"The Cold War sets the stage for various proxy wars, nationalist movements, and covert missions across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Out of the tumult will emerge a warrior. Though his heart is in the right place, he knows that he must make a tough decision that will determine his fate-and the fate of generations to come."
Welcome to the world of Eteka: Rise of the Imamba: a powerful set of connected stories that spans two timelines: the Cold War tensions of the 1950s and the post-Cold War era of the 1990s. Eteka: Rise of the Imamba is a dark, action packed thriller that follows multiple characters across 14 locations around the world, and will appeal to readers that enjoy history, suspense, fantasy and world cultures. It is an original and unusual piece of literary fiction in the fact that it seamlessly fuses African, Asian, European and American cultures into an unforgettable reading experience.
Ben Hinson is an author and producer. He is the author of the Eteka book series, and creator of numerous blogs and YouTube channels that cover subjects including food and drink, architecture, business intelligence, travel, history, personal development and music. He enjoys sharing information, creating content, solving problems and celebrating others.
I enjoy reading Ben Hinson's publications/blog on Medium.com where he talks about history, architecture etc etc from countries around the world, so I knew this novel would have a multicultural aspect to it. This is especially unique, considering most of the action adventure/historical fiction novels of merit that have a Cold War aspect to them and featuring Africa and Asia and are promoted in traditional media are almost all written by white authors (e.g.Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, etc). I absolutely loved this novel. To me it felt like Game of Thrones meets Day of the Jackal meets non-fiction works on the Cold War by authors like Piero Gleijeses. Even though the novel is titled "Eteka," the plot actually revolves around three main characters: Eteka, Yisa and Isatou, and is set against the backdrop of the Cold War and the 90s, which in regions like Africa and Asia involved a bunch of nationalist movements; and the 1990s, which would signal the beginning of some long civil wars in Africa. There are alot of plot twists and a few surprises in the novel, so to go any further into what the book is about would ruin the experience. Another thing I LOVED about this novel was how Ben Hinson threw in tons of history throughout the story, and even had some famous historical characters make "cameo" appearances. The book definitely takes you around the world, and there were some cool scenes set in Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco and a bunch of other countries, and I enjoyed learning about these places that I previously knew nothing about (my favorite chapter was the 'Bandung' chapter set in Indonesia). The plot was great, very insightful and filled with tons of action... the jumping between years at first can be a little daunting, but as you read along you realize the story has to be told in such a format. The ending of the novel leaves you wondering whats next for the key characters in the story, and I hope there is a sequel planned. Highly recommended.
I learned about this book as I follow Ben Hinson's publications on Medium.com. If you haven't seen his writing there I recommend you do; he covers many interesting subjects ranging from architecture, history, food, business insights etc. This novel is a fine piece of work. I would even venture to call it a masterpiece. It's a collection of stories that center around three main characters: a prostitute and her movements through Nigeria's criminal underworld in the 1990s, an African mercenary with a storyline set during the Cold War and an assassin, also an African, with a storyline that also transpires during the 1990s. The book is incredibly well researched; I got the paperback version and there are tons of very helpful footnotes on the pages and at the end of the book are discussion questions and some links to some great supporting content online. The book is also filled with beautiful artwork, illustrations of the key characters in the story. There are quite a few clever plot twists and character reveals that I did not see coming. It's the kind of book you'll have to read more than once, because some of the gems in it are well hidden and it has so much research to compliment the great plot. The book starts with a bang (a great fight scene), and ends with a bang. If you enjoy history, action and suspense, you HAVE to read this book. Very original and a classic in my opinion.
I have been following Ben Hinson ever since he started this Eteka project back in 2008, and its been a pleasure watching this novel and the supporting content Ben created around it grow to what it is today. Hats off to Ben for the tremendous effort. This novel is a big read, but well worth it. It has good pace, and the multiple story-lines in the book mesh quite well. While most ethnic authors I have read tend to focus on one country, this book takes the reader on a ride that takes place over multiple countries, and Ben Hinson made sure to include the local dialects, history and customs from each location. I got the paperback version, which I thought was designed really well, and I especially appreciated all the footnotes with translations and historical pointers, really cool. The book revolves around African mercenaries, and there are multiple story arcs in the book, but they are all connected, and there are some cool plot twists as well. Tons of history, and tons of cool characters (you can't go wrong with characters called Omega, Supreme, Anansi (which is a play on the fictional folklore character Anansi the Spider from West African and Jamaican culture) and my favorite, PantiRaida). This was a great reading and learning experience for many reasons and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The way the book ends you know there is a sequel planned, and I can't wait for it.
