The Hangman's Replacement: Sprouts of Disruption


While reading The Hangman's Replacement I got the feeling that Taona Dumisani Chiveneko wants to be the African Douglas Adams or maybe the African Christopher Moore. There is indeed an absurd wit in this book that is very much like these two authors.

But Chiveneko is much darker that either. He blends fantasy, horror and social satire in an uniquely African style. Yet the author doesn't quite gain a foothold in being compared to Moore or Adams, at least not yet. He still must find out that great social satire needs more than cleverness and colorful characterizations.

He starts out well. In the first 100 pages, we are introduced to Abel Muranda, a poor and illiterate farmer who comes to the city with the hope of gaining a job as the town hangman. It's not a job not many people want but the noble Abel needs to feed his family and get them health insurance, so he is very willing to take it. The character of Abel is magnificent; a simple man who turns out to be smarter and more honest than any of the people he needs to confront.

Unfortunately, he disappears in the rest of the book. We meet a variety of bankers, lawyers, prostitutes, assassins, carpenters, a insane genius and many more. It is a big unnecessary crowd that muddle a story that would have better spent with less frills and many less pages than the 500 plus that the author uses. The fact that this is one of a series and that we receive no ending payoff just makes this work more puzzling.

Yet Chiveneko does have a talent for setting character and mood. It gets lost in the mess that is a plot but it is there. It will be nice to see some more of his work but I hope he learnw to streamline and stick to one main characters...or least many less than he thinks he needs to tell this story. For the fact that the author shows promise, I give this work a very generous three stars. But I can't recommend it.