Thursday, July 06, 2017

Book review: The Missionaries

A review of THE MISSIONARIES by Owen Stanley:
Owen Stanley’s The Missionaries is a welcome addition to the genre of ‘savagely funny novel’, the zenith of which is bracketed by Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (1954) and Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man (1975). Amis and Bradbury targeted academic lunacy, and Stanley does likewise, except that unlike the 50s and 70s, the scholar-prat has reached well beyond, like a noxious virus, the confines of the ivory tower. If you ever wondered where people with postgraduate degrees in the social sciences go, besides reabsorption into the belly of the beast that gave birth to them, then wonder no more; they end up like Dr. Sydney Prout, head of the United Nations mission to fictitious Elephant Island (located somewhere in Melanesia).

What a marvelous creation he is. And pitch perfect. An army of Sydney Prouts tramp this earth like wildebeest on the plains of Africa, kicking up dust and not much else. Educated beyond their capacity, unemployable in shrinking departments of anthropology, political science, and gay fetish studies, they drift about in non-government organisations (some of which have bigger budgets than governments of mid-sized countries) seeking to fix the world by remaking it in their own image. The main aspiration of this new breed of development aid warrior (a close cousin to the social justice warrior) is an executive role at an international NGO with a salary that would make a marketing manager blush followed, in the fullness of time, with a sinecure at the World Bank or one of the UN agencies. Here, buried away in the hallways of justice and business class cabins, our overeducated betters can interfere in people's lives at leisure on tax free salaries and under the imprimatur of a ‘multilateral agency’.

It is a testament to Mr. Stanley’s ability to craft a character of such verisimilitude that I found myself on more than one occasion putting the book down and shuddering in recognition, enveloped by a sense of horror at the meetings, conferences, projects and other assorted events involving idiots like Dr. Prout that he must have endured. A book like this does not arise from thin air; the author, I assure you, has been through the gates of hell and back to craft such a tale. Your average development aid warrior is a pestilential blight, and any man who has lived among them deserves all the accolades and wealth we are in a position to bestow upon him.
Read the whole thing there. He's not exaggerating. In my opinion, THE MISSIONARIES is the best novel that Castalia House has published yet, which is saying something considering that we have also published AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND and CTRL-ALT-REVOLT!. It is a borderline classic.


Anonymous JAMES July 06, 2017 11:28 AM  

It is the best novel you've published.

No offence to the others, just true.

Blogger Cluebat Vanexodar July 06, 2017 11:29 AM  

I've been meaning to purchase this.

Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous roo_ster July 06, 2017 11:33 AM  

Read The Missionaries over the weekend.

Gave it a 5-star rating and left the following review:
"I am from the UN and I am here to help you.

The Missionaries is an excellent read, both for content (plot character development, etc.) and execution. The theme is both classic and contemporary: the folly of do-gooders and the destruction they engender. In this case, the over-educated and fatally ignorant do-gooders are UN and affiliated development agency denizens. Stanley never leaves dead space or needless puffery on the page and thus the pacing is superb and The Missionaries is a quick and entertaining read."

Blogger camperbot July 06, 2017 11:54 AM  

I don't think I've laughed out loud so much when reading a book. It helps if you've lived in Africa or some other colonial territory before; you'll recognize a lot of the characters. Heck you may even be one of them. 5/5.

Blogger JACIII July 06, 2017 12:14 PM  

Hell, the reviewer can write! Who is that?

And yes The Missionaries is a classic.

Blogger Koanic July 06, 2017 12:18 PM  

Another savagely-funny novel targeting academic lunacy:

Eugene McCarthy's fictionalization of hybrid stabilization theory as applied to human origins applied research:

The Department"

Blogger Publius July 06, 2017 12:25 PM  

It is the funniest book that Castalia has published to date, no doubt about that. It's also a book that simply could not get published by anyone other than Castalia.

I actually kept thinking back to Keith Laumar's Retief series as I read through it, frequently stopping to laugh out loud at the absurdity so clearly shown by Mr. Stanley.

Please give us more books by him!

Anonymous rien July 06, 2017 12:45 PM  

I am halfway through "Hitler in Hell", and though not as funny as "The Missionaries", on the whole -so far- I think its a better book.

Btw: I just read "The Machiavellians" before I read "H in Hell", and that is one heck of a combination to read in that sequence!

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother July 06, 2017 12:48 PM  

I just read CtlAltRevolt. Awesome stuff, and heavy one the Evil Dead references, which you just can't get enough of. Missionaries is on deck.

Blogger Cataline Sergius July 06, 2017 1:32 PM  

Pretty much my favorite from Castalia... So far.

The Missionaries spoke to my life experiences.

The best of the UN Poo-bahs had but one purpose and that was to make sure the UN got the credit for what we were doing.  The average ones would try to put us in UN Baby Blues, constantly lecture us on how to do our jobs and saddle us with insane Rules of Engagement, (bottom line don’t do anything gross like shoot back).  The worst of them would have had the colonial government of Leopold II reeling in horror.

The infuriating thing was sitting helplessly by and watching the UN get away with doing these things.  I have no idea why the United Nations still enjoys the kind of prestige that it does at that point.  It ranks as equal members first world democracies and third world kleptocrats.  It’s Human Rights Council is a by word for farce.  It’s a dumping ground for diplomats that couldn’t make it in their own countries diplomatic corps.  This is an oligarchy of bureaucrats with no one to answer to and yet, it pretends it’s the best that humanity has to offer.

As you may have guessed a book about United Nations high commissioners getting what they  deserve is little short of porn to me.

Blogger Cataline Sergius July 06, 2017 2:08 PM  

@9 Animal Mother

You are going to love it.

I think (but I am not certain) that Castalia is publishing the sequel to Soda Pop Solider.

Blogger Alexandros July 06, 2017 3:18 PM  

The Missionaries is definitely the best work Castalia House has put out! The hilarity of the book is only eclipsed by exactly what the reviewer is talking about: the grim, insane reality of over-educated idiots like Prout ruining people's lives for a king's ransom.

Anonymous Anonymous July 06, 2017 3:22 PM  

This reminded me to submit my review! I would definitely recommend reading The Missionaries.

I had heard a lot about it from the Darkstreams, so I knew it would be about how the UN workers are oblivious. However, what I liked a lot what was how we see that the "evil authoritarian" character is actually fine-tuned with the native culture. Who is the person that actually respects the natives -- the person who wants to have everyone live in luxurious Western Civilization, or the person who improves on the existing native culture?

Blogger VD July 06, 2017 3:57 PM  

I think (but I am not certain) that Castalia is publishing the sequel to Soda Pop Solider.

We are. I was discussing it with Nick earlier today.

Anonymous logprof July 06, 2017 8:19 PM  

I am reading my complimentary copy of it right now, and trying not to laugh too hard as I read it during lunch at work.

BTW, is Owen Stanley a pseudonym? If it's his legal name, it's a damn cool coincidence.

After reading the freebies, Brings the Lightning is next on my list.

Blogger Matthew July 07, 2017 1:11 AM  

I'm biased, obviously, but I would rank The Missionaries far, far above Waugh's Black Mischief.

Blogger Matthew July 07, 2017 1:12 AM  

logprof wrote:BTW, is Owen Stanley a pseudonym? If it's his legal name, it's a damn cool coincidence.

Read the author bio on Amazon and see what you think.

Anonymous Anonymous July 07, 2017 5:44 PM  

A reader unfamiliar with primitive thinkers like the Elephant Islanders or development aid warriors might assume the author was exaggerating for comic effect. Having been employed on the periphery of a multinational mission in Melanesia, I suggest he was indulging in understatement.

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