I just completed reading the book, and I can't wait for part 2. I read 40% of the book in one day, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Amazing the parallels between Yisa and Eteka. Lots of details, and I just liked how the story evolved. Eteka: Rise of the Imamba is well written, insightful, and captivating! The author takes us on a nice journey into what happens when our conscience begins to impact our ability to do the wrong things for money. Looking forward to reading the next installment!
Where do I begin...the Cold War sets the stage for this unique novel based on three main characters: two killers and a prostitute and a host of secondary colorful characters that are all connected. Most of the book takes place across Africa (there were a few scenes set in London, New York and Detroit). There are tons of themes covered throughout the entire novel, and each of the main characters struggles with a dilemma of some sort, which made it easy for me to get invested in them. There are "hidden" characters and metaphors parsed throughout the book that begin right from the first chapter (e.g. which real life character does Judas bring to mind - I had to do some research on that one!), and if you do not know much about world history and cultures a lot of these hidden gems will likely fly over your head (no worries, there are discussion questions at the end of the book that will challenge you to try and figure them out, I personally read the book 2x). The book is loosely based on history, and is filled with helpful footnotes that explain events, personalities and translate language when needed (I recommend you get the paperback version as the footnotes are at the bottom of each page and you won't have to go back and forth to the end-notes as you'll do in the ebook version). Not to mention how the author inserts some real life, influential figures from history into the story which I thought was simply brilliant (e.g. Richard Wright, Amilcar Cabral, Sukarno, and a few others). The Bandung chapter alone would be enough to carry any history class. And the story gets really intense towards the end, when a bunch of people you don't expect to die get killed off. I thoroughly enjoyed it; it's a gritty read with tons of information, great story arcs and unlike anything I've ever read. Absolutely brilliant.
An excellent, ambitious and important book. Hands down the best book I have read this year so far. An absolute culture feast: gangsters and hitmen meeting on beautiful Moroccan beaches, a shootout in Indonesia, car chases in Nigeria, fight scenes in Algeria, South Africa, New York; that's just a small taste of what this book contains, all interwoven with so much history and some really great economic and leadership insights on African development that Ben Hinson cleverly slips in. There are tons of brilliant metaphors throughout the book (my personal favorite being the Supreme scene with the lion). This is definitely a thinking man/woman's novel, with great storylines, tons of research, suspense and action to keep the pages turning. Truly original and different, absolutely loved it.
Epic stories that sprawl across eras and landscapes aren't easy to create. The attention to detail, the research, the passion for the settings and characters are what bring alive novels such as these. Eteka: Rise of the Imamba is the embodiment of passion. Having personally seen the work and dedication that went into the book before its release, I was eager to see the end result. It was not a disappointment.
It is a very much a Cold War thriller. Hitmen, soldiers, corruption, shadowy figures, crime, war, the things you expect are there.
For this reader, it is the unexpected that I most enjoy from this book. Whereas many novels of this kind are action, action, shoot, shoot, bang, bang, this one has a rich and troubled historical setting (and humanity) to it that forces one to think about the events leading up to the current state of Africa and the world.
Hundreds of pages fly past you as you read gripping tales of idealism, tragedy, and heroism. Sensual environments allow you to hear, taste, and near feel history as though it was you yourself wandering the streets of 60s Morocco or 90s Nigeria. I had little idea what a puff-puff, Selendang Mayang, suya, or chin-chin were. Details such as food, spices, aromas, clothing, give life to places.
The intriguing thing about this novel is that it steps beyond it's protagonists and antagonists. The true story is the one in the background. The story of post colonialism, the story of modern Africa, The Cold War and, ultimately, the human condition.
The main characters of the story are black Africans. Instead of being minor characters, in a mainstream story behind western protagonists, the characters are independent beings with the same thoughts feelings and motivations as any real person should have. Characters even have detailed illustrations to give them a face, a personality.
Tropes of the political thriller do two things: help and hinder a story that needed to be told. The Cold War and the proxy wars left in its wake had a palpable effect on the shaping of the world. Many political thrillers tend to gloss over the reality of the non-Western experience.
The dehumanization of colonialism, toxic masculinity, misogyny, war, racism, poverty are in unflinchingly real. For the African man and (under the weight of misogyny and racism) the African woman, there is a sense of an underlying oppression. In one scene, even the most "powerful" characters of the book are confronted with racism in a post-apartheid SA. (As another note, the sinister nature of one character's feeling toward the end of apartheid is an interesting reminder of the exploitation of Africa and, with the dinner scene, a reminder of who is still calling the shots in Africa).
Whether on purpose, or accidental, or just the character of the genre, the characters of the book can feel both real and like props. Most men with guns, stay men with guns and most women are pretty faces or scenery. And the poorest people, the victimized, the casualties, have no voice, no power, no characterization.
