Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nation (2008)

Terry Pratchett is well known for his series of Discworld books and his sense of humor. This book is about the results of a disastrous tsunami in a remote region of the South Pacific. Mau is a member of an island community called the Nation by its people. He is taken to another small island called Boys' Island to undergo the rituals which will mark him as a man among his people. While there something terrible happens. He has no clue what is happening but thunder, storm clouds, dancing water, upset birds and animals tell him that he had to leave.

Very fast, and not so far away now. Not a wave, either. It was too big. It was a mountain of water, with lightning dancing along the top, and it was rushing, and it was roaring, and it scooped up the canoe like a fly.

When he returns home, no one is left alive except for a English girl named Daphne who was deposited on the island in a ship. Together they learn each other's language and take care of survivors who make their way to the island.

Somewhere out there, flying to him from the edge of the world, was tomorrow. He had no idea what shape it would be, but he was wary of it. They had food and fire, but that wasn't enough. You had to find water and food and shelter and a weapon, people said. And they thought that was all you had to have, because they took for granted the most important thing. You had to have a place where you belonged.

One of the biggest issues facing Mau was recovering the god stones that his people had used to leave tribute to their gods for generations and had been swept out to sea. Somehow, taking care of gods that wreaked such havok on his people seemed to be a high priority to everyone else but him.

"The gods let you down. When you needed them they weren't there. That is it, and all of it. To worship them now would be to kneel before bullies and murderers."

Interestingly, the same sentiment has been made by survivors of the recent earthquake in Haiti.
Another big issue arrives with Daphne's rescuers. No other European has as yet reached this island and the first thing they wanted to do was plant a flag and claim it for England. Daphne pointed out that there was a nation already existing on the island and came up with an ingenious was to protect the islanders.

I loved this book. It is a survival story, a story of an unlikely relationship, and a story of the strength that people find when they most need it. I would recommend it to readers who like thought provoking stories.

My rating for this book: ++++

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