by Wilbur Smith
Pan Books, HK$128
The Quest is the fourth instalment of Wilbur Smith's 'Egyptian Novels'. Smith's hero is Taita, a warlock who leaves his homeland to discover what is blocking the Nile and endangering the Egyptian people. It is just possible the root cause is the bad dialogue that clogs up this enjoyably violent pot-boiler like a Sphinx down a U-bend. Smith's characters would not be out of place in badly dubbed kung fu epics of the 1970s. 'But you have not answered my question, revered Magus? Have we reached the end of our journey?' 'Nay, we have not ... but at least we have made a good beginning.' It becomes worse when sex heaves into view. Now we are in bad European porn, populated by men whose chest hair could carpet most of Cairo. In a lengthy discussion about Eos, the 'insatiable nymphomaniac', we learn her kisses '[suck] the vital juices of her lover ... When she takes a man between her thighs in that exquisite but infernal coupling she draws out of him his very substance. She draws it from their loins in her loathsome embrace.' Taita, bless him, doesn't miss a beat. 'I have witnessed this carnal exchange,' he deadpans. Good for him. The Quest is glorious, fun-filled hokum. It will suck the vital juices from your loins and then some.