The Ear, the Eye and the Arm
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (October 2009)|
|Genre||Children's, Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Pages||311 (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||0-531-06829-3 (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.F23814 Ear 1994|
Combining elements of science fiction and African culture, the book depicts the struggle of a notorious general's three children to escape from their kidnappers in the crime-infested capital of Zimbabwe.
In the year 2194, in Zimbabwe, the Chief of Security, General Matsika, leads a battle against the many gangs which terrorize the nation. His three children, Tendai, Rita, and Kuda are kept in a fortified mansion to ensure their security. This soon bores the children, who are part of a Scout troop. Seeking adventure to earn the Scout Badge, they escape the house with the help of the Mellower, a praise singer employed by their parents. The children then find themselves in the busy streets of Mbare Musika, where they are kidnapped and taken to Dead Man's Vlei, the lair of the She Elephant. There, they have to work in the plastic mines.
Their worried parents enlist the help of the Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, three "mutant" detectives from a slum called the Cow's Guts. They all have special abilities: Ear has very powerful and sensitive hearing; Eye has equally powerful and sensitive vision; Arm has extremely long arms and legs, like a spider's. Arm also has empathic powers; he can sense other people's feelings and see into their souls.
Meanwhile, Tendai realizes that the She Elephant is planning to sell them to the Masks, a dangerous gang who have evaded General Matsika's efforts to combat crime. The siblings escape to Resthaven, an independent country within Zimbabwe which aims to retain traditional African culture. Eventually, the children are banished from Resthaven.
The children end up in Borrowdale, a suburb created by the English tribe, where the Mellower's mother, Mrs. Horsepool-Worthingham, takes them into her care after they catch chickenpox. Tendai discovers that the Mellower's mother is holding them for ransom, and before what would have been a conflict between the woman and the children, the She Elephant captures them again and takes them to one of the Masks' secret lairs, and the Masks take the children to the Mile-High MacIlwaine, a skyscraper which houses the Gondwannan Embassy, the real headquarters of the Masks.
While the Masks attempt to sacrifice Tendai as a messenger to the gods, Arm is possessed by a mhondoro, a holy and legendary spirit of the land, who helps him to find the children. When Arm is knocked out, the mhondoro (and a group of staff and diners from the restaurant downstairs, led by Mrs Matsika) helps Tendai and his friends to temporarily destroy the Big-Head Mask, which had been going to kill Tendai. When the children's parents arrive, the She Elephant crushes the Mask, and the mhondoro revives Arm. The gang is destroyed and their stolen wealth is redistributed among the poor; while General Matsika finally realizes that his children need more freedom.
Kirkus Reviews found that "Farmer has created a splendidly imaginative fantasy" while Publishers Weekly wrote "Farmer uses her knowledge of Africa to imagine a city in 23rd-century Zimbabwe, combining old traditions and speculative technology with delightfully entertaining results." and concluded "Farmer is emerging as one of the best and brightest authors for the YA audience."