||Jan 15 2002
Two men, worlds and cultures apart, clash in their quest to control the most savage and inhospitable land on earth, Sarawak.
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Sarawak combines diligent research and attention to historical detail with romance, adventure and gripping action to weave an extraordinary story of intrigue and high adventure as two men, worlds and cultures apart, clash in their quest to control the most savage and inhospitable land on earth, Sarawak. James Brooke, a young English aristocrat grows up with dreams of fortunes to be made in the Far East. To realize his dream, James turns his back on a life of ease and comfort, breaks a promise to his father, renounces love, and through fate and the force of his indomitable will, finds himself in one of the most hostile and primitive environments on earth and face to face with Awang Api, a cruel and fiery Malay nobleman who covets Sarawak for himself and is willing to do anything to achieve it. Only one man will eventually rule Sarawak, but will the personal price he must pay be too great?
Circa 1824 A.D.
His name was stone. Batu. When he ducked behind a nipa palm beneath the dark folds of jungle canopy above him and remained motionless, the five members of his tiny Punan clan following several strides behind him melted noiselessly into the cover of the dense forest and crouched silently, observing only the tensed and well-defined muscles of their leader’s naked back for a sign.
It was early dawn and only singular blades of sunlight pierced the forest canopy high above the clan. The emerging warmth of the new day began to scatter wisps of a lingering fog and evaporate dewdrops clinging tenaciously to each leaf of vegetation surrounding the tiny group.
Batu’s band of jungle nomads awakened long before dawn from their temporary shelters of raised platforms constructed of nothing more than bamboo and palm thatch and had begun their daily trek through the dense interior of their jungle homeland to hunt and forage. Typical of their nomadic race, Batu’s band was small in numbers, consisting of a girl no more than ten years of age, a boy not much older, Batu’s brother who, at the age of sixteen, was only two years younger than the clan’s leader, and Batu’s fourteen-year old wife and eight-month old child.
Small in stature, the Punan were, nevertheless, muscular and strong. Their Mongoloid features were less than defined as if thousands of years of intense isolation from the rest of mankind gave nature the respite it needed to sculpt a new race of man. Although the Punan were genetically related to the various tribes who shared their island habitat, their skin was chalk white as a result of self imposed isolation within the deepest recesses of the dark jungle by generations of Batu’s Punan ancestors.
Batu’s band were a shy and timid people, preferring the less accessible highland jungle within the interior of the huge island to the more open terrain near the coast where countless watersheds sliced through the less dense lowlands as they transported their cargo of stolen water and silt from the inland mountains of the interior and dumped it amid the ugly mud flats along the coast. Unlike his sea-going neighbors, the Dyak, Kayan and Kenyan, the Punan never adapted to travel by water and Batu was careful not to lead his clan on foraging expeditions near the lowland regions particularly during landas, an annual event of nature that freed enormous volumes of water from moisture laden clouds which transformed the lowlands into impassable snake-infested swamps and changed the normally docile watersheds into raging mud-filled torrents.
The Punan clan remained silent and alert for a sign from their leader. Even Batu’s young child stopped suckling at his mother’s breast and fixed his eyes on his father, inherently aware that an event of some magnitude was about to occur. It was as if the same nature which had provided this race of people with such an abundance of temerity compensated and balanced the scales by bestowing upon even the youngest of their clan the instinct to hold his quiet for the survival of the band. Whether Batu had spotted game or danger didn’t matter to Batu’s tiny family. Their reaction would have been the same in either situation. Their survival depended upon each of them maintaining a cloistered silence and an ability to react instantaneously to any sign given by their leader.
As his name implied, Batu remained motionless, a pillar of rock in the thick of the jungle, a solid monument to a vanishing race of the island’s original inhabitants. Only his eyes shifted to follow the movements of the object of his attention some fifty meters beyond the cover of a nipa palm. Batu’s right hand clutched the long, smooth shaft of his blowpipe. A bamboo sheath fit snugly into the folds of his bark-beaten loin cloth. The sheath contained stiletto-thin darts fashioned from slivers of bamboo and freshly dipped in a mixture of lime and the deadly juice of the ipoh nut. If threatened, Butu was confident that he could easily hit the target to save his band.
