November 06, 2013

Seas of South Africa

by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
200 pp.
Ages 10+
September, 2013

Oh, that Philip Roy.  He lulls the reader into calm with the beauty of his words.
I have learned that you cannot pick and choose what you will find when you go out to explore.  Sometimes you will find beautiful things, and sometimes you will find ugly things.  That is the world we live in.  In South Africa, where the warm Indian Ocean meets the cold Atlantic, like a meeting of two tigers, and where the hearts of people seem both bigger and darker than anywhere else, I found both. (pg. 1)
Then he plunges you into heart-stopping tension as Alfred, the star of The Submarine Outlaw Series, is accosted in Mozambique by a nasty behemoth of a pirate, threatened with a knife and almost drowned when the man tries to open the hatch while the sub is underwater.  So begins Seas of South Africa.

Though Alfred makes every effort to avoid the coast of Somalia and its pirates, he is dogged by one or more of them after escaping several altercations with the murderous thieves and relieving them of stolen treasure and money.   But, as he evades their search for him and as he frequently stops to wash the bloodied money, Alfred rescues a small parrot from a sinking boat, saves a young South African man who crashes his bicycle-powered plane into the ocean, survives the violence of mob justice in Soweto, and provides back-up for a wreck diver under attack from pirates.

But amidst the the heroics and narrow escapes, Alfred meets some memorable characters, learns more about South Africa's history including apartheid, experiences the anger, humour and breath-taking landscapes of Africa, and ultimately gains a new perspective that will direct his future exploring. 

I suspect that Alfred is a junior fictional version of Philip Roy himself: an explorer at his core with a heart filled with compassion and generosity, and the philosophical wisdom of an old spirit.  So his observations and appreciation of his experiences are probably as authentic as they can get, and that's how they read.  But in Seas of South Africa, Philip Roy goes beyond the adventure story, which is always part of The Submarine Outlaw Series, and the history, which often provides context for Alfred's explorations.  Delving deeper into the consequences of apartheid and its aftermath, Philip Roy demonstrates with subtlety that perspective can alter and justify interpretations of the same circumstances.  Prisons can be on isolated islands or within oneself, and desperation and violence may go hand-in-hand.  But, without a doubt, the clearest message given and received is to,
"Appreciate your life." (pg. 198)
Fortunately, Alfred clearly does, sharing that acknowledgement with the readers of Seas of South Africa and his intention to apply that obligation to ensuring the vitality and persistence of healthy oceans.  Bon voyage to our former submarine outlaw!

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard of these books before. They sound wonderful.