Book Review: The Ear, The Eye and The Arm, Nancy Farmer

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm is one of those books that has stuck in my imagination since I first read it in my childhood, and is probably one of the books that fired my love of speculative fiction, my love of both science fiction and magic realism.

“That was the best kind of story: when the teller was as much under its spell as the listener.”

Set two hundred years in the future from when it was published (in 2194), in Zimbabwe, The Ear, the Eye and the Arm is a noir detective story, a science fiction story and a magic realism story, all bundled together for a teenage audience.

A General’s three children are kidnapped, and his shadow is too heavy for him to help them. His wife hires a team of detectives with special powers, inherited from a nuclear accident in their village, to search for the children.

The children themselves are very resourceful (they are the protagonists in a YA novel, after all) and escape from their kidnappers, only to stumble from one misadventure into another.

“Knowledge is a house that must be built from the ground up. We know how to make the roof. The information is useless if we don’t understand the foundations on which it is to be placed.”

African gods, mutants with superpowers, heavily armed gangs and manipulative members of the “English tribe” all populate the pages of this fantastic novel.

And, as a bonus, the novel was written for African children, whom the author noticed loved to buy (and read to death) second-hand science fiction novels. The afterward is touching and is well worth reading.

Loved it!

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