I received a review copy of the book via Booktasters.
Circumstances combines science-fiction and adventure but essentially is a comment on a number of issues that plague the world today and the state of human affairs; one could even say, it is a critical look into these issues in the guise of fiction, but also delivers a message of hope for human beings.
Our story follows Gold Coast Boy from Ghana (we only learn his real name later in the story, but this is what he goes by) whose childhood friend Ibrahim was deported with his family back to Nigeria where they belonged due to political turmoil and blame-games. The world where they live has places familiar to the current world we live in (in fact, the same), but is possibly sometime in the future, so the state of things is some notches worse than the present—there is a bio civil war of sorts in progress, and the masks, sanitizers and PPE suits are in use (as now); but life (and politics) continue alongside.
Gold Coast Boy begins his journey in Chimeric, a vehicle he has created that can travel on land and sea (I make it sound simpler than it is in its description) with some other futuristic equipment. He travels to various parts of the world, starting with other parts of Africa, London, India (I enjoyed the bits about India where Gold Coast Boy travels mainly in the south of the country), and finally the United States, all the while searching for his friend or any news of him. On the journey he turns to many for help—while some do turn out to be genuine and lend a hand, others (perhaps, most) are simply out to take advantage. But his journey doesn’t quite involve travelling from one place to another and looking alone; along the way, he finds jobs, visits universities and institutions of learning, and falls in love and gets married as well, besides falling into adventures.
This was an interesting and very different read, though at the end, I’m not very sure how to analyse or rate this.
I think the author does go into a number of issues that are relevant in today’s world—the debate on biotechnology and GM foods for instance on which he draws support from religion and science, stem cell research, and related aspects on which he feels (speaking through Gold Coast Boy and his father) that it isn’t the science itself that is problematic but how unscrupulous persons are putting it to use, or misuse.
And speaking of unscrupulous persons, they, or rather, human failings too are one aspect that the book looks at—people only out to take advantage, make a quick buck—of course, lying or deceiving to get it. Gold Coast Boy runs into several such, but he doesn’t let them deter him, or steer him down the wrong path for long. He does also meet many who genuinely care and wish to help, and who represent as he does, hope, for humanity cannot be entirely lost if there are some who are compassionate and caring among them.
There is also discussion of culture, of indigenous communities, the pros and cons of online education, misrepresentations of the so-called ‘third-world’ in Western media (highlighting poverty and squalor alone), and also of politics. Politics and state agencies in this world have not changed and are characterised by corruption and displays of power (and indeed furthering of their own interests rather than the people they are supposed to be there for) as Gold Coast Boy finds the hard way.
Communication, or more specifically speaking someone’s language helps—language or even gestures may find their way to people’s hearts.
As for the story, the plot itself is a very basic one, a young man out on a journey to find his friend and having adventures along the way—where it is the journey and its events that are of importance. While I didn’t have complaints with the writing overall (though it is different from ordinary fiction), I did feel that in some of the discussion like the one at the beginning where Gold Coast Boy discusses biotechnology with his family, the dialogue felt like more of an academic discussion than a conversation. Also sometimes, some of the terminology etc. (science) felt too heavy for a work of fiction.
Overall a book that touches on a wide range of issues relevant to our world, and gives one plenty to think about which I appreciated, but one I am still struggling with in terms of how I would rate it as a work of fiction. 3.25 stars.
(This book is a sequel to a previous story by the author, but one can read it on its own with minimal confusion; I haven’t read the first part).