But Batu hoped there would be no hostile encounter with the lone Kayan warrior passing before him. It was the way of the Punan to limit contact with others and to avoid confrontation whenever possible. Batu’s keen eyes told him that it was unlikely that the Kayan had detected Batu’s band because the young Kayan warrior appeared to be moving with some urgency and his movements informed Batu that the Kayan’s attention was diverted elsewhere, behind him, in the direction from which he had come.
Batu observed the interloper move quickly but cautiously along the leading edge of the forest where it had been cleft by one of the many feeder streams which fed the mighty Rajang River some distance below. The Kayan continued to move along the streams rocky bank in a series of hurried steps followed by a succession of stops while he turned his head and appeared to listen for sounds other than the steady ripple of the stream or the sporadic cries of awakening forest creatures.
Twenty meters from where Batu hid, the lone Kayan paused, glanced nervously behind him one final time and then disappeared into the protective womb of the thick forest. It was then that Batu recognized the young Kayan as Jau, son of the elderly Headman of the Kayan longhouse of Long Selah’at near the treacherous headwaters of the Rajang River some distance northeast of where the Punans hid. Jau wore the distinctive fangs of the clouded leopard inserted securely in the cartilage of his ear lobes and like all Kayan, his facial hair, including his eyelashes and brows, were plucked clean, giving the youthful Kayan a smooth and placid appearance that belied his naturally fierce nature. The young warrior’s hair was jet black and cut in the distinctive style of his tribe, in a straight line high around his forehead and along the sides of his head. The hair on the back of his head grew to a long, flowing mane held together by an unadorned knot at the middle of his naked back.
Jau carried a thick bladed knife, a parang, unsheathed and at the ready as if he expected to be set upon at any moment. His chawat, a length of black cloth enveloping his waist and covering his youthful manhood, flowed gracefully between his legs and didn’t hinder his movement through the underbrush beyond the stream.
Under normal circumstances, neither Jau nor the Punan clan would be a threat to one another. The Kayans treated their rare contact with the Punan much like a civilized parent might treat a feral child—with curiosity, detachment and tolerance. Only on rare occasions would the secretive Punan reveal themselves to their Kayan neighbors, and then only to trade the horns of the pigmy rhinoceros or the gall bladders of the honey bears which lived in the deep recesses of the highlands where the superstitious Kayan dared not enter. In return, the Punan received iron spear points which they affixed to the tips of their blowpipes having discovered that the combination of blowpipe and spear made a most formidable hunting weapon. Batu never understood why it was that the Kayan placed such a high premium upon horns and gall bladders; neither could be worn, eaten or used in a hunt. He was not aware that the Kayan, in turn, traded these precious jungle commodities to coastal Malay and Chinese merchants who coveted the objects as cures for all manor of ailments. In return, the Kayan obtained large earthenware jars, brass gongs and iron implements.
But Jau carried more than a parang in his hands and when Batu saw the object, he understood why the young Kayan moved with such obvious caution. Jau had completed his hunt for the day. But it wasn’t the game of the forest that he clutched so tightly in his hand but, rather, the severed head of an Iban child.
When Batu safely determined that the Kayan had distanced himself from the Punan clan and was no longer a potential threat, the tensed, long muscles of his back relaxed, and gave a silent signal to his tiny band that the danger or opportunity to hunt had passed. Without a word spoken among them, the Punan stepped from their hiding places and tacitly followed their leader in single file as he led them into the thickest and most remote part of the surrounding forest.
Batu picked his way slowly and soundlessly through the underbrush of the forest floor, his keen senses elevated as always to carefully monitor any sight or sound that would alert him to the two elements his environment provided in abundance—food and danger. As he walked he thought of his close encounter with the young Kayan warrior, Jau, and the grotesque trophy he carried with him. Like the pigmy rhinoceros’ tusks and the honey bear bladders, it made no sense to him that the Kayan should prize such things. Even more perplexing to Batu were the newest arrivals to the lowlands, the people who called themselves, Iban or Sea Dyaks and whom the Kayan called, ‘wanderers’. Like the sudden fury of the landas, the Iban had flooded the narrow river valleys near the Kayan lands in great numbers. They too, valued severed heads above all else but unlike their more refined neighbors and enemies, the Kayan and Kenyan, the Iban took heads wherever they found an opportunity—even from their own kind or from a careless Punan who strayed too close to the lowland territories.
