Review by Frank Plowright
Although an ensemble piece, Kenya’s primary character is Kathy Austin, who never actually admits to working with MI6, but certainly has some good connections. She’s smart, affable, adaptable and reasonable, which is why she gets to continue her investigation, now in the company of Soviets, while John Remington, her abrasive travelling companion from Aberrations, remains tied to a post.
The topic at hand is anomalies. Strange creatures have been appearing in the Kenyan bush, as have UFOs flying above it. While the specifics are unknown, the UFOs appear to be gathering both living creatures and objects that shouldn’t exist in 1947. Where they come from is one of the revelations Rodolphe and Leo’s plot supplies, yet as has been the case since the start of the series, for every question answered a replacement is formed. It’s an admirable storytelling trick, but one that requires whoever the collecting agents are to have limitations to their so far fantastic technology or to be less than paragons of efficiency.
It’s the strength of the plot and the quality of the art that sustains Kenya, as with few exceptions the personalities of most cast members are very much one note. Thankfully Kathy’s not among them, but Remington never fails to revert to type in any situation despite his protestations of being changed by Kathy’s presence.
It may be 1947, but there’s no lack of dignity to Leo’s portrayal of Kenyans in this colonial era, and his continually decorative landscapes and amazing creatures captivate as they have done throughout. Some are cute, others dangerous, but the manner in which he integrates them with a known environment has an epic quality. He’s equally good with technology and emotional resonance, his expressions often conveying more than a character’s dialogue.
By the end of the book roughly half a dozen characters have the gist of what’s going on without knowledge of the larger purpose. Unfortunately for them, they’re all stranded near Lake Victoria with only their feet likely to draw them back toward civilisation. We see how that works out in the concluding album, Illusions.