Review Blog

Jun 29 2011

Prohibited Zone: a thriller in the desert by Alastair Sarre

cover image

Wakefield Press, Kent Town, South Australia, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-862545-943-2.
Highly recommended for 13 years plus. Alastair Sarre has penned an outstanding debut novel with Prohibited Zone. Sarre draws on his outback childhood in the outback town of Leigh Creek and later living in the Adelaide Hills to describe scenery, places and towns in detail based on reality.
The story is based around an actual happening, a break-out by many refugees from the Woomera Detention centre in the Australian desert, in 2002. Amid the hysteria associated with the war on terror and newspaper beat-up there are not only cops and secret police out on the search but also redneck vigilantes with the additional incentive of a $10,000 reward. The two main Afghanis sought are Amir Ali Khan, who is deemed to know bin Laden, and his friend Saira Abdiani.
Ex AFL Crows star Steve West, now an outback mining engineer is the narrator. Whilst heading to Adelaide for a week's holiday he comes across several police roadblocks. Subsequently, while having a beer at the Pimba roadhouse soft hearted Steve gets conned by activist and Sydney-sider Kara Peake-Jones into helping transport Saira to town. Kara is aiming to get Saira interviewed by 60 Minutes about the atrocities of rape and other abuses that have been happening in the detention centre. Steve's unwitting involvement has many ugly consequences for him.
Alastair Sarre uses rich dialogue such as describing someone as 'a lanky, stringy bit of gristle about 6 feet 3.' Country characters are named Spud, Chook, and Baz. His opening line of: 'Dusk was falling soft on a land as hard as old bones and I had the road and the world and the whole damned universe to myself,' paints the outback perfectly.
The author also uses his topic to educate the reader about different cultures. When Steve questions why one would kill for religious reasons, Kara states, 'When you're locked inside a religious paradigm, the easiest thing in the world is to find a reason to hate everyone outside the paradigm. Particularly when they own land and wealth you think is yours and claim God for themselves.' '
Prohibited Zone is a fast moving political thriller that could be a senior text. Highly recommended for 13 year plus. Book club questions are available .
Kay Haarsma

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