Killing Time in Saudi Arabia demonstrates perfectly the reason why some books written as a trilogy should be viewed as 'one', read in order, considered as a unit, and stronger as part of a package production. For without the background provided in My Year in Oman and Another Year in Oman (which documents the author's experiences from 2001-2003) this third book would not feel nearly as rich and fulfilling in background, setting and sentiment as it covers eighteen months of life from 2004-2005, when some of the heaviest fighting of the War on Terror occurred - right under the author's nose.
In Killing Time in Saudi Arabia Heines has left Oman and taken a job as an English teacher, training national guard officers for the Saudi Arabian military. Amidst the backdrop of educational progress are the uncertainties and threats of war: gunfire erupting and changing lives, drives through the streets of Riyadh, reflections on life, death, and independence.
Against the backdrop of love, war, tourism and teaching, the gaps between West and Middle East are highlighted. Under Heines' deft hand these cultural interactions and misunderstandings come to life and ultimately serve to provide a better understanding not only of Middle East atmosphere and culture, but of the psychology and perspectives of ordinary people living in a very different world.
A series of misadventures and ironies emerges; even more so than in the two Oman books - which is unexpected, because by Book Three readers would anticipate that Heines has likely penetrated the Middle Eastern veil and is settling in. Nothing could be further from the truth: he's now in a different region and his understanding is still uncertain, his grasp of politics and peoples still tenuous, and his experiences greatly different than in the comparatively isolated medieval town atmosphere of Oman, with its very different world.
Again, humor is embedded in every chapter; so if you don't want quirky observations and tongue-in-cheek wry remarks, look elsewhere … though that would be a shame, because this approach is what lends all three books a personal, interactive, intimate perspective lacking in most other accounts of the Middle East.
Some might fault Heines for including romance in every book. Some might look for more background history, or more cultural insight, or even more teaching encounters (if the reader intends on teaching abroad and is seeking pointers) - but that's not the objective of this trilogy.
Its purpose is to profile the author's cultural encounters and his immersion in foreign lands and perspectives, and it's here that this trilogy shines.
Any who would truly understand the region and its psyche would do well to enjoy the combination of rollicking adventure and cultural insights that permeate all three stories, defying the usual labels of 'travelogue', 'teacher's experience', 'romance' or 'social analysis' to embrace elements of all four approaches....Continua