The Night of The Eleventh Sun by Steven Burgauer
|The Night of The Eleventh Sun by Steven Burgauer|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A faction docudrama taking us through some turbulent Neanderthal times. Steven is an author with a track record for an eye for research and a well-turned factoid and this is his best book yet.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 144||Date: June 2007|
|Publisher: BookSurge Publishing|
The word 'Neanderthal' has become equated with people deemed to have a backward attitude and outlook. But what do we know of the original Neanderthals from over 200,000 years ago? Here American author Steven Burgauer melds the knowledge of anthropologists, archaeologists and historians with the story of Strong Arms, his family and their struggle to survive, in a very effective and informative way.
This time last year I hadn't heard of Steven. Now I've had the privilege of reading three of his vastly differing offerings: the adaptation of a WWII veteran's D Day diaries in The Road to War, his alternative history thriller Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou and now this opportunity to follow a group of Neanderthals through a year of triumphs and terror. This is definitely the best as this fact/fiction combination is where Steven's talents shine.
There's no question that this will appeal to fans of Jean Auel's cave tribe novels and yet Steven's approach is slightly different from Jean's. Steven actually classes this as science fiction despite its lack of futuristic elements. This label in this case is meant in its purest sense simply because, rather than being what we've equated with the genre, this is fiction with science. If it was on our TV screens it would be docudrama as Steven tells the story of Strong Arms, Brown Curls and their children, frequently breaking away to fill us in on modern experts' discoveries about that part of our shared past.
Among the expected features, like a belief system tied into and explaining natural phenomena, there are surprises. For instance Neanderthal language was far from a series of grunts; their daily parlance included tenses, adjectives and verbs. It was more simplistic than we're used to though, demonstrated by Steven not only in the literal nature of people's names but also his take on terms that may have been used such as 'knees up' as a noun for those more intimate moments. Once we Brits have stopped sniggering about its cultural connections with Mother Brown, we realise that Steven has invented a phrase that makes a lot of sense.
By the way, there are graphic moments but all in the context of the story and research. To be honest, as a reviewer, I've read much more graphic than this. It just may not be a book you'd want to give your youngsters without reading through yourself first.
We also witness life's milestones like the initiation ceremonies after which pubescent girls and 11-ish-year-old boys become adults. (In fact the age for boys – 11 suns – provides the book's title.) We're also shown the devices employed to make life easier like my favourite, the history rope. (It may be low tech, but it's ingenious!)
Understandably there are dangers that lurk in the daily tasks as well as the special fears and perils that haunt our hero as he tries to keep his family safe. There's that moment when our hearts are thumping almost as loudly as Strong Arms when we realise the connotations of coming across another tribe.
Although the fictionalised sections are Strong Arm's (third person) narrative, for me the way that Steven steps through the forth wall to reveal and explain the research brings the book alive. The facts are presented in an accessible way making sense of ideas that 'civilisation' has abandoned. Things like polygamy are, on the whole, shunned by modern society but at that time it was totally understandable with sound anthropological and biological reasoning.
Steven has filled a hole in this history buff's knowledge that I didn't realise existed. Indeed, this form of writing that appeals simultaneously to fact and fiction readers is definitely Steven's metier and I look forward to more of his brand of science fiction.
(A big thank you goes to the publisher for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you enjoyed this, feel free to peruse Steven's back catalogue. If you enjoy the early history vibe of this and Jean Auel's work, while yearning for it to be mixed with a bit of fantasy, we also heartily recommend The Tiger and the Wolf (Echoes of the Fall) by Adrian Tchaikovsky or perhaps straight Neanderthal-era fiction in Song Hunter by Sally Prue? (Please ignore the Teen label for this one if you're an adult reader – brilliant fiction is brilliant fiction.)
You can read more book reviews or buy The Night of The Eleventh Sun by Steven Burgauer at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Night of The Eleventh Sun by Steven Burgauer at Amazon.com.
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