Book info

Beasts Of No Nation (2006)

Beasts of No Nation (2006)
Rating
3.65 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0060798688 (ISBN13: 9780060798680)
languge
English
publisher
harper perennial
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Beasts Of No Nation (2006)
Beasts Of No Nation (2006)

About book: Read it. Be appalled. - written in the unrelenting tense of now - the horror never ends.The author's use of present tense works like an incantation, grasping you by the throat tightly, it makes you breathless in a hyperventilating kind of way, you cannot stop - only turn the page, trying to read faster if only to get to the end of it. There's no real repose from the untenable pace, the brutal array of death merely merges into other grotesqueries you'd rather not think about too much.You can't help feeling some gratitude and guilt for being born in a country not torn apart in civil war. There's the after effect - the infinite sadness to know somewhere today children are being forced to fight in wars not of their making - carrying guns too heavy for them and knives that kill not only their enemies but eventually their own sense of right and wrong, their sanity and their future. I don't know if the author is a genius (the dust jacket tells me he is). The continual present tense grated and unnerved me - creating that kind of adrenaline rush fear does. Bad grammar and spelling annoyed me, but served it's purpose, being the fictional memoir of an African boy it really could be no other way. I'm rating it at the midway mark 3 stars, not because I liked it, because it's not the kind of book you can "like", but because I can't decide if it should get one star for technique or 5 stars for effect. It certainly achieves it's purpose to shock, despite the character Agu's limited vocabulary the book paints a lurid and searing image that almost rivals the work of war photographers James Nachtwey http://www.jamesnachtwey.com/ and Robert Capa . .

Iweala is a Nigerian-American writer, very young (fresh from Harvard) who has crafted a very fine debut novel about a nameless African country brutalized by a civil war fought in no small part by children. The narrator is one such child-soldier. This was an impulse purchase while stuck waiting for a delayed flight in the Indianapolis airport. The novel is short, lyrical in a dark but childlike way, and totally compelling. Agu is discovered by another child soldier hiding in a torched town. He will either be killed or conscripted. Fortunately (one is forced to say fortunately because of the alternative) he is conscripted and embarks on a life of hardship, violence, rape, deprivation, and fear. Iweala makes the circumstances credible, sustains the child-voice of the narrator throughout, and makes you feel for the protagonist and his fellow soldiers and the victims of this tattered army’s bloody and pointless march through desolation. The book is an antidote to any possible view for those of us who encounter this world, if at all, at the comfortable remove of a CNN, NY Times, or Newsweek report, shaking our heads, perhaps absolving ourselves of responsibility on the grounds that the situation is beyond reason or hope and seems to feature murderers killing murderers. Beasts of No Nation hides and excuses nothing, but it also insists we care about the brutalized and brutalizing humanity of its subjects. Superb first novel.
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Reviews
David
I love the presentation of the character's voice in this one. It takes a little getting used to, but it managed to keep the character human and identifiable in the midst of the dehumanization all around him. It's really worth preserving, since I think his view makes the book. That, and the matter of fact delivery in the face of unimaginable yet all too factual horror. It's hard to imagine how something like this could be written without being manipulative or exploitative, but Iweala manages it without a problem. It's pretty impressive.
Juan Rojas
It's hard to say I enjoyed this book. Beasts of No Nation tells a horrible and brutal story that really makes you think of how unfortunate a child can be. Agu, is a young child soldier caught in a civil war in an unnamed West African Country. Agu's journey from orphan to remorseless killer is not for the faint of heart. The book does not hold punches and often goes into descriptive detail of murders and rape.At 142 pages the book is brief but powerful. I found it hard to put down especially in the early chapters as Agu is forced into acts of murder and violence and how he eventually comes to enjoy them. At the same time we see flashbacks into Agu's past where we see a kid who loves to read and learn, and is being brought up in a loving family. This transformation makes for an interesting and resonant read.My only issue with the book is as a story teller Iweala did not seem to have an end in sight. The book has numerous heartbreaking and at times gut wrenching moments that really moved me and pulled me deeper into the story. However the books loses steam at the halfway mark. Agu and his group begin to basically wander and camp out in abandoned towns and end up digging trenches. Until a mutiny forces the group to begin a march to an unknown destination. At this point Agu decides to simply walk away and wanders off away from his group. While this was impossible for him to do prior to the mutiny (or at least he thought) it is very anticlimactic. The final chapter sees Agu at some type of UN refugee camp and while this is a happy ending for the character it is not the kind of ending I felt the book was building up to.
Linda Lipko
This is a book that punches. It is not a book for the faint hearted. It is savagely horrific, harrowingly heartbreaking, violently visceral and chillingly claustrophobic.With these terms, you might wonder why I rate it five stars. The answer is because it is a tale that needs to be told.My life is comfortable, yet, I complain about the stress of my fast paced job, the dust that gathers on the floors because I have little time to clean, the meals I eat out because I am too tired to cook, and the fact that there are too few hours and too much to do.Then, when reading Beasts of No Nation, bitter, cold water hits my face with the reality that I should stop whining and be grateful for my many blessings.Agu is a young boy uprooted, torn and thrown into a violent African civil war. His village is destroyed and his father is killed. His mother and sister were taken by a UN truck to a safer place, yet Agu never knows if they made it to safety.When Agu is beaten out of his hiding place, he has no choice but to join the cold, cruel, evil Commandant who leads a raggedy band of soldiers.The author vividly shows the underbelly and violence of civil war where the elusive enemy hacks and kills senselessly.
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