The Last Savanna by Mike Bond offers many perspectives through an unusual storyline, which includes the point of views of Somali poachers, Commandos, and the animals that are hunted. Ian Macadam, a former SAS officer, is asked by one of his longtime friends to join a dangerous mission. What makes this decision hard for Macadam is that his wife, Dottie, who is a struggling alcoholic, threatens to leave for her home in London if he goes. On the other hand, his friend has saved his life more than once, which makes Macadam feel obligated to go on the life-threatening mission. After lots of personal reflection, Macadam decides to do just that.
The story is told from the perspective of two groups: the Somali poachers who are doing whatever they can to survive and a group of Commandos who are out to kill the illegal poachers. The groups see one another as the enemy. The book begins with some factual evidence and slowly progresses into a full-on narrative. At times, the story is incredibly dark as it describes the slaughtering of many animals and people. Aside from the two groups, there is a romantic subplot which focuses on Macadam and Rachel, an archaeologist and ex-lover. Mike Bond wants to educate his readers on the ongoing conflicts that exist among the African people and he does this by sharing dark moments and painting gruesome pictures.
However, at some points in the novel, it is difficult to understand what Mike Bond is trying to get across. Mike Bond has actually worked in Africa and is therefore well-versed on the topics at hand. However, he is not an elephant nor a tiger, and he is not a Somali poacher. Because of this, some risk exists when writing from these perspectives.
The start of the novel starts out as a traditional non-fiction piece as it includes factual information about Africa. In a friendly argument between Macadam and Nehemiah, Nehemiah explains, “Ten years ago Kenya had three hundred thousand elephants. Now we have five thousand. We had five thousand rhino. Now we have a few left, in chain-link enclosures protected by guards.” (68) This evidence provides the reader with clear, concise information that is simple to understand. It allowed me to see the issues taking place in Africa. As the novel continues, Mike Bond explains the troubles of Africa in a more creative style, making it harder for the reader to understand in an objective manner. This is something that bothered me throughout most of the novel.
Mike Bond makes use of extremely powerful descriptions of feelings within the novel to get his points across. This tactic increased my interest and even left me jaw-dropped a handful of times. His word choice is very powerful. At some points it felt as if I were actually there. At the end of a hunting scene midway through the book, the narrator describes the mood as, “In the smell of cordite and powder and blood, and in the sudden silence after the shooting, Warwar felt nauseous but empty, as if he had already thrown up everything.” (106) This particular excerpt shows how Mike Bond takes emotions to the next level. Instead of bleakly saying, “felt nauseous,” he makes the mood that much more powerful, “felt nauseous but empty, as if he had already thrown up everything.” Mike Bond’s creativity with emotions persists throughout the book and makes the story much more enjoyable.
This particular novel is the most creative, artistic non-fiction piece I have read to date. Thus, it was a very interesting read. The beginning of the novel provided me with some hard facts that allowed me to understand the “facts and figures” aspect of the issues in Africa. As the novel progressed, Mike Bond shifted his style; less facts and more emotions. This provided me with an emotional understanding of the problems taking place in Africa which is just as important as the factual knowledge. “Africa is a fever. For Africa there’s no chloroquine. No matter if you leave it, it’s engraved in your blood.” (56)