King of Rumah Nadai

Terence Clarke, Author
Terence Clarke, Author Mercury House $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56279-060-8
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
The richly multicultural world of Malaysia in the 1960s is the setting for this evocative novel by Clarke ( My Father in the Night ), himself a resident of Borneo for many years. Dan Collins is a high-ranking U.S. State Department official based in Sarawak, the central province of the newly created country. When Eddie Gould, a State Department worker, ``goes native'' and shows up on the cover of National Geographic in tattoos and a loincloth, Collins is held responsible. Disturbed by a threat to recall him to Washington, Collins decides to search out Eddie himself. He travels upriver to the primitive village of Rumah Nadai, armed with only one piece of advice: ``Watch out for the darkness.'' There, with the help of the local tribe's headman, Bawang, Collins himself transforms almost completely into one of the native Ibans, using a blowgun, raising a fighting cock and traveling alone in the terrifyingly dark rain forest. The novel is at its best when weaving together different cultures--Malay, Chinese, Iban, British--that struggle to form the emerging Malaysian nation. But the background and motivation behind Collins's flight into the jungle remains unclear, and a melodramatic ending involving encroaching loggers provides no additional information. This remains an appealingly written novel in which much is carefully observed, save for the main character himself. (June)
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