As a Black American, the post-jim crow/slavery struggles of Black Americans have similarities with the African struggle, as well as similar consequences. The idealistic and corrupt revolutionaries of the 50s and 60s gave rise to the Okulos and the Etekas. As the revolutionary groups of Africa splintered, so too did their counterparts in America. Black panthers, while not as militaristic, rose from similar dynamics of oppression and internal and external struggles of black identity. Yet, the idealism of the brotherhoods of the early years eroded. Gangs, gangster rap, the various black supremacist groups of today, can trace many of their origins to the Black left, Black panthers, smaller gangs, and black revolutionary groups of yesteryear.
Brotherhood was the driving force behind many of those groups. As we see in the book, the brotherhoods have all been around years before the Imamba. And the circle of violence continues no matter the attempts of (some) of the older members attempting to change the inevitable. We see hope in dissension. But for every youth that leaves the darkness, another falls into it. As one son and daughter is left to fall into the arms of evil, the next generation repeats. The sins of the father is a repeated theme throughout, from the big bad to the new crop of angry youth.
We all know what happens despite the fictional characters. We see it in the gangs of today, the terrorists, the angry youth searching for a way out of the oppressions of their lives or searching for a way to express their rage or eagerness for something bigger than themselves. We see it everyday.
And the further the idealism leaves, the more corrupted "brotherhood" becomes. It is toxic, violent, backstabbing, and has turned against itself. For every self-aware Yisa or Eteka, there is an Oga. Worse, a Cyrus.
But Eteka, isn’t so simple. The pretense of righteousness is never there for the reader. Eteka doesn’t attempt to justify the acts of the Imamba as "Revolutionary". Instead, we see the destruction and the spiral and we also see the alternative. We see from the beginning that the idealism was never shared and that it as doomed to fail.
The characters that fully embrace the true reality of the situation ( in a timely matter) are the ones who begin to truly see and the truly walk away.
Perhaps, this is one of the reasons the supernatural (I found the presence of the Trickster God, Anansi, and the presence of a Crone figure intriguing) and the secret orders play such a big part in this book. Fate and the intervention of higher powers is contrasted with self-determination.
The appearance of Richard Wright and others present another interesting factor: ideas. The African and African American (and all others that struggled against the yoke) struggles was inspired and driven by ideas, feeding off one another. We see the Badung conference, we see Oluko's journals, we hear of many famous, and important writers.
At the end, neither gun nor pen could truly free any nation or peoples. For many cultures, guns are foreign, and so are many of the ideals. Obviously, money, power, politics, and greed appear to forcibly replace idealism. But as seen so often, many of the ideals transforming Africa are foreign in nature. Foreign power exercising control, foreign academics. The Okulos of the world are often informed and empowered by the cultures that once suppressed them. Although not explored often in the book, the question has to be asked, if African freedom and advancement spawns from a former colonial power, then what does that say about African freedom? Achebe and James Joyce asked the same kind of questions years ago in the context of post-colonialism, and those questions are still debated.
On another note, English (or another European language) is the language most of the characters have to rely on to speak between the many ethnic groups of Africa.
It is apparent that even after African nations across the continent proclaimed freedom, none were really free. A leader, a teacher, a politician can be removed with no more than a bag of money and a handshake. Instead of outright invasion, the ones oppressing "their" people directly are now other Africans. African leaders are largely absent, the power not really belonging in their hands.
Africa is only free in name only. And for every step African nations make to advance and go beyond colonialism, Western powers can and did subvert them. And the status quo is upheld.
Yisa and Okulo, two very different men with different ideals, and their fates symbolize the forces that shaped modern Africa. Yet, neither has yet to truly solve the problems many post colonial nations face.
Music, however, is different. The novel (ending towards the close of the Cold War and the rise of many violent wars and conflicts across Africa and the world) introduces music as a suggested pathway to freedom and expression. While not new, the new era of resistance is more indirect. Less guns and terror, and less academic in its approach, music is universal. It touches more people. When we think of Nina Simone, Fela Kuti, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Mariam Makeba, Salif Keita, we think of music that expressed (and is expressing) the politics, the hearts of the PEOPLE. Guns can kill people, books can alienate, but music can and has given immense freedom to the masses. Afrobeats, for example, has gone global. And for many, calls attention to the plight of the political and economic situation in Africa.
As we move further and further away from the Cold War, a new Africa is developing. One that many of the protagonists(for better or for worse) wouldn't recognize.
Modern Nigeria is rapidly becoming a superpower. Brotherhood, toxic masculinity, individuality, politics, persecution, peace, freedom, violence, upheaval, are factors that have been apart of mankind for eons. Whereas the era the novel is set, largely slips into the darkness of it all, the new Africa is something that has real hope. With a wealth of history, past mistakes are there for the younger generation to do what they will with them.
