Prospective readers should not let themselves be put off by the title: Even the Dead are Coming is a nuanced, evocative snapshot of life in Sudan right before the 1989 coup. Like an impressionist painting, it suggests a myriad of details from daily life there--cultural, geographic, historical and political--set loosely along the timeline of Robbins' stay there as a VSO volunteer.
Robbins' attention to details bring the country to life--buying early morning bread, Bollywood movie viewings, busses still affixed with Dutch city routes, boys washing trucks in the river early mornings, shopping in the souks--as he experiences the often frustrating role of a Western volunteer. He also includes observations on the culture, such as the difference between public and personal space in Sudan, and religion. His descriptions are almost poetic but never heavy-handed. For instance, he describes an evening during Ramadan when the men go to pray, "not mindless rhythm, but something more graceful," or watching the "vast yellow moon tipping liquid gold across a river" lined with date palms.
The book's strength is in its description, not in delivering emotional reactions or political judgment on the role of the ever-growing subculture of Western aid organizations that feed on such African countries. It presents the place in all its complexity and leaving readers to draw their own conclusions. For instance, he writes: "The fact remained that there sometimes seemed to be a curious lack of will to change things in Sudan, a strange acceptance of things as being unavoidable when they weren't." Traveling or living in an African country for the first time is an overwhelming experience for a Westerner--there are so many contrasts and facets of life that are not what they seem in the beginning. Mike Robbins' book is an excellent primer and a pleasure to read.