Humans: The Untold Story of Adam and Eve and their Descendants
Reviewed By: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli's most recent novel is "Deborah Rising" (HarperColllins 2016), the story of the first woman to lead a nation in history. www.azrielibooks.com
Humans: The Untold Story of Adam and Eve and their Descendants is a substantial novel in three parts by Joseph M. Luguya, which explores good and evil through human, mythological and supernatural characters, much of it in the form of a grand debate, delivering an intricate theological saga.
Humans includes three volumes: “The Thesis” (Volume One), “Mjomba and the Evil Ghost” (Volume Two), and “The Demoniac” (Volume Three). The scene that launches Humans appropriately involves both mystery and magnificence: “The International Trade Center literally sat on the edge of downtown Dar es Salaam, the beautiful metropolis … whose name fittingly signified “Heaven of Peace”. Christian Mjomba’s office was located on the twenty-seventh floor. In an unusual move, using a key he took from his wallet, Mjomba unlocked a side door to his office and slid furtively inside.” And from this opening of a mysterious door, Humans builds up to a complex yet compassionately humane story of Mjomba’s fascinating journey.
In his earlier days, Mjomba had been a seminarian whose tangling with a monumental assignment on the “Original Virtue” led to an immensely challenging intellectual and spiritual quest—as well as a “Devil’s bargain” of sorts. He fences with Satan and with its good counterparts while bringing into stark question many of the basic tenets of the church. In fact, “having in effect enlisted the help of Satan in the task of turning out a winning thesis on the subject of “Original Virtue,” Mjomba finds himself “feeling quite uncomfortable filling the role of scribe to a creature that the sacred scriptures had pointedly referred to as “Accuser of our Brethren” (Revelation 12:10).”
And so, in a twist that makes Humans uniquely intriguing, Mjomba’s sincere efforts to turn the most evil force into good and, thus, save souls, ends up placing our hero himself at a highly questionable—and dangerous—position.
Author Joseph M. Luguya brings to this novel enormous knowledge of religious concepts and historical records. Through the protagonist and the secondary characters, the reader becomes privy to a wealth of ideas and detailed arguments, many of them new and daring. While much of the book offers a multi-faceted, extensive dissertation that might appear dense to some readers, the author’s creative use of Satan’s own voice makes it hard to put down, not only when provocative arguments begin to attain logical flair, but also when the author brings in controversial historical figures whose legacy is open to debate—and to literary license—as Satan claims them to his side: “Take the so-called ‘reformation’ that I engineered. Believe it or not, but it was my idea. I used Martin Luther, a Catholic friar – yes, and a good one at that – and a reformer, to set it in motion.” Or this one: “… Joan of Arc who was labeled a witch and burned at the stake! You may or may not like to hear it, but I also succeeded in using that innocent girl to confound and drive other good souls in the Church to virtual despair.”
Some of the arguments in fact ring true not only in the religious realm or in the historical context, but in our current world, festering as it is with religious tensions and ethnic prejudices: “Later, during his oral defense of the thesis, Mjomba would comment that one of the legacies of original sin was the perennial tendency of humans to never see evil in themselves, and to see nothing good in other humans – especially those who were different from themselves in some respect.” How true!
The author is especially deft at merging abstract ideas and structural visualizations into symbols that our hero’s mind ponders in ways reminiscent of Dan Brown’s symbologist Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code: “But the image of an inverted pyramid balancing on top of another pyramidal shape flooded Mjomba’s mind with a force that made him feel like he might pass out. He attributed his ability to stay afloat and not drift off into a swoon to the fact that he was able to focus his mind on the peculiar design Primrose had produced using the blurb’s material and its similarity to the letter “X”!”
Humans is also distinguishable in telling a story within a story, cleverly utilizing several layers of imaginary characters. For example, here is our protagonist reflecting on his own created protagonist: “Mjomba shut his eyes and paused to think about Innocent Kintu, the central character of his “masterpiece.” As images of the nurse’s beguiling manner came flocking back, he came close to concluding that a non-fictional character like Kintu could in fact be considered fictional when contrasted with a character like Flora!”
In summary, Humans: The Untold Story of Adam and Eve by Joseph M. Luguya creates a dramatic confrontation between a virtuous young scholar and the most malevolent character of all, delivering an extensive, all-encompassing confrontation that becomes a metaphor for the very core of human existence. This thought-provoking, sprawling novel explores unresolved issues of faith and spirituality while the leading character valiantly defends all that he holds dear in the struggle between good and evil, life and death, and the opposing forces of divine creation. Readers will be enticed to contemplate the most fundamental questions of human existence and come away with a deeper understanding of both differences and commonalities that define us. Significant and Memorable!