Eteka manages to place all these subjects into one flowing novel. I believe Eteka to be a much needed novel with perspectives that are rarely given any attention or any notice. Eteka is the product of extensive care and labor. With any luck, the future will see more books like it. And then, maybe, a new set of voices and visions can shed light on the histories that has brought us to our modern era.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I'm going to let this one go for the time being. I'm only on page 132 and I've been picking this up and putting it down for three days. That's way too long without getting further into the story. I LOVE the idea of this story and the premise is amazing, but I am having trouble with the dialogue. It's not flowing smoothly for me at all. I want to give this one another go later on, but for now I can't really force myself to continue, therefore no rating on this one.
Africa has produced some great writers over the years that have won the affections of western media: Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, Teju Cole, Uzodinma Iweala, Ben Okri, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Chris Abani, Ishmael Beah, we could go on. These voices have blessed us with great stories that usually center on identity, the state of Africa, Diasporan experiences, and in the case of war, usually stories that tell of child soldiers trapped by forces beyond their control, or a person going against all odds and finding freedom. I salute all these writers. But one things I have noticed and questioned over the years, especially as a hardcore Dan Brown, Cussler, Forsyth, and Coontz fan, is how African writers produce next to nothing when it comes to thrillers and suspense. Drilling down to a niche subject like political thrillers is unheard of. I would argue this is also true when it comes to black American and even Caribbean writers (a rare exception may be Marlon James). Why is this the case? Is it just that I've not heard of writers who do? To take my point even further I have not read any book from these regions that constitutes as a true epic: a story set across various lands, times in history, and with a gripping story-line. Well, the "curse" has been broken.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the world of Eteka: Rise of the Imamba. I struggled with how to describe this book. At its base it is a collection of connected stories set over some very interesting times in history: Nigeria's Biafra War, Guinea-Bissau's Revolution, Algeria's struggle with France, the never ending Congo saga, Indonesia as the seeds for the Non-Aligned Movement were being planted, London and South-Africa during the apartheid/ANC struggle, and so much more. All this rich history, wrapped around a good cast of interesting characters, some of whom in reality are actually metaphors for ideas past and present. I absolutely loved the Nigerian criminal underworld scenes, and the international nature of the book, even as most of it was centered on Africa. And that point is perhaps what most appealed to me about the book, is the fact that Africans were the ones driving the narrative, not just describing their existence in a world struggling against forces beyond their control. Prostitutes in Nigerian ghettos, African mercenaries, victims of certain atrocities, white collar professionals, all these people are given voices, opinions, thoughts feelings. The plot is in stark contrast, a polar opposite to the current "Afropolitan" narrative that so many of Africa's globe hopping elite have adopted. In place of fancy educated Ivy League Africans struggling with cultural identity and expressing uber academic thoughts on their views of the world, we have criminals struggling with the harshness of poor urban life, we have hitmen operating at the whim of powerful forces pulling the strings, we have philosophers struggling with their own humanity and mysterious supernatural forces that represent alot of the spirituality that still exists in Africa. The book is raw and to the point, and does not try to cater to mainstream values or appeal. Another thing I really enjoyed was that this book places alot of focus on plot and character development, and relegates poetic language to third place. We see this with how the characters are connected through regions and points in time. So many themes are explored in this book, the main ones being ideologies and morality, while popular themes like colonialism and racism, while present in a few very random scenes, are not given the spotlight. Besides these four topics, there are other themes covered in the book (religion, African industry, technology, urban life) and what makes the book masterful is that all these themes are meshed in with the progression of the story. Another very unusual thing about this book is how most of the characters were either antiheroes or villains (with some great artwork that brought each character to life). Even Eteka who the book is named after is not noble in any way (even though that is part of his dilemma), and I thought the author taking that approach offered a refreshing perspective. As I read the book I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like if I tried to map out all the connections on a piece of paper. All this rich intellectual fodder packaged in an exciting, action packed collection of stories makes this book, in my humble opinion, a very necessary addition to the literary world. I have to say I was not expecting to enjoy the book as much as I did, especially as it is not on any popular lists. Excellent writing. I wish I could go back to college again and read this book as part of a requirement for a history or literature class, it would have made for great discussions! Great book and phenomenal achievement.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The subject matter and concept behind of Ben Hinson’s Eteka: Rise of the Imamba roused my interest immediately. Without giving too much away, the book is essentially a series of interconnected stories that revolve around the birth and transformation of a professional African mercenary/assassin organization known as Imamba. Although told in a non-chronological fashion, the narrative centers on the drift of the organization away from its idealistic roots and how the characters (with a significant, though far from exclusive, focus on the novel’s eponymous protagonist) negotiate and are impacted by these changes. These developments affect not only the founding members, their friends, and their family, but also future generations of Imamba and characters who have never heard of the organization, yet are connected to it in ways of which they are not aware.
