a novel by Greg Laden

Sungudogo is a little known zoological mystery, an “undiscovered” primate living in the remote and rugged region of the eastern Congo, where the Central African Rain Forest fringes the high walls of the western edge of the Great Rift Valley.

Sometimes called the “fourth African ape,” Sungudogo is not a Gorilla, not a Chimpanzee, not a Bonobo, and possibly not even real.

Years ago, Sungudogo drew the interest of the world famous primatologist Dieter Phillips, who was funded by a secret society of “scholars and gentlemen” to launch an expedition to determine the veracity of this mysterious primate. Dieter never returned from that expedition, and as the years passed, the whole story drifted into obscurity.

But the watchers were always watching, always waiting, for clues of the fate of this expedition. When new evidence came to light, the investigation was renewed into the outcome of Phillip’s ill fated trek into the Rain Forest. Who better to follow Dieter Phillip’s tracks than his former student, aided by an explorer and mercenary familiar with the area, assisted by two willing Congolese park guards?

They were to learn things that went beyond their wildest imaginations, and they would discover secrets about Phillip’s expedition, about the rift valley, about themselves, about humanity, that they would never be able to share but that would change their lives forever.

Where to get Sungudogo

The Second Edition is now out, with significant revisions at the beginning and end of the story (see the Preface). If you bought an earlier edition of Sungudogo on Amazon, you will eventually get a notice that you can upgrade the book to the newer edition. Probably.


Inquire about review copies here.

Sungudogo, the book

Sungudogo” chronicles the history of this expedition, as recorded by one of the expedition members, from it’s beginnings in Brussels, then Nairobi and Goma, and into the remotest region of the African continent.

The chronicle details the expedition’s encounters with the local culture, the challenges brought on by the rugged environment, and the shocking discoveries made by the intrepid team.

Sungudogo is Greg Laden’s first novel, originally drafted over a period of 37 hours as part of a fundraising challenge for a student support organization, and now heavily revised and rewritten so it looks less like a novel written in 37 hours.

Shades of the Heart of Darkness, reminiscent of an obscure science fiction novel written by a fictional science fiction writer who was an obscure character in other science fiction novels, with a Lovecraftian theme with a strong dose of Indiana Jones, there really aren’t enough allusion-drenched adjectives to describe this novel, which is really a novella. So it won’t take you that long to read.

Although this is a work of fiction, the author draws on his own extensive experience living and traveling in the eastern Congo where spent years doing fieldwork.

What people are saying about Sungudogo

“… for us lucky few that read it as it flowed out of Greg like a bad case of tropical amoebal infection, we can just say that it’s like the love child of Barbara Kingsolver and Kilgore Trout..”

Mark Leue, High School Friend of the Author

“I really enjoyed reading this book. Greg Laden brings to his novel-writing a long and broad experience as an anthropologist in central Africa with deep understanding of both the social and the primatological worlds. The result is a delightful read with lots of nice touches about the joys and perils for a foreigner in Africa. It was one of those books that I returned to each evening (well, only a couple of evenings, because it was much too short) with a genuine sense of happiness at the fun read and intriguing story. It is amazing to think that this was written as a speed-writing challenge, but anyone who has read Greg’s Congo Diaries will understand. There are some really inventive things about the mystery primate that amused me as another anthropologist. Read this book and enjoy it.”

IanD, on

“Once I started reading, I had a hard time putting down the book. Characters were interesting, story kept moving, building drama & curiosity about the saga. Couple of typos but overall editing seemed good – have found wore errors in better known authors. I liked the book a lot.”

Amazon Customer

“What a fabulous little story. I love the kind of mystery that brings you into contact with an unknown culture and land in a way that is real enough to bring on the sweats worthy of a case of malaria, only to take your expectations of where the tale is going and give them a serious smack down. If you like cultural anthology and adventure you’ll love it too.”

El Torino, on

“I loved the unique twist in this story. It was a short quick read and Greg is writing about a part of the world he obviously knows well. I look forward to reading his next novel!

Golson, on

“This book is right up my alley. It deals with a place far away to escape, a mystery and science. I’ve read much of Greg Laden with non fiction articles, politics and posts. I was very pleased to read his fiction attempt, and deam it much more than an attempt. Thank you for a great read !”

Traci K. Deveny, from Ohio, on

“The beginning of the first edition of Sungudogo is a bit rough, though I hear there’s a second edition coming. Once Pat joins the team, however, the novel has found its purpose and it doesn’t waver. From then, it’s a buddy comedy/not exactly romance/African adventure all rolled into one and set at speed toward an ending that has to be read to be believed. Or disbelieved, as the case may be.

