Saturday, May 9, 2009

Under the Fifth Sun by Jeffrey Osburn

Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

This novel by Jeffrey Osburn takes place primarily along the Mexican/American border, predominantly the Texas/Juarez area, a place of great activity of all kinds and an excellent locale for this exciting debut. As might be expected, the drug cartels of Mexico play a huge role in this story, but also the devastating use by the warring cartels of Mexican innocents who believe a better life for their families await them in the USA. Mix this up with the generations of mostly-corrupt vs honest politics, the plot of the ousted president to overthrow the current government, and ultra-high technology, and you have a captivating winner of a story. Jeffrey Osburn, with his personal and professional experiences is just the author to write it.

Although the story and action takes place interactively from separate locales, it flows much more smoothly than one might expect. The activities of the military, US and Mexican government agencies working together, drug cartels who are also warring for control, and others are told in "real" time keeping the story compact and updated. The use of satellite technologies by the Americans is fascinating and amazing. The ingenuity of the drug cartels is astounding, and the plight of the Mexican population is heartbreaking. There is one very important person on loan to the American team who is stranded in Mexico and on the run which brings the reader into some very interesting history of the still largely untouched RarĂ¡muri tribe, existing for millennia as part of the Tarahumara, indigenous to Mexico. Here he is able to remain unnoticed for a few days. His run is not without a couple of miscalculations on his part, putting him and others into more jeopardy. His journey is also played out interactively with the rest of the plot and everyone appears to be looking for him.

This book demonstrates the brutality of the cartels, the fear of the people, the corruption of many governments in Mexico. It also demonstrates dependency on oil, the hopes of the Mexican government, and the hopes of the American government to be a part of the production in Mexico. But it also shows the kindness offered to Vega, the man on the run, by people he meets, even in this hostile environment where Americans are not welcome.

A very tightly woven and sophisticated novel, an excellent debut. My congratulations to Jeffrey Osburn.

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