The book is probably best classified as “historical fiction”, with the historical aspect adding a unique richness to a book that is character-driven, action-oriented in nature, and influenced by a touch of contemporary fantasy. As a lover of fiction, I was intrigued by characters and settings that diverged from the traditional tropes and characters of the genres’ European and American roots. The promise of blended genres and a non-linear execution, meanwhile, suggested that the narrative structure would enhance the overall experience. As a historian, this seemed like an excellent opportunity to mix business with pleasure, with a highlight of the book being its rich cultural depth, attention to detail, and atypical perspective. While reading, these elements were definitely the highlight of the work and executed solidly throughout. The footnotes, which may seem a bit out of place to any reader expecting this book to be an exercise of pure fiction, were immensely helpful to a reader such as myself who was interested, but ultimately unfamiliar, with the cultural context of this work. They contribute to the novel’s historical essence, but can be bypassed easily by those familiar with the background or uninterested in having the central story slowed by the presence of contextualizing information.
In general, while I did feel that at times the book’s setting and context did more to cover the traditional hallmarks of its genres rather than create new ones, it nonetheless served as a solid vessel for transferring the reader into a new literary perspective while maintaining sufficient familiar vestiges to ease them through the transition. One cannot, furthermore, expect the first book of a series to reinvent the wheel completely and I look forward to future books that will no doubt immerse the reader more deeply into its atmosphere and create a style that stands on its own. For me, therefore, the novel’s shortcomings lay more in its technical aspects than anywhere else. A significant issue was that I felt that in many parts, particularly the dialogue, there was too much “tell” and not enough “show”, which prevented me from forging consistently strong connections with the characters. I felt at times I was engaging literary constructions rather than living personalities and this decreased my investment in the main players and, in turn, the development of the narrative, which was heavily character-driven. This was complicated by the non-linear plot, which was something that attracted me to this work originally, as it is a story-telling tool that requires a strong attachment to the characters so that one can build up sufficient investment to recall and anticipate the individual storylines and develop an understanding of how they all connect. Otherwise, it can become difficult to follow and risks losing the initial grip it had over the reader.
Overall, this book is most likely to be enjoyed by those who can appreciate the appeal of the dual nature of historical fiction: the rich cultural aspects on one hand, and the engaging action and plot and character development on the other. If one sets their expectations appropriately and knows what they are getting into from the beginning, there is little doubt that they will find Eteka: Rise of the Imamba to be a pleasurable and intriguing read.
Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book for my unbiased opinion
First off I want to say, even though it is not related to the book itself – The author, Ben Hinson, is a great man. He is interesting, wonderfully nice, and has been very patient waiting for me to actually write this review. You should try this book out simply for the fact that you are supporting a wonderful human being.
Now on to the actual book and the reading experience. I absolutely enjoyed this book. I gave Eteka a 5 out of 5 stars and let me tell you, it deserves all of them. I was a bit reluctant at first to delve into this book as this is not my typical choice of reading material, but I’m a sucker for authors asking me to review books, so I gave it a chance.
This book takes place in two different times - one quite a few years before the other, but in many, many different places. The two main characters that these time lines follow are Eteka and Yisa, both of who are in the Imamba, which is essentially a group of mercenaries. I don’t want to tell too much of the plot because it is best to go into the book with the bare minimum of description.
Trigger Warnings: Rape and Graphic Violence!
Very informative. I really enjoyed the in-text citations. It helped me understand the histories of cities, terms, and whatever else I wasn’t familiar with. Which was a lot, mind you, seeing as I was never a huge history buff. It added a lot to the reading experience, understanding everything he was talking about and not having to interrupt reading to Google something.
The writing wasn’t superfluous, he didn’t add a bunch of unnecessary words and sentences for filler. Some people enjoy that in their reading, I don’t.
I enjoyed the pace. You were never really over or underwhelmed with anything in the story.
The antagonists were believable and horrible - their motives fit with their personalities and didn’t seem forced.
The twists were amazing, especially the end.
The ending – kind of poetic in a very messed up kind of way.
I wish there were more descriptions of the surroundings to get a better grasp of what the different areas looked like. The descriptions were good enough – but I think they could have been better.
The creation of the Imamba was a little too sudden. It didn’t seem realistic to me – to strike a business deal with people you barely know? Yisa and Oga traveled together for a while, so I understand their partnership, but not Omega. For hired guns, they trust easily.
Some cultural descriptions seemed forced, like they were unnecessarily written into the story when they could have been put in a citation.
