Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book #2: Australia

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden.

I love the way this book gets right into you and makes you think about the world and choices and courage. Many of us live in countries where the possibility of invasion is laughable – how would anyone do it? Our military would stop them. The United Nations would stop them. Decent human goodness would stop them. We feel safe.

And then we’re faced with Ellie and her friends, who thought just that and have been proven wrong. Australia has been invaded, and they have to decide what to do. They’re in a good position – they could go bush and stay out of trouble. Or they could try to fight back.

The invaders have understandable reasons for invading – they have too many people and too few resources, whereas Australia is rich, fertile (in some places...) and sparsely populated. They’re not the root of all evil, even if some of the characters think so, and the morality of fighting or not fighting is explored. People are people, even if they’re on the opposite side of a war.

Everything seems so real, so immediate. You go into the bush, walk along Tailor’s Stitch, descend into the sanctuary of Hell. Reading through the book again, I was amazed at the careful ratcheting of tension right from the first page. Anything can happen, and does. There are love triangles and snakes and mysterious murder stories, bush-bashing and bulldozers and dentists in hiding, uncalled-for dressing gowns and blowing things up...

Ok, I confess. I like explosions. Not the real kind, just the fictional kind. And this series, starting with TWtWB, provides a lot of them. Yes, Ellie tries to figure out if it’s ok to kill other people to save yourself, and how the Bible can say ‘thou shalt not kill’ and then present all these heroes who kill people. But in the end this book is also about fighting for what you believe in, once you’ve weighed your beliefs very carefully. In a situation like this that means explosions and ingenious plotting, both on the part of the author and of the characters. And explosions are fun. In fiction.

However, I’m glad that the number of fictional fatalities is kept low-ish (at least in the first book). It’s enough to give you get a sense that this is serious, that lives are at stake.

The book leaves you thinking, which the best books do.  What would you do if your country was invaded? Would anyone have understandable reasons for invading? Can you do anything to make the world a fairer place?

So what books set in Australia do you like?

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