I did not see the film, so I cannot compare it with the novel. The book is gripping, particularly because the author had no actual experience with the subject. He is an upper middle class kid who grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. where his father was a doctor. He was pre-med and attended Harvard. He researched the subject, but his ability to capture the ambiguity and wickedness of child soldiers in Africa is remarkable.
The prose is imperfect English and repetitive for effect. Each adds to the mood and tempo of the work.
” …all of us to one side just moving moving quickly into the shadow of all the tree and leaf, just stepping on this branch and that rock running running so that whoever it is will not be seeing us and maybe killing us.”
“And then I am thinking of all the thing I am doing. If they are ordering me KILL, I am killing, SHOOT, I am shooting, ENTER WOMAN, I am entering woman and not even saying anything even if I am not liking it. I am killing everybody, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, soldier. It is all the same. It is not mattering who it is, just that they are dying. I am thinking thinking. I am thinking I cannot be doing this anymore.”
Victimizer and victim. Numb, but not amoral. Starving. Looter and predator. Pavlovian by order; by fear. Trained evil. A promising young boy; a believer in God; corrupted, but not beyond redemption. He is changed.Well-meaning relief workers do not grasp his existence.
“She is telling me to speak speak speak and thinking that my not speaking is because I am like baby. If she is thinking I am baby, then I am not speaking because baby is not knowing how to speak. But every time I am sitting with her I am thinking I am like old man and she is like small girl because I am fighting in war and she is not even knowing what war is.”
This is a powerful novel; more so because it was a debut novel. Unfortunately, it is fiction based on a sick reality without end.