Oga. Just Oga. Not that he was a bad character. I just hate him with all the fibers of my being.
Having to wait for a sequel.
The ending. Why!?!
My favorite characters from the beginning and until the end were Isatou and Oladele. Isatou was a very strong woman who is trying to make her own way, and I liked her even before I read the book and all I saw was her character picture/quote. Oladele is definitely a wise man. “When and how I die is not that important. What matters is how I live.” Pg 338. Can’t get better than a wise man.
Overall this is a great book, I highly recommend it and will definitely pick up any other books by Ben Hinson.
"Blackwater meets Bourne Identity with an African twist" is the best way I can describe this book in one sentence. Mercenaries have been a central part of conflicts around the world, and in Africa in particular they've played a central albeit unseen role in many wars. When it comes to Africa, most of the mercenary groups we tend to hear about are Caucasian mercenaries from established outfits like South Africa's Blackwater and so on. Not much is mentioned on African/black mercenaries (even as today Uganda is one of the leading exporters of mercs to conflict zones around the world), and the author of this book exploits this fact to masterful effect. The book is a dark, suspenseful, action packed set of interconnected stories based on soldiers for hire (most of them African) during the Cold War, with some action in the 90s. There are many story-lines within the work, one of the main ones being the nationalist movements that formed in response to colonialism/imperialism during the Cold War across Africa (and Latin America/Asia), the original idealistic vision of such movements, and how these movements became corrupted over the years based on the motivations of its individual members. This is the stage on which the book's drama plays out, and are taken on a ride that spans multiple locations around the world. The book is perhaps best classified as a combination of Historical fiction and Literary fiction: the Literary fiction aspect based on the book's cultural insights and non-linear narrative. It's a book that offers a hardcore, unromantic view of Africa that is counterculture to the Western narrative of how Africa should be shown. There is an attempted rape scene (that happens in Europe) and tons of violence, par for the course for a book of this nature. The book also transports the reader to Nigeria's criminal underworld in Lagos, using a prostitute to drive the narrative for those scenes. In addition to the main stories, other themes like religion, fantasy, anthropology and some economics are explored, chiefly through the teacher/philosopher character called Oladele and other "supernatural" characters like Anansi, the White Witch, and minor characters like the priest in the "Assassins" chapter. Love, hate, betrayal, revenge, lies, brotherhood, history and so much more are packaged in this book that efficiently balances good vs evil against the backdrop of one of the most defining moments in human history. Overall a great first part to what promises to be an awesome series.
First the "bad" (these are subjective and solely based on my preferences): it's a dialogue heavy book, which gets a little tedious in some areas. I also thought some of the French usage in the beginning was strange. But all that did not stop me from enjoying and appreciating this very "different" book that could fit into a number of genres. It has the historical/political nature of a Forsyth story, the action adventure tendencies of a Cussler, Fleming or Coontz novel, the crime fiction and ethnic allure of a Paolo Lins book, the African packaging from an Achebe novel and perhaps even some fantasy elements from George Martin's series. It is a "weird" book, which is precisely what makes it a great read. Great individual plot lines, with perhaps my favorite character being Isatou. I enjoyed the fight sequences, and liked how Ben Hinson connected all the stories. This book would make a great movie. I've never heard of or read a book of this scale: an action adventure/historical thriller by an African or black author, or any author for that matter with all the elements described (a close comparison based on structure may be Marlon James' 'Brief History of Seven Killings'). I loved the footnotes throughout the book that helped translate and give context, and enjoyed all the metaphors that have relevance with events happening today. I also enjoyed the few puzzles in the book which you can access via the Discussion Questions at the end. Rise of the Imamba is a great, clever book that would be a good addition to any history class, and I suspect people will appreciate Ben Hinson's tremendous self published effort in the years to come.
Reading this book reminded me of John Lee Anderson’s and Alberto Granada’s non-fiction books on Che Guevarra and any of the books on the Cold War in Africa by Elizabeth Schmidt and Madeleine Kalb, perhaps meshed with the action adventure you would find in a classic Forsyth or Clancy novel. It is an exciting action adventure book written in an epic format with great plot sequences and character reveals, but it is also a literary novel in every sense of the word based on the off-mainstream topics highlighted on its pages. For me one thing I really enjoyed was the Afro-Asian synergy, and how the author resurrected the Bandung Conference of 1955 in Indonesia. I really enjoyed that chapter in particular, as not only did the author present an analysis of the event through the character dialogue, but there was a great action scene there as well, which is something I have personally never seen before when it comes to the writing surrounding that era. I loved the correlation between Yisa and Eteka for sure, and the little riddles throughout the book are a nice, clever bonus treat. This is an excellent and very intelligent novel that is especially unique as it presents global views on many issues around the world that are still very relevant today.
