Book Review: I Am The Messenger

So it turns out my best friend has really good taste in books. The words “we should read this” being uttered at the book store are dangerous words indeed — especially when there’s a paperback involved.

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I Am The Messenger

  • Author: Markus Zusak
  • Publisher: KNOPF
  • Year: 2002
  • Shelved in: Teen fiction
  • Genre vibe: Vaguely supernatural urban fiction.
  • At a glance: Humans are incredible. And unfortunate in many ways. But still incredible.
  • Is this review spoiler free?: Nothing overly specific is mentioned. I wouldn’t scream if this were spoiled, either. It’s an experience of a book no matter how you read it.

The Good Stuff

How does one review this book? It can be summed up so easily, in my eyes.

Good work, Ed Kennedy.

This is a book about a boy — a young man, really — and the playing-card-promises that are thrust upon him after he stops a bank robbery. More accurately, though, it’s a book about a boy who learns a lot of things. About the world, about the concept of life, about other human beings, and even — or maybe especially — about himself. It’s a book about a lot of things, really.

Like how someone like underage, undervalued Ed Kennedy can not only make an impact upon but save the lives of other people who are hurting in much more obvious ways than him.

Or how great perseverance is.

Or how cool a storytelling method that’s almost noir can be. That too.

I loved so much about this book. Zusak’s writing is just spellbinding. The atmosphere is absolutely incredible. Grime and asphalt and guns and water and bruises and blood and dark streets and warm homes.

All of this just carries over into how much the characters mean. Ed is so amazing I really don’t know what to say besides that I absolutely adored him from the minute he stepped on stage.

Not to mention all the fourth-wall breakage. Absolutely beautiful.

The whole thing is just kind of…beautiful. It’s intense, but it’s supposed to be. It makes an impact. It makes you feel your heart beating in your chest and see how someone else looks when the same thing is happening to them. And I love that. It’s so personal, the whole entire time.

AND THAT ENDING. . .

Questions, Comments, Concerns?

Well, like I said. It’s gritty. It’s heartwarming, no doubt, but it’s not nice about it. After all, sometimes to get anything warm you have to light a fire underneath it. So it’s not pretty, but it’s beautiful. It means something, I think.

I don’t really have any concerns. It’s not for everybody, obviously. But then, nothing is.

Overall:

  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who really like people, or who really like amazing prose, or who really like atmospheric books.Especially atmosphere. That was my favorite part.
  • Lasting impression: Dirt-smudged hands, an overflowing heart, and one beat up taxi cab.

Book Review: War of the Worlds

For book club this month we were instructed to read War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. I was delighted. “Sci-fi!” I cried, ecstatic that we have escaped from political satire.

In keeping with this delight, I ate up Wells’ narrative and now provide a review.

War of the Worlds

  • Author: H. G. Wells
  • Publisher: Bantam Classics
  • Year: 1898
  • Shelved in: Science Fiction
  • At a glance: Aliens. Literally. That’s the point. Aliens.
  • Is this review spoiler free?: Not really. And the ending is good enough to want to be un-spoiled. So if you’re picky, skip on down to “overall”, okay? Okay.

The Good Stuff

I seriously enjoyed this book. The thing that struck me right off the bat and let me know that I’d like it was Wells’ prose. It’s kind of a drag, not going to lie. The point is ALIENS and little else (besides the statement it makes). The characters don’t even have names. But in saying, the writing quality is incredible, and the lack of real characterization leaves you feeling like you are the protagonist, half the time. It’s a really cool experience, and it makes the excess of description seem less unnecessary, as it would seem if the book were written just about any other way.

And so while I may not have gotten emotional about very much in this book, I did get involved, and that, I think, is more what the author had in mind. There are Martians landing in London. This is how it’s happening. Isn’t it crazy? You as the reader are in the thick of a million things right now. And so while you’re a little removed, maybe looking through your glasses lenses, you are involved directly. And it’s intense.

And those Martians are scary, dude.

Really, the only other thing I have to say about it is this:

“By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.”

Theme wise? This is it. Except in a weird way. Man didn’t…really…fight the Martians. The martins ate man and they died because apparently they have no immune systems. But in the end, man helped man. Man kept going. We’re still here. Somehow, each of the survivors, by their own right, they survived. Things happen, and things keep going on.

Pretty great stuff.

Questions, Comments, Concerns?

Really the only thing I would say in this vein is that before I was able to convince myself that the lack of characterization had a reason, it unnerved me. I wanted to know this guy, his name, his intentions beyond saving his wife. It was a little unsettling and emotionless and left me hoping I wouldn’t have to scream “Why? Why?” in agony over good prose and no characters the whole time. But it got better as time went on.

It could technically be described as kind of dull, I suppose. But maybe that’s because my copy is unbelievably dusty.

Overall

  • Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who like ALIENS. And really good writing. And good, classic sci-fi invasion stories.
  • Lasting impression: Endurance.

Acknowledgments

For [them], because [this].

The first page you’re going to find in a book is this: the acknowledgments. The touching if seemingly irrelevant sentence dedicating this work of words and paper to a particular person in the world out there.

You will never know why the author picked that sentence to grace their first fully-print page. You may never even read it.  But the acknowledgment is, in my mind, one of the single most important things about a book.

Stories need community almost more than they need anything else. They need fresh eyes, second opinions, objective sources, subjective sources (that aren’t you). Stories need people who are important to them more than most people would think. An extremely popular way of thinking about one’s best (or even just your current) project is “but it’s too important to show people!” which is true. It is important and doesn’t need to be flung into a million people’s faces. But what it does need is someone to talk to.

You, the author, are the driving force and the soul of your novel. You’re writing it, you know the ins and outs and back roads of it, you’re dealing with the nitty-gritty parts of how to fit scenes together and how character arcs work. You’re important! Very important! Your novel can’t exist without you. But you are also to your novel as a trail guide is to their tour group, (there’s a reason people are proud of their works of art, you know) and in being such you can’t also be a therapist, tutor, and personal trainer.

This is where the Best Friend of the Novel comes in. Stories are meant to be told to people, and millions of stories are meant to be told for specific people. And even if this specific person is only the acknowledged because they are important to the author, even if they didn’t actively help with the writing process, they are still basically the reason that this book is what it is. The author, consciously or not, has written with them in mind, because of a myriad of reasons.

No matter how it actually happened, that person was important to this story. And that is an invaluable thing to have. Because without that, the story may never have happened. Stories grow because of the community they surround themselves with. Author, closest confidant, beta tester, proofreader. No story would be what it is without the people involved in it.