Batu’s mental stirrings of the strange practices of these neighboring tribes resulted in no judgments, no moral outrage or condemnation of any of them. Thousands of years of survival-honed instinct simply confirmed to Batu that outsiders must be avoided.
With that knowledge certain, Batu led his small band deeper into the safety of the highland forest.
MEET A FEW OF THE CHARACTERS IN SARAWAK
James strutted when he paced through the cell and his bearing and speech, mannered and refined, signaled the brigands within that the young lieutenant was a man of breeding and privilege, an aristocrat, and they resented him for it.
But other things were also apparent. As James evaluated each of the men with his unfaltering dark blue eyes, he left each of them with the impression that their very souls, as shallow as they might be, were touched. As young as the lieutenant appeared to be, and as inexperienced as he obviously was, his sagacious probe left no doubts that the man had confidence; confidence in his judgement of other men and confidence in his ability to control and lead them.
“Oh, I don’t intend to live alone,” Elizabeth said. She shook her head emphatically and as she did so, her curls bounced delightfully around her pretty face. “Heavens no,” she laughed. “A castle is much too big for one person. I intend to have a husband by then. Children too, perhaps.”
“Elizabeth! You are much too young to be talking of such things,” Lady Gray chastened.
“I’ll soon be seventeen. More than old enough to know my own mind.” Elizabeth smiled at her aunt but her deep brown eyes had defiance written on them. “Besides,” she chuckled, “a castle is cold, as Harriet said, and I shall need someone to keep me warm.”
Lady Gray gasped, looked askance and fanned herself furiously with her lace handkerchief.
Harriet Barton chuckled to herself and admitted that she liked this brassy ward of the Grays’--even if it was only because she put a barb in Lady Gray’s overstuffed ego.
Anne Brooke merely smiled pleasantly and asked, “More tea, ladies?”
Si Tundok’s heavy gray eyes lifted in surprise. Of all the prisoners, he was the only one who didn’t raise his hand. “Why do you pick me?” Si Tundok asked. “My hand was not raised.” Si Tundok didn’t care one way or another about a King’s Pardon. He had enough of the world, particularly the white man’s world. Everywhere he went, misery followed and he was tired of searching to find his place in the order of things. He had few hopes that this time would be different.
As his name implied, Batu remained motionless, a pillar of rock in the thick of the jungle, a solid monument to a vanishing race of the island's original inhabitants. Only his eyes shifted to follow the movements of the object of his attention some fifty meters beyond the cover of a nipa palm. Batu's right hand clutched the long, smooth shaft of his blowpipe. A bamboo sheath fit snugly into the folds of his bark-beaten loin cloth. The sheath contained stiletto thin darts fashioned from slivers of bamboo and freshly dipped in a mixture of lime and the deadly juice of the ipoh nut. If threatened, Batu was confident that he could easily hit the target to save his band.
Jau wore the distinctive fangs of the clouded leopard inserted securely in the cartilage of his ear lobes and like all Kayan, his facial hair, including his eyelashes and brows were plucked clean, giving the youthful Kayan a smooth and placid appearance that belied his naturally fierce nature.
The young warrior's hair was jet black and cut in the distinctive style of his tribe, in a straight line high around his forehead and along the sides of his head. The hair on the back of his head grew to a long, flowing mane held together by an unadorned knot at the middle of his naked back.
Jau carried a thick bladed knife, a parang, unsheathed and at the ready as if he expected to be set upon at any moment. His chawat, a length of black cloth enveloping his waist and covering his youthful manhood, flowed gracefully between his legs and didn't hinder his movement through the underbrush beyond the stream.
“Finish him,” Si Tundok said.
Henry muttered, “This is the part I don’t like.” He swallowed hard, withdrew his dagger from the man’s chest and, holding the man’s mouth with his free hand, slashed the Sikh’s throat. “That one’s for the lieutenant,” Henry whispered as he wiped his blade on the man’s clothing.
A woman of ponderous bulk, dark shiny skin and weasel-sized eyes, small and beady, the Dayang Udang didn’t walk, she shuffled. And when she did, her elaborately embroidered silk sarong rippled in enormous waves as if it was struggling to contain the corpulence bulging within.