A few scenes in the book had references to African development, those were some of my personal favorites. Loved the chapters where the teacher character shows off the students at the school and talks about industry and innovative concepts like solar energy (especially relevant as today Nigeria is trying to diversify its economy). Also immensely loved the Indonesia chapter, I thought that chapter in particular was simply genius, with all the cameos of historical figures like Nehru and Richard Wright. The Bandung chapter in this book was an excellent foray into the world of civil rights beyond the American/Western experience, and the author was able to package that into an action scene. Brilliant. Then there is the Nigerian prostitute, Isatou (she was my favorite character) whose narrative gives us a glimpse into the harsh realities of Nigeria's underworld. The Mob Action chapter in the Isatou narrative was sickening and exciting at the same time. Eteka's non-linear narrative brought to mind Don DeLillo's Underworld, the child soldier/indoctrination themes brought to mind Uzodinma Iweala's Beasts of No Nation, Isatou and the criminal underworld narrative brought to mind the Brazilian movie "City of God," and the espionage/hitmen themes match up well against George Jonas' Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team. Great, thoroughly researched book with tons of action. Very unique historical fiction, looking forward to more from this author.
I just finished this book, and wanted to post a review while my thoughts on it are still fresh. I taught history in my native Ghana and in the past taught African studies in the UK and Germany, and I have a particular fascination with events that transpired during the Cold War especially with regards to Africa and Latin America. Ben Hinson has a number of blogs on a variety of subjects. I came across this book while perusing through his architecture website, and was immediately intrigued. War novels that fall in the historical fiction and action adventure genres are not easy to write, and this is even more the case when such books take on an epic format that span different points in time and locations around the world. This is because a tremendous amount of research is required to maintain historical and technical accuracy while keeping a balanced story (or set of stories in the case of this book). But I even hesitate to label this book as solely a war novel as there many scenes in the book set in other environments. Another interesting point is that this genre is one in which authors of color have found no success. These genres have been dominated for many years till present by European and American writers (think Bourne Identity, Day of the Jackal, etc). As a historian of color I know minorities/blacks do not take on projects in this genre partly because of the tremendous amount of work involved, and also because of the minimal support available. So on that note alone, Ben Hinson has my full admiration for taking on the enormous task of tackling this challenging area that would give many history/English professors and authors a run for their money. The book is about a mercenary group that formed during Algeria's nationalist push in the 50s, and follows different members of this organization over the course of a few generations as the group evolves. There are also side characters in the book (the prostitute, the philosopher) that have their own side stories that fit into the main narrative. There is also a fantasy narrative to the book, exploited through the use of a mysterious character called Anansi which I thought was written very well (if you're not aware Anansi is character common in West African and Caribbean folklore). The main story is very interesting as it explores the parallel lives between the two main characters, Yisa and Eteka, as they and everyone connected to them navigate through numerous countries in Africa, England and the USA. The book explores many literary and historical themes in conjunction with the action, including themes like the Albino killings in Tanzania, corruption in Nigeria and African development (including some economic mentions on Mercantile Exchanges which I found particularly intriguing to be featured in a book about professional killers), diamond smuggling in Liberia, and my personal favorite, the Africa-Asia Conference of 1955 held in Indonesia that perhaps was the first organized global civil rights call to action. The book even attempts to answer the big question, "how did blacks arrive at their current state" by invoking anthropological notes from Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond's work: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. I also enjoyed the clever riddles throughout the book. This book may fall outside your frame of reference if your expectations on black literature hinge on the common clichés/tropes (i.e. slavery, civil rights, life in the diaspora, child soldiers). If you enjoy books by Coontz, Clancy or Forsyth and you are not familiar with African history from a non-Western lens, I definitely recommend you give this book a try. As an African historian I found this to be a very intelligent book that does not fit into the mainstream narrative, and I look forward to hopefully reading a sequel to this excellent novel.
I had the pleasure to immerse myself in this wonderful, complex story that spawns across countries and eras. The richness of the setting plus all the research that went into it makes this great reading experience, in which not only was I entertained, but I also learned a lot about African history which is a great bonus for me!
If you're a fan of historical fiction and are looking for something different to read, consider picking up Eteka: Rise of the Imamba for a thrilling, action packed novel that will keep you on your toes!