This is a short, fun, freaky romp that will take you places you almost certainly haven’t been. Greg Laden has, however, and you’ll feel like he’s carried you along. Check it out.”

Stephanie Zvan, author, on

“Yes, Dear, it was really good.”

Amanda Laden, the Author’s wife

“… I liked it a lot, it is an interesting adventure into Africa. It is a thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end, and has some unexpected laughs…”

Sarah Moglia, SSA staff member and the only real person who is in the book

“…I found several surprises that I deeply enjoyed reading and would like to say that for a first, self-published novel this one is worth downloading and reading on the bus to keep your mind of the fact that you are on your way to work. It’s a pulp fiction book that engrosses the reader…”

Mike Haubrich, Tangled Up in Blue Guy Blog

“Oh dear. This was a little bit of a disappointment … It possibly isn’t worth the one star … This author was an academic? … People are not giving it 2 or 3 stars so it would seem that he has paid or otherwise asked people to write good reviews, It is not a good book by any perception or rationality, Someone wrote that they have read his material for years. Maybe they are desensitised?”

“Ross”, a guy who got an Amazon account just so he could write this review along with a bunch of other guys who don’t like what the author writes in his blog about important social justice issues. Just sayin’

“First off, I actually read it. Second, the poor reviews that make false claims of error-ridden manuscript are from sad members of the species that have lost their sense of humor. The story is a satire of the classic turn of the 1900’s African adventure novels of the late Victorian era. It is entertaining and obviously the product it claims to be, eschewing claims to classic status. Obviously. So obvious that there is no reason not to donate to the worthy cause it supports.”

Bob Calder, on

Passages from Sungudogo

We settled at a table in the restaurant, which was entirely outside, dirt floored, without a roof, and were immediately joined at our table by a woman who told us that she and her husband owned the place. People came and went, and a continuous ongoing conversation ensued. The conversation shifted between languages depending on what one wanted to say. When speaking of politics and morality, French was used by those who knew it. When speaking of village business and the usual gossip, KiNguana, a form of Swahili, was used. At one point a soldier who was on his way north to fight the rebels in the Ruwenzori Mountains showed up and settled in, and at first he spoke only in the unofficial language of the Army, Lingala. But as people mostly ignored him and he got drunker he shifted into KiNguana with which he seemed more comfortable. The conversation among the owners of the establishment was in Budu, because I think one of them was a native Budu speaker. But the twins spoke only in KiLese, as they quietly conversed among themselves.


The last nine hours of the 12 hour day were spent driving up a hill. Funny, when you think about hills … most hills, when you are driving up them, go up and down and up and down but on average up. Going up this hill involved only going up. There was no down. Rarely steep, but always, unrelentingly up. That is why the transmission was so hot. And that is why, if we ever did manage to turn around and head back to the lowland forest, the transmission would be saved but the brakes would get very hot. We would need more water to cool the brakes every several clicks than we would need to keep in the radiator to cool the engine … And as we drove up the hill, the never ending hill, the road had gotten narrower and narrower and increasingly rutted, until there were places where we were driving with two wheels on a footpath, one wheel in the dirt, and one wheel more or less dangling over the edge.

We were the first outsiders to drive up this road in more than 20 years, and that last intruder was a primatologist named Dieter Phillips and his team. Pat and I were now looking for the same thing he was looking for, and we were also looking for him. He came here 20 years ago and was never seen again, though parts of his Land Rover did make it back to a local market outside of the sprawling settlement 100 kilometers south of us. In an uncanny coincidence, that door would end up attached to the very Land Rover we were in now.


Eventually he said, “Gorillas. I can bring you to the gorillas.” We figured that was good enough for now. “Where are they?” Pat asked.

He pointed behind himself, to the twin hills. “There. On one of those hills.”

The two hills stood side by side, one to the north, one to the south, with a deep ravine dividing them. The western slopes of the hills started near the village, and the hills rose some 500 meters or more, and then were fairly flat-topped. The other side of the hills likely dropped 1800 meters or more to the edge of the lake below. Without technical gear, it would be absolutely impossible to reach the shore of the lake from this village, even though in a straight line it was less than 10 kilometers away.

“Do these hills have a name?” Pat asked. I translated the question for Aberli.

“Uelelima,” was his answer. “That is also the name of our village.”

This confirmed that we had arrived.


Here are two maps that may help you navigate through the geography represented in Sungudogo. For various reasons the Smashwords edition of the book does not have maps in it.

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