She waddled to a chair next to the bed and squeezed her enormous bulk into it, breathing heavily from the effort. She made a half-turn with her neck and called toward the entry. “You can come in now, Hasim.”
Api felt his passion stir and then boil like molten lava within him. He had felt the rumblings of desire when he first laid eyes upon the girl at the Bidayuh village. Perhaps this time it will be different, he thought. Api’s internal fire emblazoned hopes that he might, for the first time in his life, consume a woman and release the power of passion that smoldered and burned like hot embers within him.
Arthur Claygate looked nothing like a doctor. He had broad hands and thick, stubby fingers—not the physical attributes one expects to find in a man who uses his hands to delicately tend the flesh of the ill and dying. Arthur’s average frame supported a full-barreled chest and matching stomach. Long curls of red hair, never properly groomed, hung in a riotous array across his forehead and down the side of his round face drawing attention to his ruddy complexion and a brigade of freckles that covered him since birth. The doctor had a jovial disposition, talkative and quick of wit—even to the point of being bellicose at times. Whatever characteristics Arthur Claygate may have lacked as a surgeon, he more than compensated for with his amiable personality.
James stepped around the table and spoke directly to Kameja in Malay. “What is your name, girl?” he asked.
“Kameja, Rajah James,” she replied softly. Slowly she raised her head and allowed her eyes to access her new master. James was the first white man she had seen since the man, the one they called Geoff, had come to visit with Loi Pek. She expected all white men to look the same and it surprised her that they were not. The rajah was tall, the tallest human being she had ever seen. And although he looked gaunt and fatigued, there was a kindness in his swollen blue eyes. Having had so many masters in the past, Kameja had learned to appraise them quickly and, from experience, knew that her first impressions were generally correct. Her instincts now told her that this was a good man, a kind man. She silently thanked the spirits for being given to him.
“Yesterday, I, Rentab, was chosen above all others as Tua Kampong. Today I will lead you to glory. Soon, each of you will wear the marks of courage that I, Rentab, have earned through my own bravery and daring!”
Rentab thrust his envied fists into the air and raised his chin so that all could see the finely etched tattoo that covered his throat and marked him as a killer.
Margaret gazed proudly upon her husband. She knew Arthur was not a devoutly religious man, but she was convinced that he was a good man. And for a good man, there was hope that he would be given the gift of understanding God’s joy one day.
“As you are most probably aware, Lieutenant, Arthur is not a formally trained clergyman,” she said, “but I know that it is God’s will that once we begin our work with the poor and deprived, God will work His miracle upon my husband. I expect he will become as good a missionary as you have indicated he is a surgeon and chess player.”
Timothy could control himself no longer. He laughed and slapped his knee. “Damn, if you aren’t a bold one, Mister Brooke! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it all myself. You come sailing into this land of savages with the crazy notion of getting a concession for trading rights and walk away three days later with the whole bloody country in your hip pocket. Who would ever believe it?”
“Does that mean you will do it?”
“Do a favor for a Rajah? A white Rajah? Of course I will,” Timothy said just as Hasim finished amending the documents giving James control of Sarawak.
Geoff raised his bushy brows. His yellow-fanged smirk dropped into a spurious frown. He extended a single finger in front of Margaret’s face and wiggled it. “Naughty lady,” he mocked, “not to accept a gentleman’s kind offering.” Geoff clicked his tongue and shook his head mischievously from side to side. “Could be you’re not a lady at all. Could be I done made me a mistake about that? Could be old Geoff’s found himself a real naughty lady, could be, huh?”
Chin smiled smugly. “These Malay women can be very cooperative when they want to save their necks.” Chin belched out a wicked laugh and added, “They were so cooperative I almost didn’t want to cut their begging throats when I finished with them.”
Chin, holding the crimson blade of his knife to his neck, drew it across his throat in mock execution and laughed. “Here, I brought a souvenir for you.” Chin tossed something and Geoff plucked it out of the air. It was soft and wet. Chin turned, bellowed out a throaty laugh and boarded the trireme.
Geoff peered at the object in his hand. “Christ Almighty!” he exclaimed in disgust and then tossed the severed breast into the water.
