Philip Roy
List Price: $11.95
Paperback: 247 pages
Publisher: Ronsdale Press (2013)
ISBN: 978-1-55380-247-1 (print)
ISBN: 978-1-55380-248-8 (ebook)
ISBN: 978-1-55380-249-5 (pdf)

Reviewed by Lori Shwydky

If the Life of Pi is one of your favourite novels, then you will love Philip Roy’s Seas of South Africa,– the sixth book of the Submarine Outlaw Series. Seas of South Africa is categorized as young adult, but the exotic locale will intrigue readers of all ages. The enchanting voice of the narrator-protagonist takes us on many exciting adventures on the high seas and onto the Dark Continent.

The story is seton the east coast of post-Apartheid South Africa, and narrated through the eyes of Alfred Pynsent, a young explorer aged 16, who travels the seas by a self-built submarine. His is aided by a quirky three-member crew – his dog, a seagull, and a parrot.  Alfred‘s thought-provoking voice is rich in rhythm and lulls the reader into a calm that mirrors the tranquility of smooth seas, then mercilessly thrusts the reader into heart-stopping action. With Alfred’s integrity and sensitive disposition, his love of animals, and the courage he displays in the face danger, Roy has created an extremely likable protagonist. The complementary characters are also dynamic and well-rounded, though the pirates often appear stereotypical and one-dimensional.

The action begins quickly off the coast of Mozambique when Alfred encounters a vicious pirate, one of many that plague Africa’s east coast. After being attacked, battered, and bruised, Alfred narrowly escapes, but with the criminal’s stolen treasure in tow and several angry pirates in hot pursuit. Roy is a master at creating suspenseful, nail-biting action:

“I started walking towards the water, and he followed me. I kept thinking, maybe I could run for it. But I also kept imagining the knife sticking into my back. The water was so close, just a run and a jump. But I’d be an easy target for his knife….What were my other options? I tried to think. There weren’t any. I reached the top of the stairs, took a glance over the [cliff] edge, took one step, and flung myself off.”

After Alfred decides to tow the pirate’s boat full of guns and drugs out to sea to sink it, he rescues Los, a young African man who crashes into the ocean while flying a small plane he built himself and powers with vegetable oil. Los is an inventor with a brilliant mind and a good heart, and despite his very reckless nature, Alfred invites Los to join him on his travels. The duo’s journey continues undersea by submarine, and by motorcycle on land, through dangerous townships where they encounter a herd of ferocious elephants, vengeful villagers, and more angry pirates.

Seas of South Africa is an engaging book not only about travel, adventure, piracy, poverty, and corruption  the legacy of Apartheid – but also about the power of friendship and the human spirit. Roy is honest in depicting the contrasting faces of South Africa. His vivid descriptions of the magnificent wilderness and powerful seas are captivating, but he is unflinching in his portrayal of South Africa’s squalor, and misery – the best and the worst of humankind.

This book is complete and enthralling on its own and can be read as a stand-alone, but to witness a compelling character arc, I would recommend the series as a whole.

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