#MTW2017 A Trojan Affair: The S.K.A. at Carnarvon by Michael Smorenburg

Reviewed by TBBManiac Robs

The Book

A 2.5 billion Square Kilometer Array (S.K.A) radio telescope makes Carnavon in the Northern Cape of South Africa its home. Intended to assist in research on the origin and evolution of the Universe the SKA project brings with it teams of scientists and resources which could greatly develop the otherwise backwater town. Unfortunately not all the townsfolk are happy with its presence, not only does it requires space currently occupied by their own people, but it also puts in question everything they and their ancestors have ever placed their faith in. Dana, a curious 17 year old has grown up questioning everything, a firm follower of scientific thought, is about to trigger a shift in this small town that may change everything.

 *Note – The S.K.A is not a fictional project, it is in fact real, as is the current attempt to pursue fracking in the Karoo*

My Thoughts

This book hit me really, really hard. I am South African, and so it was exceptionally easy for me to identify each of the intense and highly prevalent themes of the book. It was a bittersweet experience, I can’t deny it. I not only felt hurt that such truth could be written, but also felt a sense of comfortable understanding as my thoughts, prompted by points raised in the book, started to find some form of direction.

I enjoy books which leave me struggling to contain my own thoughts, which as you read them leave you feeling like you’ve stumbled across the answer to a question you’ve been pondering over for years. One would expect a book which covers such themes as racism, religion, science and politics to be filled with potentially offensive scenes and characters, and while there are a fair number of… controversial individuals the book, Smorenburg has managed to produce a conversation piece of epic proportions.

  • Religion
    Characters of the church in this book are unwilling to accept the arrival of SKA. They consider it a direct contravention of their belief system and feel threatened by its presence despite the obvious benefits it could bring to the community. The terrifying aspect of religion is that often communities develop their own sense of right/wrong based on what is preached to them, and this is evident in The SKA;

    “It really starts with the Dominee; he plays the pivotal role… everything that’s done around here is because God wants it thus. You heard about it from Dara when he laughed about it from the staff…”When the Dominee’s angry, we must all be angry”

  • Generational Obligation
    I don’t know if such a term exists, but The SKA has introduced this concept which I’ve always felt is one of the major causes for the majority of the prejudices which people maintain. JJ Kruger left Carnavon to study at UCT, freeing himself from the psychological confines of prejudice that he’d inherited from his father. He was able to see the reality that the black people he’d been taught to look down upon as inferior, even to hate, were in fact pure equals to himself. Breaking the chain of expectation to continue cultural or familial beliefs allowed JJ to obtain a new perspective on life and his community.

  • Evolution
    The concept of evolution is hardly new, but what I was amazed by was the introduction of the areas in society which have developed as a result of evolution; such as for example the notion of communities, or ownership and how this has affected our approach to other ‘tribes’.

  • Politics rears its nasty head later on in the book, and it was at this time of reading that everything started to fit together for me. Demonstrating just how even the most moral of individuals can be re-routed by politicians with nothing more than money in the pocket as a motivator. It’s reinforced the obvious reality we all face daily that there are forces at play with little concern for the lives affected, or which wars may be initiated as a result of their greed.

  • Marsha is a scientist, as well as Dara’s mom, with the exception of JJ I found her the most fascinating character of them all. Despite being a successful scientist with a brilliant mind, she still finds herself treading water when it comes to the intricacies of human behavior. She admits to being naive and desperate to cling to the belief that people are inherently good. What a breath of fresh character development she is. I loved it!

  • One of the biggest arguments present is how science can both build as well as destroy a community. Particularly if there is insufficient time spent on educating ‘locals’ and providing a holistic and detailed approach. Projects should be widely discussed, and objections investigated. Personally I have yet to determine how I feel about fracking, and SKA, considering the detrimental impact on our environment and people which will inevitably occur, all for the sake of finding answers to questions I still don’t fully understand the need to ask.


I realise this may not be the most detailed or logical review, and while I am loathe to post a review which I am not entirely satisfied with, I do not feel I’ll ever completely manage to adequately express my feelings for a book which has somehow managed to make sense of a deep sadness and frustration that I have felt for my country and its people. There is a logic which shines through despite the detail which is included in the book.

I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest for religious vs scientific, or culture vs modernity debates. In fact anyone who loves a book that sends their thoughts into overdrive

Review Rating: 4/5

More Information:

Published by: Qunard Publishing; 2 edition

Published Date: October 8, 2014

Genre:  Historical



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