Within moments, the opium completed its intended task and Loi Pek returned the silver spoon to the ginger jar, covered it, pushed it to its normal resting place on his desk and turned his attention to the leather pouch. His fingers, more nimble now, easily untied the leather strap securing the pouch. Loi Pek scribed his finger through the glistening flakes of gold contained in the pouch as if he were tenderly touching the face of a small child. Mentally he calculated its worth, sighed heavily and then re-tied the precious bundle and stuffed it within the voluminous sleeve of his jacket.
The price of Lord Api’s favor remains high, he thought as he exited the front of his shop and shuffled along the granite encrusted street towards the dock to meet with the Malay Lord. He shook his head at the thought of parting with his precious bundle of gold dust thinking, I can only hope that it continues to be worth it.
Unlike the other Iban warriors clutching parangs, spears and brightly painted war shields, Chopak held no weapons. He was a saperti perempuan, an effeminate. As such, he wore a woman’s black sarong which extended from his armpits to below his knees and his long black hair was tied in a compact bun at the base of his neck in the manner of all Iban women. Chopak’s only other adornment was a beaded necklace that suspended a feathered leather pouch containing pig’s knuckles. To the Iban, Chopak was an anomaly, a female spirit harbored in the body of a man. No one understood why the spirits did such things, but the superstitious Iban considered Chopak blessed, one who could make the whims of the spirit world known to man by casting the small bones of a pig and divining their meaning.
Review of Sarawak
Reviewed by Tucker Clark (Nepal 1967–70)
I WAS VERY EXCITED when the editor of PeaceCorpsWriters.org forwarded a copy of Jerry Mohrlang’s novel, simply called Sarawak, for me to review. I had told the editor that I was very interested in books that were based on elaborations of the cultures or experiences we had in our Peace Corps assignments. I am convinced ALL of us have stories to tell gleaned from our experiences.
That said, I say run — don’t walk — to read Jerry’s incredibly well-researched, gripping, tale of high adventure and intrigue set in the 1830s that is based on the life of a young English aristocrat, James Brooke, who left an assured life of comfort, and a certain, endowed, gentry marriage to pursue his dreams of fortunes to be made in the Far East. Brooke became — by incredible circumstances — the first white Rajah of Sarawak, ruling the head-hunting, primitive, always warring indigenous tribes of Malay, Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak.
But much to Jerry’s credit, he uses his knowledge of these tribes, their languages, culture, foods, et al, to have this clash of civilizations equally told and understood on all sides. It starts on the tribal side and we fast learn a whole new lexicon that he integrates into the clash. He tells a tale worthy of James Clavell’s Shogun and Noble House and Clavell’s allegiance to Japanese culture and historical consideration. And it has all the excitement and naval expertise of the twenty Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin series of 19th century sea-faring historical colorful narratives.
For selfish reasons I had to talk to Jerry after I finished this page-turner, because I had to know how he came up with the story and how it evolved, why it is fiction — not even “faction” — (although he did tell me many of the characters were real and some were amalgams, and there were actually three White rajahs in the James Brooke lineage who ruled Sarawak until the twentieth century!), and . . . how he got it published!
A publisher endorsement
Read more about "Publishing Alternatives" For you aspiring writers, it sounds like PublishAmerica Publishers — if you can secure a contract, as Jerry did after sending them the book in January ’02 and getting an “OK-Go Ahead” ten days later at no cost but to a percentage of the sales — is incredible. Arranging ISBN numbers, digital publishing capacity, contracts, website-access, and links to warehouses like Ingram, Baker and Amazon, they seem to be a step above publish-on-demand folks, e-book and vanity press venders.
And Jerry himself has worked to get the word out about this book through his personal website www.ColoradoWriter.homestead.com.
A new book
He is ushering up these resources and more to launch another contracted (with PublishAmerica), historical, adventure novel called Mujahidin which deals with a former Israeli Moussad agent fighting in Afghanistan — again based on historic precedence and Jerry’s research into this incredibly pertinent world stage.
The riddle as to how he got to be such a good writer Jerry got to exercise his writing talents while serving as a Peace Corps project coordinator in Sarawak, right after that country joined 14 other states to form the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. He witnessed the fighting, tribal conflicts, and utter brutality of the geography much as his character James Brooke did a hundred years before. He became a chronicler and his personal experiences, tales from his tribal countrymen, and subsequent links to Brooke descendants and Sarawak natives (who loved the book when it was published) made for a rich interplay for the book.
