by Andrew Salmon
First, this is all the fault of the folks over at Doc's 50.
I don't read much science fiction. I think the closest I've gotten is Vonnegut without feeling like I need more from the genre. I'm not sure I'd categorize Salmon's The Light of Men as such - sci fi is way too narrow for this one -- as it is quite a gripping novel in many ways. Salmon's style is unnervingly straightforward, which, once experienced, is just right for a novel set in a Nazi concentration camp. It's very effective at bringing a sense hunger, brutality, exhaustion and injustice close to the reader. In fact, it turns out that there is another very significant reason for this matter-of-fact style choice once we discover the true nature of the protagonist.
But it bothered me that, considering the setting, the protagonist's purpose was so narrow. Though he does go through a sort of limited transformation and revises his mission. Also, as an escapee from Christianity I found the religious parallels and allusions a bit... distracting. Fortunately Aaron goes through this same transformation in his logic as well. These are the only negatives for me, and they are matters of personal preference. I really like the book.
Damn, it's tough to discuss this without spoiling things.
I was definitely captivated by the question of this mysterious guy's identity and why he is so aloof as he steps off the crowded death-laden train and first encounters the horrors of the camp. I often flinched from the stark presentation of atrocities and at the same time leaned toward reading on to see what might happen next. It's a solid story, and a unique one.
The Light of Men is certainly a bit horror, has a healthy dose of sci fi, but its power is in its overwhelming sense of humanity... which is ironic since... oh, damn, I won't say a thing.
Definitely give this one a read. Hopefully you'll easily find it in bookstores soon because it deserves attention. Until then, you can find it on Amazon. Anyone find it somewhere else?
Other reviews of this book can be found at Mount Benson Report, Olman's Fifty, Doc's 50, and are soon to come at Jar's 50, and Meezy's Blog.