Moose actually wrote this before my Wilbur Smith page was ever started. He graciously gave me permission to use his review of 'River God' (as you can see). You can send Moose your comments Here! or visit his Shareware and Emulation Valley Web Page.

Book Review : River God by Wilbur Smith

I only started reading River God because it was highly recommended to me by someone. However, once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. It haunted my dreams at night, and I couldn't stop thinking about it during the day.

Hollywood called the Ben Hur movie an Epic, and I used to believe them. But then I read River God, and I now understand what the word Epic really means.

River God is a well written book and is an excellent read.

The book is based upon the life of an Egyptian slave, named Taita, and it follows Taita through his adult life.

At this time, the Egyptian Empire is at its peak, but just starting to decline.

Pharoh Mamose is a weak ruler, and due to his indecision and weakness, bandits are everywhere in Egypt, corrupt Lords and Officials abound, and Pharoh's Double Crown is under threat from over ambitious and ever so devious Lords.

To top it all of, the Egyptian economy is in a bit of a mess. The country is being plundered by the ever more lavish Burial Chambers with their ever increasing stock piles of treasure that successive Pharohs are demanding.

From the time a Pharoh is born, stock piles of treasure start being amassed and construction begins on his burial chamber.

However, the Palaces occupied during the life of the Pharoh are far more modest than his eventual Burial Chambers.

Unlike the vast majority of slaves, Taita manages to become a personal servant of one of the Lords of Egypt, Lord Intef, and leads a fairly comfortable life.

While working for Lord Intef, Taita constantly amazes his master and others around him with his inventiveness and intelligence, and very quickly earns a high regard and reputation.

However, Taita (when still a young man) is caught making love to another slave by his Master.

It is at this time that Taita finds out just what sort of Master he has. Without a second though, Lord Intef orders that Taita be castrated and his penis and both testicles are cut off with a sharp knife. However, as a small consolation, his male organs are not thrown to the crocodiles but are given to him in a jar.

This is so that when he dies, he can be buried with his male organs. This will ensure (according to popular belief at the time) that in his next life he will be a whole man again.

Following this event, Taita learns the wicked web of deceit, deception, and corruption his Master in practising.

Nothing is below Lord Intef. He attempts to use his daughter, Lostris, (his only child) to gain advantage and boost his position in Egypt to the point where he can overthrow the Pharoh and wear the Double Crown for himself.

However, Lostris is in love with, Tanus, a brave and valiant warrior in the Egyptian army.

When Lord Intef learns of this love, he sends his henchmen to murder Tanus, but the attempts fail, mainly due to the warnings Taita secretly sends.

Throughout it all, Taita is forced to use all his considerable influence, to try and keep himself, Lostris, and Tanus alive.

I can't say too much here, because I don't want to spoil the story for anyone planning to read the book.

Suffice to say, the book follows Taita throughout his life. Through Taita's eyes, we witness the invasion of Egypt by a ruthless army, the murder of the Pharoh, numerous attempted murders of Tanus, Lostris, and Taita himself. Eventually, the remnants of the Egyptian Empire are forced to flee Egypt completely with the invading army hot on their heels.

With just 10,000 homeless survivors, they face the insurmountable challenge of finding a new home in which to hide from the enemy, and then start the process of building up an army in which to reclaim their country again.

This process takes over 10 years, and involves numerous adventures and problems.

At the end of the book, there is an incredible battle, which is fought against insurmountable odds, but once again Taita's genius comes into play to even the odds slightly.

What is amazing about River God is that the story is based on real life events that occurred around 1780 BC in Egypt.

In 1988, 10 jars full of scrolls hidden in the wall of an Egyptian tomb in the Valley of the Nobles were discovered. The hieratic script on the scrolls was translated, and the scrolls were carbon dated to determine their age. River God is based on the information these scrolls contained.

What is reassuring about this story is that over the past 3,800 years, human nature has not changed at all. There have always been evil people and good people. There have always been heroes and villains. Humans still have the same desires, needs, ambitions, faults, strengths, and weaknesses as they did 3,800 years ago.

River God is basically about an epic journey, a heroic battle, and enduring love.

I highly recommend River God to anyone who enjoys a really good book.

Moose's Rating : 9 / 10

The above review is Copyright © Moose O'Malley, October 13, 1996.