Anubis Rex *
Although Anubis Rex is purportedly fictional, one wonders at the many coincidences in it between today’s turmoil and the book's plot. Germ warfare, infectious diseases, Muslims, gene manipulation, white supremacy: subjects not unknown to us. Mears' novel opens in 1936 but it could be 2004. A melodic modern fable that is no fairy tale. Mears’ language is so descriptive, his fast-paced plot so moving, one has a hard time putting the book down. Yet his complex,poetic narrative, character-driven as well as multi-charactered, forces the reader to concentrate, to think, to visit the chapters more than once. A fresh concept in today’s simplistic, formulaic offering of novels. To me, this exciting novel (a fable interwoven with historical fact and a taste of history repeating itself) would also make a fabulous film. Educational yet thoroughly entertaining. I truly hope to see a sequel soon!
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Nov 01, 2008
7. "Anubis Rex" by Richard Chase Mears *
On 2 April, 1937 at 5:15 a.m. a narrow-gauge Punjab train rolled slowly and quietly along the tracks. Finally, it came to rest five miles outside Quilon in the Kerala Province of India. Steam issuing from the locomotive was the only vestige to any semblance of change. Its power spent, the train stopped. The engine became encased in a veil of ghostly mist that was strangely foreboding and alien. A lone mongoose stopped briefly to stare at the strange aberration. The animal quickly disappeared over a nearby, random hill. Nothing further stirred.
The morning sun rose as it had set, deep magenta molting into fuschia. But there was an oppressive, portentous quality to the torpid air as it rose with the heat. A Gaoli herdsman watched apprehensively from a distant knoll, wondering at this strange mirage to the East which stood dark and unyielding, silhouetted against a cruel panorama of dancing heat. His eyes slowly adjusted and focused on the three car caravan. This was not the Malabar Express he had so often seen. No, a special train, he thought, to carry the rich beyond the Western Ghats.
But the aura was even stranger. There was a maleficence about its presence. Something beyond his simple thought. He was mesmerized by its stillness and fell asleep in his watch. He awoke later to find the train still standing in the silent presence of the midday sun. He understood now that this was not a dream. In the distance, a thin column of smoke had fanned out over the desolate plain. Higher still, vultures rode the air currents. As the herdsman, Singh, watched, his eyes fixed on what he would vow to be the very image of Shiva glaring out towards the waters of Periyar.
At 8 a.m. on the following day, Fernando Da Souza, Chief Inspector of the Portuguese Colonial Police of Goa, stood with eight men casually surveying the wide expanse of barren and unfriendly landscape and a train which lay before them like some black snake sleeping in the heat of an Indian summer. Nothing moved except the caboose door which mysteriously opened and closed on the windless plain. No one appeared from the train. Suspense taunted Da Souza as he stared at the bloody imprint of a hand displayed on a window of the Pullman car.
"A three-car train..."
Da Souza lit a cigarette. Times had been dull in Goa. But today would be different. Today he felt the sweet anxious juices of intrigue. In anticipation he wished an inordinate crime. Mulling over the possibility of foreign involvement and enjoying the freedom of conjecture, he outlined his investigation while he waited for official word from the Civil Investigation Department in Delhi. Whatever the event, he knew it would be explosive. He had anticipated the civil discontent that ran rampant throughout the rest of the country. Rallies increasingly attacked British rule, as hunger went unchecked in the Northeast.
Da Souza had mixed feelings about the pacifist they called Mahatma Gandhi. The man moved the country into conflict. He felt Gandhi's power was strong and growing. The new Nationalism was strong and although Da Souza was Portuguese, he welcomed this new excitement, this new era for all people.
It was a good time, he thought. The Germans under Adolph Hitler caused waves of consternation and aggression in Europe. The Japanese invaded China. Spain was under the gun of Franco. Da Souza was pro-British but sympathized with the German cause. He had always thought the treaty of Versailles to be unreasonable, as did most of his compatriots. It pleased Da Souza that the Germans did not die. He feared, however, what he heard of a new German philosophy and the totenkopfverbaende, the skull and crossbones units of the new German police: the S.S. His fear was for Fernando Da Souza, Chief Inspector. If they occupied Goa, he thought, what would be the capacity of his fine, leisurely job? And what about the Japanese? How safe is Goa? he wondered. Will the Germans quiet Indian Nationalism? The Hindus? The Moslems?
And the Catholics? The Catholics! I am Catholic and a majority, he rationalized. As Catholic as Goa. The Germans like Catholics. Such questions pervaded Da Souza's mind. The more he thought, the more complex became his question. He had always known Goa as a jewel in international eyes, as a port of immeasurable wealth and beauty. Always as a bastion of conflict. And he loved the Jesuits. Their presence always gave him strength. What would they think? He lit another cigarette and stood in wait while the rest of India shook its lethargy.