x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The Devils Garden: Man at the edge of primal wilderness

Edward Docx draws the reader into his own heart of darkness with a novel set in the dark and impenetrable environment of the South American jungle.

The Devils Garden.
The Devils Garden.

Edward Docx's third novel is set in the dark and impenetrable environment of the South American jungle. This is a restless place where small settlements occupy fragile pockets of an otherwise forbidding landscape. Docx draws you into the heart of his own darkness (perhaps inevitably, Joseph Conrad's presence stalks these pages) with the arrival of a government delegation at the last inhabited river station before the wilderness claims all but the indigenous tribes and the occasional riverboat renegade.

The sinister appearance of The Judge and Colonel Cordero, ostensibly to conduct a voter registration drive, upsets the flimsy peace of this remote scientific outpost, where Dr Forle and his team are studying the environmental impact of Myrmelachista schumanni (lemon ants) on Devil's Gardens, the tribal name for the darkest reaches of the inhospitable rainforest.

Forle hopes his research will prove beyond doubt the ants are engineering their own future, while trying to ensure his work does not affect the destiny of the landscape on which he toils. His visitors are, of course, more forceful in their methods, setting up a delicious examination of man and the unwritten laws of this brutal terrain.