Saudi Aramco annuitant Robert Lebling, who worked in the Public Relations Department in Dhahran until 2012, has written several nonfiction books about Middle Eastern traditions and culture. Among these are Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar (I.B. Tauris, 2010) and Natural Remedies of Arabia, written with former Aramcon and master herbalist Donna Pepperdine (Stacey International, 2006). Lebling has just published his first novel, which draws considerably on his background with Aramco and his knowledge of Arab traditions. It’s an untypical thriller entitled
Lebling has just published his first novel, which draws considerably on his background with Aramco and his knowledge of Arab traditions. It’s an untypical thriller entitled The Anomaly: A Novel of the Empty Quarter (CreateSpace, 2015). The Anomaly combines science fiction, mythology and Arabian oil in a quest for a legendary lost city buried beneath the desert sands. It involves Aramco’s discovery of a strange geological formation – shaped like an inverted pyramid – beneath the dunes of the Empty Quarter, the great sand sea of southern Arabia. Also prominently featured are the jinn, the spirit beings of ancient legend who even today are part of the Arab and Islamic worldview.
The White House, working with the Saudi government, recruits Prof. Emily Goddard, a Middle East mythology expert from Princeton, to head a team of specialists sent to Arabia to investigate the Anomaly – which some think may be the buried lost city of Ubar, or Iram of the Pillars. Goddard and the team are joined by Dan Keller, an Aramco security specialist investigating some unexplained deaths linked to the discovery. Also part of the team is a mysterious Saudi named Mubarak Awda, who knows a great deal about the jinn and who seems awfully familiar to Emily Goddard. Goddard herself is the daughter of an American oilman, and she lived in Saudi Arabia as a child. As she returns to Arabia, the memories of her past are awakened. The expedition finds a tunnel network that appears to lead to the subterranean anomaly and sets out to discover the truth. Despite all odds, the expedition reaches its destination and learns the truth about the strange structure beneath the desert sands. Dr. Goddard’s young lifetime of Arabian experiences make her eminently qualified to resolve the mystery. The discoveries the team makes at the Anomaly shed unexpected light on man’s evolution. At the same time, we learn that the jinn have a future that no one could have envisioned.
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