I have never written a review for a novel, before. However, I feel a duty to explain why I believe this is one of the best books written this year.
Nico Walker has accomplished something truly special with his debut novel. The book reads like a casual reflection on a turbulent, haunting past. Nico's protagonist is pragmatic and honest, both about his place in the world and his own shortcomings. As the author admits, the likable side of the main character was injected via edits - Nico does not see himself as a hero in this story.
Overall, this book may be the first great classic of the opioid epidemic. Although some compare this to Hemingway, and other war focused stories, the comparison falls short. While Hemingway forced grandiose spectacle into his books, Nico takes a more micro-focused approach. He talks about the daily grind, the suffering, the things that soldiers do to make up for the traumas they experience on the ground. These inclinations transfer into private life, where the main character is incapable of integrating into society, but knows that the high is divine.
The negative reviews seem to focus on the book's approach to describing soldiers. Some reek of jealousy that a soldier would "sell out" his compatriots in such a revealing way. In the book, the soldiers seem incredibly human, being put into extraordinary situations and responding in whatever way they can. However, they also commit atrocities and terrible things. From every single account I've heard from my veteran friends that have spent time in Iraq, this is accurate. There are none of the typical Hero's Quest characters in this story; every single person that is mentioned is deeply flawed. This is the magic of the story. Throughout all of the debased actions that the characters pursue, there is a strain of humanity running through it all. You FEEL the struggles of the addicts in the stories, and you can understand the choices being made as requisite at the time.
Instead of simply seeing these veterans and citizens as dope fiends, you can feel the struggle of their existence through their hopes, dreams and attempts to be functioning members of society. As in life, most of these efforts prove fruitless and the cycle of addiction takes firm hold. This has been the most revealing look into a part of society that I have no experience with that I have ever come into contact with. The book is highly recommended.
- Paperback: 317 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Books; Reprint edition (25 June 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 052543593X
- ISBN-13: 978-0525435938
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 245 g
- Customer Reviews: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 75,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)