dignity as I rarely see male writers offer to the ladies in their work. Well done, Kris. Very well done!
The style of writing is very impressive, as expected, the same sharp wit and momentum I have come to expect from the author, as well as a very lean and tight narrative. There isn’t a single scrap of fat in this story, nor any of the preening, self-indulgence that can often be all too frequent in this genre, and that alone makes it an incredibly enjoyable read.
Kris has successfully taken a very difficult setting and written it with grace and understanding, tackling themes of violence with respect, and pitted it against bright, cunning, and even brutal characters who, as a reader, I became incredibly invested in as the story progressed to its climax.
I enjoyed What Comes of the Earth immensely, and I’ll be certain to pick up more work by Kris Holt very soon!
I have two confessions to make. Firstly, I dislike reading on a Kindle. I like to hold a book, turn its pages, save my place with a bookmark. Yes, and hear its thud on the floor if I nod off. Books are tactile, reading is not something I want consigned to the electronic side of my life. Secondly, Kris Holt is a friend of mine. So, I had to bite the bullet over the Kindle issue and buy What Comes From The Earth. I'd been waiting for its publication for ages, I knew the basis of the plot (after all, it is an historical event), and I knew this type of story would appeal to me. All that remained was to see if Kris' writing style was to my taste (I've not read any of his other works). I need not have worried. Once started, I could not put the book down and polished it off in two long sessions (the average novel normally takes me a week or two to read). How will the naively-dedicated union rep Sethi deal with all that is thrown at him? The personal attributes of the main characters come from clever use of flashbacks to the boyhood years of Sethi and his policeman brother Bakki. This is a well-crafted political story, a parody of the unenviable side of all society, of a quality deserving of mainstream publication.
This is so far from my usual reading fare as to be ridiculous, but I'd seen the author mention What Comes From the Earth on Twitter and thought I'd try.
I'm glad I did. This is a tense, intelligent, fascinating story. The political climate is depicted in a way which filled me with tension and anticipation as I read. The interpersonal relationships are also well written, with richly layered, superbly observed characters woven through the tale.
The author has a gift for narrative and description and has written a thriller which should appeal to readers who want a challenging and absorbing read.