I could wax poetic further, as to how one gets totally immersed in both the British naval lore and tribal cultures of Sarawak, the rich characters and intrigues that build up throughout this book, the wrenching descriptions of the travails, and brutal customs, but I will leave it to you to go out and judge for yourself about Sarawak — and the upcoming Mujahidin. I can only highly recommend that you do so!
Tucker Clark is a consultant /writer with masters degrees in psychology and social work, and too many “formers” in his vitae. For two decades he has been involved in clinic management and psychiatric training, substance abuse counseling, drug education publishing, corporate trainings and outplacement seminars, famine relief training in Ethiopia in 1985; e-commerce and internet marketing, bookselling, and writing fiction. To help maintain his Westport, Connecticut lifestyle, he network markets the PrePaid Legal Services product at the big money Director level.
More Reviews of Sarawak
5 of 5 Stars Epic tale, extremely well written, July 3, 2002
"Sarawak by Jerry D. Mohrlang is an extremely well written epic tale. Mohrlang has crafted a story that takes the reader back 200 years to a land that was the epitome of uncivilized. This story feels real, seems authentic and true to the way it must have been back then in Sarawak, Malaysia. And if it isn't, the writer is so good at penning a novel, he makes it all believable. The senses are all entertained as well as satisfied with Mohrlang's knowledge of what he writes about. Descriptions are so attended to, the reader will want to taste the nasi (rice) balls and fish wrapped in banana leaves and cringe when the blood oozes onto the parang (thick sword) during battle, of which there are many graphically portrayed throughout this amazing saga of life, death, conquest, social change, and savage vs. civilized. I highly recommend this literary masterpiece."
Reviewer: Lynn Berry, Author of Puddles
5 0f 5 Stars This book casts a long shadow!!, July 3, 2002
"......The year is 1824, in those glorious days when the sun never set on the British Empire. They were days of exploration into exotic lands and grand adventures on the high seas, days when young men dreamed of making their mark on the world in impossible ways. It was an epoch that would change the world we know in ways beyond imagination.
Sarawak is what might have been labeled an epic tale or sweeping saga in earlier times. Through what must have been diligent research, Mr. Mohrlang makes this story come alive. A decidedly masculine writing style and focus adds to the feeling that this is James Brooke's story, told from his perspective in another time and age. For readers who are history lovers, Sarawak is a must read. For those who think that history is boring, there should be enough adventure, romance, violence, warring and intrigue between these covers to satisfy. I recommend this book, and wonder what Jerry Mohrlang could possibly do to top it. I'm hoping for a continuation of the James Brooke story."
Reviewer: L.A Johnson, Midwest Book Review
5 Of 5 Stars Your book has been a delight to read! July 14, 2002
It awaits my next visit to our peaceful Alabama lakeside. Early in the morning, when the mist still hangs above our lake, I take your book and a cup of coffee and I sit in a comfortable rocking chair and read. Thank you for the escape to the wilds of Sarawak and the colorful characters I find there. If I look at the mist in just the right way, I can see boats full of tribesmen paddling towards me (which, of course, makes me want to jump up and run!!!) I look forward to your next effort."
Reviewer: Candice Ross, an avid reader
5 Of 5 Stars: I really enjoyed reading your novel! September 9, 2002
"It's a great adventure story with an excellent style of writing. It maintains a high level of interest, curiosity and suspense for the reader. It has a great plot with events well tied together from beginning to end. It has wonderful descriptions of the characters and the roles they depict. You should definitely write more novels."
Reviewer: Marjorie Schaeffer, a reader
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Reader Reviews for "Sarawak"
|Reviewed by Doug Boren
|Very well done. Reminds me of my favorite author, James Michener. Descriptive without being tiresome. This should be read by anyone who likes historical fiction.|
|Reviewed by Henry Custer
|Sounds like a masterful story, well told, and well written..|
|Reviewed by Allison
|I found myself wrapped from the first line. I am an avid reader and at times skip over lines or paragraphs that are too "flowery" or give too much, leaving little for my mind to imagine. Sarawak allows the reader to imagine just enough while giving the edge to what leads next.
