Read The Book of War by James Whyle Online


Winner of the M-Net Literary Award for debut novel, 2013.An illiterate child is stranded on the southern tip of Africa. The British and the Xhosa have been at war for eighty years and the boy signs up in the hope of steady meals. His new commander has assembled an assortment of convicts, sailors, and drunkards from the gutters of Cape Town. They will be used to test the efWinner of the M-Net Literary Award for debut novel, 2013.An illiterate child is stranded on the southern tip of Africa. The British and the Xhosa have been at war for eighty years and the boy signs up in the hope of steady meals. His new commander has assembled an assortment of convicts, sailors, and drunkards from the gutters of Cape Town. They will be used to test the effectiveness of a revolutionary new weapon.The irregulars embark on journey through a landscape prowled by wild beasts, and the distinction between man and animal becomes ephemeral. Based on firsthand accounts of the War of the Prophet, The Book of war converts the bare facts of history into something terrible and strange....

Title : The Book of War
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781431403479
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 280 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Book of War Reviews

  • Ray Hartley
    2019-02-07 17:00

    Told from the perspective of a troop of irregulars fighting the Xhosa on the eastern frontier, this is a story of a brutal campaign of extermination. It is a blood-drenched tale in which the execution of women and children and the burning of "heathen" homesteads is routine. Whyle's use of antique language and his decision to restrain himself from lacing the text with his disapproval make it all the more powerful. An absolute masterpiece of storytelling.

  • Greig Coetzee
    2019-02-01 14:42

    James is not a friend of mine. He’s a work colleague in that we are both freelance script writers for the same soap. I say this to make the point that, while I know James, I have no reason to write a review that is anything other than my honest opinion. The Book of War is an astonishingly good debut novel. It shines a disturbing and revealing light back through South African history giving the reader new understanding of the violence, racism and selfishness of our past and, perhaps more importantly, our present. The writing is clear-eyed and eloquent and almost effortless in the way it distills layers of work, research and complex history into a narrative that is deceptively simple and magnetic. It is also brave and refreshing in its avoidance of the cultural box-ticking and self-censoring political correctness that often trap writers dealing with a complex, multi-cultural gallery of characters. Of particular interest to me was the narrator’s voice. It is a fascinating mix of now and then. Whyle has created an English dialect for his narrator that is both Victorian and modern. The vocabulary and turn of phrase immerses you in the mind-set of the mid-nineteenth century and forces you to see that place and time through the eyes of the people who lived it.NO, DON’T STOP READING THIS REVIEW! I am not suggesting that this is a book you must read for medicinal reasons. It does not fall into that category of books that are worthy but unenjoyable... to be swallowed like castor oil for the purposes of self-improvement. There are many other reasons I recommend it. It is a gripping yarn that keeps you turning pages both because of and despite its graphic and honest brutality. Its darkness is balanced with moments of equally dark humour. The characters leap out at you as original, fascinating and, even at their most grotesque, always real. You variously hate them, fear them, despise them, pity them and root for them. It’s everything fucking good storytelling should be. Buy it. Read it.

  • Rob
    2019-01-27 17:55

    Okay, so it's a "cover version" of Blood Meridian, shifting it to South Africa. But it's no mere copy, and indeed a Blood Meridian without Judge Holden and all that poetic evocation of evil is a little like Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) without its lead guitar (actually that cover exists, it's by Angelique Kidjo, who like Mr Whyle takes the tune to Africa). And the language here, rather than dancing along a ledge between spare and Biblically ornate (in spite of the slightly portentous-sounding, actually punning title), is simple and relentless, a bit like Hemingway in marathon mode, piling action on action with a rhythmic intensity and the occasional pause for clarity. It's another kind of evil, with a matter-of-factness that achieves a tapestry of horror of its own, especially in light of all that we might know in general of South Africa's difficult history.It's a war of conquest framed as a holy war (the enemy are simply "heathen(s)", stripped of tribe or creed), although the most religious among our gang - the "God-struck lieutenant" and the preacher - turn their coats and offer their help to the heathens, who scorn the help and turn them over to be tried as traitors. A nice touch. The "God-struck lieutenant" could have been a little more corporeal rather than simply a striking adjective, although I got enough to picture him a little like the preacher guy who turns up in Deadwood.It's also conceivably the point where the loss of the British Empire began, where its reach, so cunningly built on a combination of muscle and intrigue, ran up against an inscrutable web of non-negotiating foes, tried the 'divide and conquer' method until it turned into simple terror, while the Dutch looked on and had their own ideas. Fifty years later, the whole house of cards came tumbling down. This novel points to that, subtly and not-so-subtly. The Captain and the joiner share with the kid the position of conscience. The kid is flawed and lost innocence, the Captain is rational privilege brought by circumstance to bestiality and the joiner, never named and more open-minded (read "less racist" in today's parlance), is the only one of these half-men to have tried marriage and found it deeply disappointing, sending him back into the arms of bounty-hunting. It might be my poor memory, but I don't recall scenes of him giving in to his inner animal in the fighting, which would make him a curious and conflicted beacon in this crowd, possibly a symbol of the reason that struggles along in the current of ambition.McCarthy sketched the driving force of ambition and the way violence took over as the common language. Here these men want land, in spite of all the evidence they see of how hard it is to hold onto, and they just follow whatever orders are to hand to get it. Their leaders court public opinion and the replenishment of coffers without really understanding what they are doing. The whole operation only seems to work at all when it stops pretending and just lets the animal take over. Which of course inevitably leads to failure because the animal is unable to govern.A thoughtful, measured book, full of keenly-observed moments, all sketching the bigger picture behind it - the elephant (or whale?) in the room - and leading us to question much of what our received opinions of the world are based upon. 

  • Hamilton Wende
    2019-02-07 16:40

    Fantastic book! A whirlwind ride into our past!

  • Scott Pomfret
    2019-02-11 20:52

    Recommended by my high school English teacher, the Book of War is a brutal lyrical account of colonial power's ultimate triumph over native people trying to reclaim scarce land. That description suggests a good side and a bad side, but there are none in this fascinating but unremittingly bleak tale of savagery. Organized in chapters that are set out like an old-fashioned Dickensian serial, the book proceeds at a fast clip as green recruits are mauled and punished and for a time victory hangs in the balance. Bowels are spilled out, brains splatter, blood spurts. The tide turns. Savages appear on both sides; savants as well. It's a spare, well-paced account rich with embedded historical fact and nimbly told. What a talent to have devoured and digested so much history and produced such a tight taut imaginative history!

  • Scott
    2019-02-15 21:49

    I really wanted to like this book; the cover art was enticing and there were some rather impressive names on the back cover commending it. I struggled through it and have to say that, while it was not completely awful, it was a slog to complete.The writing style is (the author admits) heavily based on that of Cormac McCarthy and the story is based on his novel "Blood Meridian". This was quite evident from the start of reading it. This is perhaps great for literary fiction and academic honours, but I found it, well....boring.Call me a Philistine, but not my cup of tea.

  • Cal Harding
    2019-02-09 18:45

    Derivative and pointless. Whyle attempts to transplant the heart of a lion into the body of a mongoose by gawkily shoehorning the diluted style, characters, motifs, and even entire passages from McCarthy's Blood Meridian into a South African setting.On the other hand, perhaps the entire thing is satire; a sublimely subtle indictment of the smug vacancy of literary post-modernity, in which case, bravo!

  • Warren Wilbraham
    2019-01-25 16:35

    Brilliantly written. The horrific imagery brought about by gentle words and your imagination as you realise the events unfolding.