Author: Steven Burgauer


Last fall, I was happy to review Steven Burgauer’s Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou, a book very different in both style and substance from his The Night of the Eleventh Sun. For the record, Night first came out as a paperback on June 29, 2007 and was reissued as an e-book last October. According to Burgauer, the book was completely rewritten with a new cover designed, and he regrets any confusion due to Amazon’s unwillingness to change the publication information at the book’s paperback page.

One major difference between Nazi Saboteurs and Night of the Eleventh Sun is the panoramic lense and rich cast of characters in Saboteurs as opposed to a far more focused portrayal of a small tribe in Night.    Night is presented in two parts. In the first half, we are taken into the day-to-day doings of a Neanderthal family in the final days of their existence before a new species of humanity wipes out the less evolved clan people. We read vivid descriptions of the seemingly nearly idyllic lives of one small clan lead by Strong Arms and his wife Brown Curls, their children, and the wise “God Woman.”   

In this section of the book, there’s no plot to speak of as we get many descriptions of the clan people’s hunting and fishing techniques, their working on clothes and tools, their interactions with the natural world around them, their family structure and relationships with each other including sexual couplings. We see the “God Woman” assembling her collections of natural cures for all manner of ailments. As we go along, Burgauer weaves in contemporary explanations as to why some things worked the ways they likely did, as in his discussion of how the dangers of eating wild honey would later affect ancient Greeks and Romans.

The second and shorter part of the book is where the action kicks in. Another clan arrives on the scene made up of a very different kind of humanity with advanced weaponry like bows and arrows and a vicious streak to boot.   With the exception of Strong Arms himself, these invaders murder the clan before facing the Neanderthal man’s revenge. To say more would veer into the realm of spoilers. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise for most readers could be just how human and sympathetic the clan people were, at least based on the sources Burgauer lists in his bibliography. Throughout the first section of the yarn, the author weaves in so much factual evidence that it’s difficult not to accept his portrayal of these largely undocumented times beyond cave paintings and artifacts. The attack of the new clan is clearly emblematic of the ending of Neanderthal peoples as they are superseded by the next step in evolution, a term the author uses frequently. He says at this point in history, there were likely only 800 Neanderthals left against a rising tide of the unnamed new people.

I admit, I don’t understand why some previous reviewers have connected Night of the Eleventh Sun with science fiction. There’s not a single sci fi trope anywhere in the book. It is essentially historical fiction, or perhaps more accurately prehistoric fiction with nothing fantastic about it, at least in terms of offering anything beyond what could have happened. While others have compared Night of the Eleventh Sun with Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, there’s very little similarity beyond the setting and time period. Night is a shorter, tighter read and is as informative as it is entertaining.    

If you have any curiosity about a type of humanity less brutish and far more intelligent than what most readers might expect, Night of the Eleventh Sun could be a revelation.