J.M. Ledgard is, according to the bio on the back of his book, “a thinker on risk and technology in emerging economies and a political and war correspondent for the Economist. He lives and works in Africa.” So, he seems to have the credibility necessary to write a story set in Somalia and among jihadist fighters. Or at least this is one strand. The other is the story of Danielle Flinders (with whom James More, the British spy being held captive in Somalia, had an intense and short relationship) who seeks to dive to the deepest part of the ocean floor to see what lives in that in the deepest of the deep, the Hadal (the resemblance to Hades is relevant).
Ledgard’s writing is elliptical and evocative. This is a book that is less about plot than it is about meandering memories. At times, Ledgard can lay the symbolism on a bit thick, but he offers great questions about frontiers, about water, and about the future.
Though I don’t understand all of the vocabulary here, this is one of my favorite passages:
The exaflap is the next step in the history of computing: one quintillion calculations a second. Then the zetraflop, yottaflop, and the xeraflop. The goal is nothing less than to slow down time and colonize it. Of course, a petaflop computer uses more electricity than the power grid of an African city. Then there is the problem of asking useful questions of it.