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The Sands of Kalahari by William Mulvihill
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The Sands of Kalahari

by William Mulvihill

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The cover of my copy of Sands of the Kalahari is not yet on the internet. Sadly, ‘cause it says everything: Broken plane! Sand! Mountains! Shirtless! Swooning!

Well, everything except the fact that the picture is totally wrong for the opening scene of the book—no one’s shirtless because who wants to burn, the token woman is most definitely not swooning or in a dress, the Ken-doll-ish man resembles none of other plane-crash survivors (the beefy big-game hunter, the old German, the token black professor, the pudgy engineer, and the hardcore pilot), and they are walking *towards* the mountains for cover not away— everything in the sense that it firmly place the book perfectly into the pulp survival thriller genre.

I mean that in the best way (and admittedly having scant pulp novel experience), as William Mulvihill tale of six strangers whose plane crashes in the Kalahari desert is often compelling and exciting in all the ways you expect it to be, as they struggle to survive both against the elements and scarcity and against each other (aided by a real verisimilitude of the desert). But beyond its tight plotting, Sands of the Kalahari surprises with its psychological depth and real contemplative streak, as Mulvihill takes free rein to wax on: be it on the characters’ reactions to being confronted with their own true natures away from civilization, or in one particularly beautiful passage, the lives and deaths of a tamarisk tree. And while sometimes this means Mulvihill gets a little too obviously ‘philosophical’ or preachy and his female portrayal is extremely outdated— there’s a lasting elegance to Kalahari. ( )
  kaionvin | Mar 28, 2011 |
*Survival of the Fittest*

Written in 1960, this short novel is certainly not short on story. The Sands of the Kalahari by William Mulvihill is an exciting adventure book about an incredible feat of survival, a suspenseful story that leaves you on edge until the final page is turned.

Seven unconnected people hire a private plane to take them to South Africa after their original plane has technical problems, unable to takeoff. The new pilot, agrees to take the folks himself, helping them out to get where they need to go. Very quickly after being airborne, faulty equipment has the plane nose-diving, plummeting down, and crash landing in the African desert. One man dies on impact, leaving six members safe and unhurt. Five men and one woman gather up as much as they can from their own luggage and airplane supplies and head out into the baking sun, across mountains and an arid rocky landscape hoping to find civilization. None of them, including the pilot, have any clue where they have landed. But an older German man insists they are in the Kalahari, recognizing the area from a previous visit during World War I. He tells them they are thousands of miles from any village or people and that their situation was very dire. They soon worry about water, food, the possibility of dangerous Bushmen attacking, and staying alive.

Within their first long day's trek they arrive at a valley between mountains with some trees and vegetation for shade, and after exploring the area carefully, find a small fresh water lake, some melon trees, and a very large empty cave where they set up camp to hole up in until they can access their situation.

Agreeing unanimously to stay in the cave area to rest up and eat, they settle quickly into a daily routine of foraging for food, gathering water, and inventing ideas to set up a cozy home while they try to figure out whether to go in search of help, or to stay in case of rescue. But soon things get a little odd and creepy, for one by one, members of the party disappear. Those remaining are frightened and confused as to what is happening, where the others have gone, and they realize too that there is a madman among them.

Under 200 pages this is a riveting story of friendship and betrayal, determination and perseverance, and survival of the fittest. I thoroughly enjoyed this quick novel with its endearing characters and theme of never throwing in the towel no matter how much a situation seems futile. Fun, entertaining, and thought provoking. ( )
  vernefan | Dec 5, 2009 |
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