This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I'm not a massive fan of historical fiction but still enjoyed this overall. I loved the cultural details that had been included (and explained) and feeling it all 'come together' at the end was great. Whilst not my genre of choice, I can see those who enjoy this style of book will love it.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Eteka - Rise of the Imamba. 📌 Thank you so much @etekaonthemove for sending this review copy. 📌 This book is the best thing I've read in recent times. Eteka is the story that has been divided into two segments ; The cold war and post cold war era. The stories are interlinked by many characters and talks in detail about African, American and Asian histories which honestly impressed me quite a bit. 📌 During the Cold War times, the author talks about the rise of an African brotherhood called The Imamba who take an oath to save the rest of their fellow Africans against any war or unjust acts. A young Yisa puts forward this idea and together with two of his accomplices, the Imamba is set up. As many years pass by, Yisa finds that the Imamba has strayed from the path of being a saviour and instead kills innocents for money. When Yisa decides to leave and wants to be with his family, he has to pay a price. 📌 The post Cold War focusses on a young man called Eteka who grows up in the Imamba brotherhood without knowing a single fact about his parents. As he carries out contracts, he discovers a grave secret that will shake his life to the very roots. He has to make a choice whether to stay in the brotherhood or walkaway. Read the book for more details. 📌 The story is gripping and I could not put it down! The characters are well structured and support the plot very strongly. I was fascinated by the political side of the story which I truly enjoyed. The different cultures and the ease with which the story flows is spectacular. I'd urge readers to give this book a try because it's the kind of thriller that gives you goosebumps. 📌 I would rate this book 5/5.
I received this book by the author in exchange for a review. The book is a historical fiction thriller that takes place during the Cold War and spans many countries and timelines. The author told me he is currently working on making this a graphic novel which I think is great, because I thought the dialogue was a bit expository and self-aware at times (which is fine in graphic novels.) It was fast-paced and easy to read even though I'm not sure I'm the intended audience. I appreciated all of the research and work that went into this story.
The book was a surprisingly fun read within a genre I don't usually explore. Eteka is a historical fiction novel following a mercenary during the cold war era. It takes place at several continents (mainly Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas). The protagonist is part of a brotherhood known as the Imamba and is slowly but surely begining to question the nature of his missions. There are many things I enjoyed about this book. Mainly its fast pace and the level of detail that was put into it in regards to historical accuracy. So it's definitely a good read if you enjoy historical fiction books (esepcially one set within this period and in Africa. As this is one of the few books tackling that era) and action stories.
I originally gave this book 4 stars, then I changed my mind and gave it a 5. My only hesitation was because I wish the few sex scenes in the book were a bit spicier (lol). But with that being said, this is an amazing book. I've read a few African authors like Ishmael Beah, Teju Cole, Chimmamanda Adichie, and so on, and in my mind two books that have some similarities would be Ayi Kwei Armah's The Resolutionaries and Uzodinma Iweala's Beasts of No Nation. Ben Hinson's work is so much more. He takes elements from African culture and meshes it in a Frederick Forsyth/Robert Ludlum/Daniel Silva kind of way with Asian, American and European history, and the end result is this complex, gritty saga filled with historical and cultural references, and unlike anything I have read before. There is one chapter where one of the main characters (Oluko, a Nigerian) makes a trip to Indonesia to attend this historical conference, and while he's there he meets real life historical personalities like African American author Richard Wright, and a few other personalities from Asian and even Afghan history. This ability Ben Hinson has to take real life personalities and events from history and manipulate them without changing their authenticity and have them operate in fictionalized settings and engage with fiction characters is simply amazing, and that is one thing I really enjoyed in the book. The storylines are great (I thought Amina was a little bitch), and my favorite character by far was Isatou. I just loved this book and all its parallels: the conflicted characters, the different environments, etc. And there are also a few very clever riddles in the book as well, which for me was the icing on the cake. Very original, and I'm looking forward (hopefully) to a next installment.
Ben Hinson's complex historical puzzle that is Eteka: Rise of the Imamba is a remarkable achievement, and a very important book for many reasons. In addition to being a great set of connected stories covering many important events in history, it is filled with riddles and surprises that may force you the reader to read it more than once. It's also written in a style that is colorful and very original (one chapter places you in an Ethiopian desert in the middle of a fight, the next takes you a lavish beach resort in Morocco, the next places you in a ghetto in Lagos, Nigeria, the next takes you to Detroit, the next takes you to Soweto, South Africa, the next places you in London, then we are transported back in time to a scene set in Indonesia, then brought to the present in New York, then taken to a street chase in Algeria...this is how the book reads, and somehow all the chapters and story-lines connect very well. The premise of the book is established right from the first chapter in the dialogue between Yisa and Oga, which we can interpret as good vs evil, and this internal conflict is evident in most of the key characters in the book. Intertwined with the intense action are also some very positive messages on love, forgiveness and practical solutions on African development (I think I even remember a scene where two characters in Nigeria are discussing solar energy). This is a revolutionary work of fiction that in my opinion has set a gold standard for any writers brave enough to tackle world history in the action adventure genre, and definitely a first of its kind for African literature.