This story was captavating and I found myself waiting for an opportunity to read every word, detail, and paragraph.
This book was one of the rare finds that I reflect about and wonder how the history continues on from there, the effects of the characters' actions and the telling of tales long past. I was engrossed with the cultural aspect of the surroundings and enthralled with the the plot.
I have to admit that I have not read too many historical fictions in my time, but I have found Mr. Mohrlang's book a rare expception and I would pleased to read more of this brilliant mind. Mr. Mohrlang has a wonderful grasp of giving the reader just enough to tantalize but withholding enough to keep the reader coming back for more. I actually found myself disappointed when the book had ended.
I feel priveledged to be one of the first to read this inspiring and up and coming author. I am in anticipation of his next publication and feel sured that it will be as elequant as the first.
Congratulations and good luck!
|Reviewed by Midwest Book Review
|The year is 1824, in those glorious days when the sun never set on the British Empire. They were days of exploration into exotic lands and grand adventures on the high seas, days when young men dreamed of making their mark on the world in impossible ways. It was an epoch that would change the world we know in ways beyond imagination.
Lt. James Brooke of the East India Company has been commissioned by the King, as were his father and grandfather before him. From a life of ease and privilege in England, he travels across the world to India and Burma. Never one to knuckle under to authority and constraints, Lt. Brooke dreams of gaining riches and fame in the Far East. Not even devotion to his father or love for the far-from-innocent Elizabeth Wethington can deter that dream for long.
Despite his young age, James Brooke is blessed with a force of character and courage that inspires the men he leads in battle. Those who opt to stay beside him when he resigns his commission are an odd mix. Si Tundok is an imposing half-breed Malay, devoted to no man or cause until he meets Lt. Brooke. Henry Steele is a rough-around-the-edges Welshman and former soldier of the King's Army. Captain Timothy Irons is a seaman who finds more adventure than he wanted in the company of Brooke. Dr. Arthur Claygate and his wife Margaret find in James a humorous compatriot and friend.
Random happenings and chance circumstance throw James into the adventure he seeks. He finds his way to Borneo, to Sarawak. And what an unexpected life he finds there, one of breathless wonder at the land itself and an unanticipated sympathy for the native peoples living there. Through the eyes and experiences of James and his friends, the reader meets headhunters, fierce warriors, gentle jungle dwellers, and the cruel despots who have plundered Sarawak for years. The author leads us into the lives and longhouses of each tribe James encounters - the Punan, Kayan, Iban, Bidayuh, and Maylay - and documents their differences in entertaining style. We meet the villains of this story and learn to hate them for their callous greed. Worst of all is the Maylay prince, Api, who taxes his own people to the point of starvation, and whose taste for cruelty is worsened by the impotence he tries to hide. Not far behind Api is Geoff, the foulest Englishman who ever graced a literary page. Loi Pek, the Chinaman, cares little for anyone or anything but opium and Gold.
James Brooke becomes Rajah of Sarawak, and soon develops an almost fatherly concern for the native people. He gains cooperation from all tribes because of their superstitions and beliefs. James is tall, an imposing figure to the short and stocky tribesmen. Brave in battle, as ferocious as the most successful headhunter, James "casts a long shadow", and one the natives would find difficult to bury.
Sarawak is what might have been labeled an epic tale or sweeping saga in earlier times. Through what must have been diligent research, Mr. Mohrlang makes this story come alive. A decidely masculine writing style and focus adds to the feeling that this is James Brooke's story, told from his perspective in another time and age. For readers who are history lovers, Sarawak is a must read. For those who think that history is boring, there should be enough adventure, romance, violence, warring and intrigue between these covers to satisfy. I recommend this book, and wonder what Jerry Mohrlang could possibly do to top it. I'm hoping for a continuation of the James Brooke story.
by Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review
|Reviewed by Deborah Turner
|I can just about picture this. I grew up in Ethiopia -- different, but still tropical. I like the cultural aspects. I can see your people real well. Good for you!|
|If this is the first chapter, it would hook me. The reading reveals an author's capable of effectively communicating a most unique insight into ancient tribal cultures living at one with nature.|
|Reviewed by Lynn Barry
|Looks like a winner, Jerry! Good for you!|