The ending really packs a punch.
Two men from a foreign country are contracted to build a bitumen road in an unnamed place (I’m guessing Africa or South America), which has just ended a civil war. For the two men there are strict rules, and a deadline for the completion of the road. They are forbidden to talk to local people, eat local foods or drink local water. They have all their own supplies and are self-sufficient. However one of the men disobeys the rules, bringing both men into a dangerous situation, and threatening the deadline for finishing the road.
“They had arrived without passports. Passports were a liability in such a place, a nation recovering from years of civil war, riddled with corruption and burdened now by a new and lawless government.”
“This was a burgeoning city awake and alive after a civil war its residents assumed would have no end. All the glass had been shattered, all the roofs caved in, there were legless men and clinics full of the dying and destitute. There were millions displaced, a million in exile, ten thousand orphans. And yet everyone was jubilant amid the construction, amid unmanaged garbage, the waste dumped into local streams, the sweeping shoals of bright plastic bottles everywhere.
“Four nodded to the man, being careful not to thank him. Thanking him would imply that the man had performed some task worthy of compensation.”Quotes from the book.
- Kirkus: “An unassuming but deceptively complex morality play, as Eggers distills his ongoing concerns into ever tighter prose.”
- The Griffin: “The novel’s short length and not over-complicated style makes for a light but not quite easy read. People who enjoy stories that make them question various worldviews and people who enjoy classic dystopian fiction such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Lord of the Flies will also enjoy this story. Without giving anything away, the ending hits you out of nowhere, bringing the dystopian undertones to the surface, making you see the story in an entirely different light.”
- The Independent: “Has a light touch, but it’s stylish and slick, and leaves us pondering.”