Tuesday, August 31, 2010

After the First Death by Robert Cormier

After the First Death takes us into the heart of a terrorist hostage situation in more ways than one. Yes, we're shown the thriller aspect of it all....the negotiations, the demands, the events of the situation, but all of that is almost meaningless in this story. What shines through in this story more than anything are the people involved on both sides. And this is where Cormier excels and instantly puts himself on my list of authors that I need to read more of immediately!

In this story, a small group of extremists of an unknown nationality (we're just told dark skinned and from overseas), take over a school bus full of children and the young teenage girl, Kate, who is driving it and hold it hostage on a railroad bridge where all can see their displays. They make their demands, namely that an underground US organization be revealed to the public and state that for each of them that is killed, a child will die too. On the other side, we hear the story of Ben and his father. His father is part of this underground US organization and towards the beginning of this story, we don't know much except for the fact that Ben and his father are not close. There seems to be some animosity from Ben towards his father and it seems to stem from this event as "the bridge" is constantly mentioned. More is revealed of course in the alternating chapters of this book, but I won't go any further here ;) I don't even know how to describe this book adequately. One of the group of extremists is a 16 year old boy named Miro. It is his assignment to kill the young girl, Kate who is driving the bus. As you can imagine, there are many psychological games going on in this book but as those games are going on, what we as readers see is a true human side to Miro. We're trained by the media and other outlets to look at terrorists, extremists, fundamentalists as inhuman. I know I'm treading deep water here, but let's face it...all humans are human and have emotions. And Cormier shows it in this book. Cormier brings us inside of Miro's mind during his first act of terrorism and shows us his uncertainties, his love for his family, for his country, his hurt for his past losses, his susceptibility to find anyone that will take him in. You'll never see me condoning terrorism. I think it's wrong in every since of the word and the horrors that have been done in the name of religion and politics sadden me more than I can ever say. But Cormier gives us a good picture of a lost child trying to find someone to accept him. He shows us how these ideals may form. And shows us that down inside, we're really not all that different despite our radical differences in belief. Another warning, I won't pretend that this is an easy one to read. There is a lot of heartbreak and sadness in this novel. Cormier went places that I didn't think he was going to go, but he went places that are real in situations like this. There's really no way to wrap up a novel like this nicely with a little bow and I'm glad that Cormier didn't try to. Because I think if anything, THAT would have disappointed me. Kudos to him for writing such a gripping, strong, intense read.

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