419

By Will Ferguson - 419 (7/28/13) - Will Ferguson

As soon as I realized that this book was set in both Calgary and Nigeria (two of my homes in my formative years), I was intrigued. Ferguson`s sense of the muckiness of oil-production is profound, and he also manages to give a good depiction of the contrast between the chaos of the delta in Nigeria, where oil wars destroy the landscape and its inhabitants, and snowy Alberta, where our female protagonist sees the rigs at a distance from her apartment window. On the other hand, two people die in this novel by being set on fire with gasoline, one on each continent. So really the oil-places are not so different after all.

Four narratives - those of Laura the editor (and daughter of an internet scam victim) from Calgary, Winston the internet scammer from Lagos, Amina the pregnant woman from Muslim northern Nigeria, and Nnamdi the pipeline engineer from the nominally Christian south - are presented to us in intertwining fragments. They collide violently at the end, with some of the characters causing or trying to cause the death of others (no spoilers here).

I found myself not as invested in the Calgary characters as the Amina/Nnamdi family, and I'm not quite sure why. Regardless of that, I definitely noticed that the women in this book survived far better than the men, and mostly through trickery (as opposed to violence) - and a little bit of luck.

Three stars may be on the stingy side for "419", but it didn't quite make it to the 4-star level for me.