Sunday, March 15, 2009

09.07 The Light of Men by Andrew Salmon



The Light Of Men (2008) by Andrew Salmon
Trade, Cornerstone Book Publishers, 250 p.


This, the second novel in our Ramblekraft Book Club, was suggested by Olman after reading a review by Doc.

The premise is an interesting one. It is nearing the end of WWII and the Nazi death camps are in full swing efficiently killing Jews, vagrants, homosexuals and the like. A young man named Aaron enters one of the camps, seemingly healthy and impervious to the indignities heaped upon him by the camp life, Kapos (prisoner guards) and SS. Aaron has a mission to find a man who he seems to know about in strange detail. Quickly Aaron learns the ways of the camp and gains some allies in his quest but everything is tenuous; random death is always a step away.

When Aaron finally encounters his quarry, the story changes from one of his survival to one where he must find ways to help another survive. As an unexpected benefactor, Aaron seems too good to be true. The story of Aaron is also woven within another narrative taking place within the camp. A Prophet has emerged, protected by the prisoners, who is gaining popularity as well as potentially deadly attention from the power structure. Combine this with the quickly approaching Allied forces and you have the setting for a complex conclusion to the novel.

My overall feeling about the book is mildly positive. The author could be inconsistent chapter to chapter in the strength of his writing and so too did my interest track. I think the greatest kudos should go to Salmon for vividly creating a picture of life in the concentration camp. He has obviously done his research and I would suggest that a couple of his descriptions approach passages I have read by Primo Levi.

I do have some criticisms though. The critical plot point involving Aaron seemed to me fairly obvious early on in the book which detracted somewhat from my enjoyment. Further, I felt that the last several chapters were, while well written, not as good as they could have been. What I mean is that to build a third act with some punch required bringing a bunch of different threads together skillfully. I would argue that based on the writing in the earlier parts of the book Andrew Salmon could have done a better job. Nevertheless, I don't think tht detracts much from a fine cross-genre novel.

One last thing I want to mention that has to do with the publisher, not the author. In these times of mass market publishing and big box book stores I think an author and publisher need to do everything possible to get their book into the hands of the public. First of all there were a few typographical errors in my edition of the book. And in my opinion the cover designer has got to be taken to task. Cover design is a crucial element in a book and the drawing plus the nearly unreadable text on this one detracted from the package.

1 comment:

Andrew Salmon said...

Glad you enjoyed the book. It's not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination.

The novel has had an effect on readers, which is all a writer can hope for in the end.

Thanks for selecting it for the club!

And it's nice to hear from a fellow Vancouverite!