Flower of the Desert

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Flower of the Desert
Author: Ryoue Tsukimura
Specifications: ISBN  978-4344026308
349 pages
13.6 x 19.5 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Gentosha Inc.
Tokyo, 2014
www.gentosha.co.jp
Awards: Mystery Writers of Japan Award, 2015
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

A battle-action novel set on eastern Africa’s Somali Peninsula?also known as the Horn of Africa.

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force 1st Airborne Brigade is participating in a multinational coalition formed to pursue pirates operating with impunity under the anarchic conditions that have prevailed in Somalia for many years. The brigade is based near the border in neighboring Djibouti. On June 21, word of a helicopter crash comes in after noon, and a search and rescue team of 12 men rushes to the scene of the accident some 70 kilometers away, inside Somalia. The fallen chopper is caught in a rock crevice, and it appears that no one aboard has survived. The team decides to camp for the night before attempting to recover the bodies.

After midnight, three women arrive at their camp with a plea for help. Speaking English, one of the women identifies herself as Askira, daughter of the sultan of a major Somali clan; the other two women are her personal attendants. She says that she is fleeing a genocidal massacre by the hostile Warzden clan, which is bent on a complete ethnic cleansing of her people.

The assigned mission of the JGSDF is strictly limited to anti-piracy actions, and they are prohibited from becoming involved in civil strife or engaging in combat. But they have no time to dither over whether to help the women or leave them to their own devices before they come under attack by the Warzden militia. Both of Askira’s attendants and five SDF members, including the commanding officer, are killed in short order. Deprived of their vehicles, weapons, and communications gear, the remaining seven members of the search-and-rescue team, led by Sergeant Major Yoshihiko Tomonaga, 31, begin an 18-hour ordeal to reach safety with Askira.

They face one peril after another, but thanks to their sharp wits and just enough good fortune when it counts, they are able to defeat their attackers, steal their weapons and truck, and make haste for the border. Their progress is hampered not only by further skirmishes, but by torrential rains and a sudden sandstorm packing wind speeds exceeding those of a typhoon. One, then another, SDF man dies. Soon the Warzden militia is joined in its pursuit by Al-Shabaab, the most feared Islamist terrorist group in Somalia: the Warzden and Al-Shabaab have struck an alliance aimed at wiping out Askira’s clan and claiming their oil rights.

The high point of the novel comes in a final life-or-death battle with Warzden and Al-Shabaab forces in a ruined town. There are five men left on the SDF side, one of them severely wounded. They are still 20 kilometers away from their base. In last-ditch suicide missions, two of the men succeed in taking out the two enemy commanders, and the remaining three are able reach the safety of their base with Askira.

While giving readers scarcely a moment to catch their breaths from the fast-paced action, the narrative also manages to delve into the psychological struggles of SDF members, previously untested in battle, as they experience combat for the first time. This is entertainment fiction at its heart-pounding best.