I went back to Sherman Alexie again this past week; oh me oh my, he can write a good story. The book is “Flight,” and although it is a little all over the place the vision rings clear throughout; that vision being against violence and self hate in a tight world. I would maybe suggest this book for upper level young adult readers because of the graphic violence, but then again maybe not. The violence slowly fades away as the book progresses and leaves the reader with powerful emotions of empathy, and more importantly, understanding.
The book follows a character called “Zits” through a troubled youth complete with halfway houses, foster homes, and sometimes jail. Early on, “Zits” is convinced by a random influence to commit a random act of violence. He strolls into a bank and actually shoots the place up or so it seems. But Alexie uses this moment to center his novel on the existentialism of violent acts. Everyone has the ability to choose, a moment will come when a choice is offered; violence or peace. Luckily, Alexie slowly steers his protagonist away from violence as “Zits” travels through time and is placed in the shoes of people who are faced with violent choices. Of course, Alexie eventually brings his character back to the bank with a new frame of reference. I loved this book because it shows how tiring violence can be. Humanity has ate at itself through bloodshed over its entire history, and Alexie shows the folly in this by painting a world that is filled with pain. If there is anyone out there who hasn’t read Alexie yet I beg you to reach for one of his titles. This book can be buzzed in no more than two to three hours.
I also read “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card this past week. I didn’t like this book as much but it still wasn’t terrible. “Ender’s Game” and “Flight” paired well with one another on the theme of “senseless violence and wars” but I found “Ender’s Game” to be about one hundred pages too long. But if you like science fiction I bet you would like “Ender’s Game.” Essentially, the character “Ender” is shown to be a gifted warrior and is placed into service to fight aliens, or “buggers.” First, Ender must train for the war against the buggers in the battleroom. I won’t ruin the main twist in the story, but the battleroom is not all that it appears to be. Ender eventually goes through a major, and I say major, character transformation by the end. In a nutshell, this book is about the persuasive power of figures in charge, and how the individual must not be drawn into service without the knowledge of what the service will entail.
As I’ve said, these books paired well, and I walked away feeling more hopeful of the human condition after reading them. The individual in society will always be weighed down with hate and aggression if they look to outside sources solely for validation and purpose. The books emphasized the importance of drawing meaning for life from someplace deep inside you; someplace, where love and empathy feel naturally right. Alexie quoted the great Friedrich Nietzsche in his book and it pretty much sums up these two books, “But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Great words.