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No Mercy: A Journey Into the Heart of the Congo Paperback – June 30, 1998

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No Mercy: A Journey Into the Heart of the Congo + Into the Heart of Borneo + In Trouble Again: A Journey Between Orinoco and the Amazon
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Departures
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Departures ed edition (June 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679737324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679737322
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #641,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There are similarities between Redmond O'Hanlon's magnificent Into The Heart of Borneo and No Mercy. In both, O'Hanlon's keen naturalist eye notes the details (tiny scarlet flowers probed hummingbird-like by purple-red hawkmoths), his wit (usually at his own expense) remains funny, and his travel companions quite human and often endearing. He's off on another jungle trek, this time seeking Mokele-mbembe, the alleged Congo sauropod. But No Mercy goes deeper and darker; fear and anger intrude on the levity, rationalistic thought yields to palpable fetishistic fright the deeper in they go, and O'Hanlon emerges a changed, more compassionate man. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

O'Hanlon's current driving passion?after journeying among the Amazon's headhunters in his most recent In Trouble Again (Random, 1990)?is to catch a glimpse of the African version of the Loch Ness monster: the legendary Mokele-mbembe dinosaur residing in the unreachable depths of Lake Tele, deep in the northern Congo forests. Intrepid?or merely insensible to pain?O'Hanlon ventures forth, armed with antivenom serums and innumerable medicines against alarmingly resistant diseases; bribes for officials of the Marxist People's Republic of the Congo; presents for the Pygmies he hopes to find; a crusty scientist companion, Larry Shaffer, from Plattsburgh, New York; and volumes of birding guides and H.M. Stanley's chronicles of travels into Africa before him. Neither hostile local chiefs nor an army of skin-crawling bedevilments will thwart our O'Hanlon from his goal. His account is minute and ironical, given lively relief by Shaffer's gallows humor. It offers compelling reading, for seasoned travelers and couch potatoes alike, and includes an excellent bibliography of the rich history, wildlife, and exploration of the Congo. Highly recommended.?Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Good book..hard reading, but written like a Conrad novel.
Eugene G. Kelly
The author should have stopped there and produced a mediocre book, not continued writing and ending up with what is really an exceptionally poor and voluminous volume.
D. H. Du Plessis
Mr. O'Hanlon brings a most exotic part of it alive for us, and he then ventures with us into the unexplored territories of our hearts.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Having lived in the Congo for ten years, I believe this is the first book I've read that accurately describes what life there is actually like, both for foreigners and for the Congolese. It makes you feel that you are there: the difficulty of daily living, the despair, fear of sorcery, unfailing good humor, poverty, and strong family obligations of the Congolese come through clearly and are on target. O'Hanlon is a quick learner - many foreigners stay there for years and never leave the European lifestyle; he depicts the side of life that is seen only by living with the people. If you want a taste of what life in Congo is like without actually going there, this is the book.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By USAF Veteran VINE VOICE on September 14, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
O'Hanlon has written two other similar books ("In Trouble Again" about the Amazon, and "Into the Heart of Borneo") about his adventures in the jungle, but this book turns into something more than a quirky travelogue. His other two books are very entertaining, especially his first book on Borneo. But this journey to the Congo turns away from nature, bumbling white-man in the jungle, and admiring the survival skills and personalities of the natives sort stuff, and turns into a book about a journey through hell-on-earth caused by the local people.

The title "No Mercy" should give you a clue. The book starts with O'Hanlon and his companion-du-jour, an American academic named Lary, as they try to plan a trip in the jungles of the Congo. The usual 3rd world problems of bribing the corrupt government officials, avoiding getting killed and robbed, and finding local guides ensue. Entertaining and normal.

O'Hanlon hires the Congolese Minister of Nature or some such thing who brings along extended family members as workers. Marcellin (the government minister), Nze, and Manou then take over the book. The American provides needed sanity to the first part of the trip as they go up the river in a fetid, crowded steamboat and begin their travels. Dead bodies float by frequently. Murderous natives who mostly want to murder O'Hanlon's guides and night-time escapes from danger become more and more frequent. Then O'Hanlon's companion has to leave and O'Hanlon is left at the mercy of his guides and Congolese society as he journeys to an isolated lake where reports of a Lochness-like creature abound.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Davis on May 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Another excellent book from Mr. O’Hanlon. I previously read Into the Heart of Borneo and In Trouble Again. This is just as good and just as important. I wondered at first –the start was so abrupt and desultory. But I was soon taken in by the exotic setting, the bizarre but engaging real-life characters, and the curious, almost dream-like parade of events. If this were fiction (and it does read like a novel), an accurate label for it might be magical realism. I am perplexed at O’Hanlon being touted on the cover as ‘By far our funniest travel writer’ and ‘As funny as ever’. Sure there are some very amusing incidents in the book, but why are yaws, malaria, sleeping sickness, abject poverty, and crippling intellectual superstition considered funny? Not to mention bedbugs (in Biblical numbers), Congo floor maggots, driver ants (again in Biblical numbers), HIV and Ebola fever. O’Hanlon certainly does not play up the humour angle. On one level this is a book of horror to me. Stephen King should read it to get fresh ideas. On another level this is a positive, inspiring work. O’Hanlon is good company –he is brilliant, talented, compassionate, and a genuinely good man. So is his American travel-mate, Lary Shaffer. Shaffer had been totally incapacitated with multiple sclerosis in the past and had fought his way back to health. He seems almost super-human at times in his endurance and unflappability. These are people you would be honoured to have as friends. It hurts them to see the suffering and waste in the human beings and animals they see along the journey. They do what they can to help, but two guys with backpacks, no matter how smart or how well prepared, can only do so much. And there is so much to be done.Read more ›
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By jimnypivo VINE VOICE on September 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
but I am glad I read the book.

I bought *No Mercy* based on reviews I read in Amazon.com. I was enticed by the notion of a travel writer-naturalist (if that is a label fitting O'Hanlon) traveling hundreds of miles on a months-long trip to one of the most remote and wildest spots on the globe, at the end of which was a chance to view the legendary cryptid critter of the Congo, Mokele-mbembe.

I lap this stuff up-high adventure in the wilderness, extreme camping at its extremest. And O'Hanlon an informative and entertaining guide.

But the book is about so much more. O'Hanlon is a travel writer by trade, and although there is a very remote possibility his readers would choose to travel upriver to the deepest part of Africa, it does make a fascinating read. So many aspects of life in Africa jump off the pages ---death on the river, traveling in an antique steamer up the Congo River, tense interactions with armed militiamen, the diet of the Congo, taro root and bushmeat (mostly monkeys), constant gift-giving and bribery, the politically volatile region, ready to explode at any minute---and you are as perplexed and exhausted as the travelers are, except you're reading in the comfort of your living room.

I lent this book to my brother-in-law, Goog. He likes off beat stuff. But it wasn't his cup of tea. Perhaps it was the book's languid pace. I guess it is a little like *Heart of Darkness* in a way.

Yes there are grim and ugly parts of the journey, but I, like O'Hanlon, kept slogging along in the hope of catching a glimpse of the mysterious Mokele-mbembe. No Mercy opened my eyes to what Africa suffers through as it crawls into the twenty-first century with so many disadvantages.

I'd read other books by O'Hanlon, just for the joy of hearing his description of animal behavior while suffering unspeakable hardships and indignities
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